Using the word "entitlements" to refer to SS, Medicare and Medicaid is a somewhat contentious issue around here. Alot of that has to do with how the Democrats (including the President) use the word, which isn't surprising given how the Dems buy into the right-wing framework on deficits and the economy as a whole.
From what I've witnessed in the various DKOs discussions on the E-word, the people that are okay with using it usually do so with that patented Democratic resignation towards overcoming anything that the right-wing does, especially in terms of messaging. Often the question put to them is "Why not call them 'earned benefits', on account of, you know, having to pay into the system your whole life to earn the benefits?" The common reply I see is "Well then the right-wingers will just demonize that term too, so it's hopeless!" and we all go around accepting right-wing terminology like it's a law of nature.
I'd have thought the negative connotations of using "entitlements" to refer to SS, Medicare and Medicaid would be obvious enough that there would be no real discussion needed on this topic, but... This is an explicitly partisan Democratic website. So I'm gonna go through this real slow. I'm going to start by typing out the word "entitlements" and then bolding the part of the word that's a problem. Ready?
There. Right there. See it? How the word "entitle" is in bold? Have you ever heard that word bandied about by the right-wingers in your life?
For example, "Goddamn liberals just feel entitled to government handouts."
"Fucking blacks think they're entitled to a slice of my paycheck."
"Oh so you think you're entitled to government services bailing you out all the time?"
That's sort of been a running theme with the right wing for a long time, and even moreso since the Reagan era: the idea that "liberals" as well as everyone who's not white feels entitled to free stuff from the government that they don't deserve. There's no real problem with the healthcare system, it's just the Takers feeling entitled to free shit from the government, amirite? They feel entitled to things without having to work for them. That's the idea, anyway.
So now that we understand why the word "entitled" has been used almost exclusively as a cudgel-word by the right wing, perhaps it is easier to see why using the term "entitlements" to describe SS and Medicare is done deliberately to maximize the negative connotations commonly associated with that word in society today. It's attaching the "moocher" stigma to Social Security.
Of course SS and Medicare are not "free services"; we all pay into SS and (supposedly) earn our share when it comes time to retire. Yes we are "entitled" to that, because we earned it. This is why "earned benefits" are a more accurate term for the programs: because it's actually a true descriptor for them.
"But Boogalord, they'll just demonize the term 'earned benefits!"
They can try. But if Democrats actually go out and make a thing out of using "earned benefits" to describe social programs that are widely popular and widely used among the American public, it's going to be alot harder to demonize the phrase "earned benefits" than "entitlements". Again, "earned benefits" is not only a more accurate descriptor, it's a phrase that isn't loaded by years and years of right-wing venom.
I hope I've helped make this clear. Do you guys seriously wonder why we're losing the message war?
Of course, I've only touched on the Republican side of using "entitlements". Democrats have accepted that term along with most other aspects of right-wing deficit hysteria, and they use "entitlements" because they too are open to "reforming" the social safety net. The term "entitlements" makes it seem easier to swallow any kind of cuts to the programs; after all, we don't want people in society to feel too entitled, do we? And everyone knows the programs are going to run out of money soon, right?
Getting the Dems to stop using the term is probably a lost cause because they're clearly not interested in actually doing what needs to be done with those programs (expanding them). But please, do yourself a favor, and the next time you're involved with a discussion on "entitlements".... Don't call them that. I really don't know how else to spell it out.