Entitled America, I’ve Had Enough

Entitled America.

Not the welfare queens, the high school dropouts, the fast food workers who want a raise.

No, I’m talking about people who believe they’re entitled to have things—healthcare, food, a nice retirement, a good school for their children, whatever—because they earned them. They worked for them, paid for them, saved for them.

These are people who believe they’re entitled (and others aren’t) to things because they’re employed at a decent job. People who act like the wages they earn are solely the result of their own merit while the “handouts” others receive are completely undeserved.

Oh let me count the ways I didn’t earn my success. My mother didn’t smoke while she was pregnant with me (or at any other time), increasing the odds that I would lead the healthy life I’ve enjoyed so far. My mother stayed home and devoted her 24-7 to caring for me and my siblings while my dad worked at a white-collar job that ensured I never knew what it meant to have a material need unmet. My parents did all they could to meet my emotional and spiritual needs as well. I have never heard gunshots outside my house. My friends growing up did not do drugs, shoplift, or carry guns on the streets. Within this context, I thrived throughout my K-12 education, an experience that was tailored to suit my individual interests and learning preferences. While my own dedication and hard work doubtless contributed to my ability to obtain multiple “merit” scholarships for undergraduate and graduate school, I have no doubt that my test scores would have looked quite different if I’d gone to a crappy high school, had apathetic parents, or lacked the raw intellectual abilities that I’ve been granted.

No, I did not earn my success. Sure, I’ve worked hard at times. But there are many women and men more dedicated, hardworking, and virtuous than I who have not been given what I have. I do not deserve it. At most, I have earned a fraction of what I have. I am lucky. Or I have received incredible gifts. I’m humbled and I’m grateful when I think of this.

I will not believe that I am entitled to the resume or wealth I build. They are the fruit of my environment as much as they are the fruit of my labor.

And the truth is a lot of people have little to show after growing up in a crappy environment.

I know I know, life’s not fair. But why is it that Entitled America is so concerned about making sure the rules about how much we get taxed and what the tax dollars go towards are fair but so unconcerned about how unfair it is that some of us had childhoods that set us up for success while others did not? (It turns out that some environmental factors, such as parents’ income, are pretty good predictors of later success.)

Entitled America, before you tell me how unfair it is that someone who doesn’t have a job gets free healthcare, explain to me why you’re not equally passionate about how unfair it is that poor kids in many states have to attend the worst, most dangerous, most underfunded public schools.

Before you tell me how frustrated you are about some affirmative action policy, explain to me why you’re not equally frustrated by the fact that blacks constitute an overwhelmingly disproportionate share of the drug-related prison population despite persistent evidence that blacks do not use or sell drugs more than whites.

Why are you so concerned about making sure that everyone has to earn what they receive once they get to adulthood but are so unconcerned about how uneven the playing field leading to adulthood is?

If you believe that big government is somehow unwise or that universal health coverage will lower the quality of our healthcare, then fine, let’s talk about that. But please, stop acting like poverty is a character flaw and that your earnings are a badge of solely your own virtue. Stop acting like a fair world produced both your success and the plight of the unemployed guy who had to raise himself because his dad was in jail and his mom worked three jobs. Stop acting like it’s morally reprehensible to set up a system that hands people things they didn’t earn unless you’re willing to give up every penny you’ve ever earned that could be traced to something you’ve been handed.

I will not be offended if the government taxes me at a higher rate when my income surpasses that of most Americans.

I won’t complain if my hard-earned tax dollars are used to pay for healthcare, education, or food for those who have less.

I will not cry foul if I am passed over for a job in favor of someone else who comes from an underrepresented background.

My name is Nathan Favero, and I have a lot of privilege. This is my blog.

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