Letters to the Editor

Letter | Entitlements, the Civil Rights Movement and the deficit

Re: May 20 column by Armstrong Williams,” Entitlements keeping America short of greatness?”

Mr. Williams has so many things wrong, I have to respond.

His first error is to claim that the main response to the Civil Rights movement was the Great Society program of entitlements. Not so. The main response was civil rights legislation and affirmative action. I think most historians would agree that eliminating Jim Crow laws and making discrimination a crime was much more important than the so-called entitlement programs.

Second, Mr. Williams paints all entitlements with one broad brush of failure. He does not identify what he defines as entitlements but many people consider Medicare, Social Security and Head Start as successful. Nevertheless, I do agree that the poverty programs have not worked in reducing poverty.

I also agree that poverty programs have become a “political patronage strategy for successive generations of politicians.” But Mr. Williams, this is also true for plenty of other programs not related to entitlements including tax breaks for the rich. In my opinion, our social programs have become so politicized, we don’t even have discussions about which ones work and which ones don’t.

Third, Mr. Williams incorrectly blames our federal deficit on entitlement programs. The plain fact is that the deficit was created by two unfunded wars in the Middle East.

Lastly, a little perspective may be helpful. A number of countries in the world have massive entitlement programs. The most costly being universal health coverage. Some of these programs are more effective than others. According to the 2015 World Happiness Report, the 10 happiest countries are Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, and Australia, each of which has more extensive entitlements than America. By the way, the United States ranks 15.

The writer lives in Little River.