Congress and the President are having trouble coming to agreements about how to deal with the "scary scary deficit". It is of course a Very Serious Problem that Very Serious People have to address immediately, which is why the sequester had to be put into effect. As an earlier Wreck List diary pointed out, the sequester was dreamed up by Gene Sperling and Jack Lew at the White House.
So the Very Very Serious People want the 99% who are poorer than them to make some sacrifices so that the bond traders can continue to make big profits and not pay income tax on their "carried interest" income. It is Not Serious to expect them to pay more, after all, since the top 1% already pays more than 2% of total tax revenues! No, the deficit has to be cut by cutting "entitlements".
Now I'll set the snark aside a second to clarify what the word means. It's a very loaded term. In the specific context of the federal budget, an entitlement is a program that does not require annual appropriation; it is funded automatically by dedicated revenues. Social Security and Medicare are thus "entitlements"; Congress doesn't have to reauthorize their spending every year. Foreign aid, the space program, food stamps, and indeed the entire defense budget falls into the other category, "discretionary" spending, arrived at anew every year.
Both of these words, of course, are loaded. Entitlement is taken as a pejorative: Who is "entitled" to something they didn't earn? It is ironic to hear the term used against aid to the poor, too; it comes from the perks of having a noble title. (The Earl of Dypschytt is entitled to rents from the serfs on his estate, which is all of the good land in Dypschytt. The Earl doesn't have to work; he inherited the title.) Discretionary sounds like it has low value, like taking a trip to Disney World or getting a new home theater system. Thus the words distort the discourse.
But anyway, I think there are too many entitlements. Below the orange squiggle, let's start listing some that can be cut. Even if they are technically discretionary spending and are just treated as entitlements -- often in the old (inherited) sense. And even if they are "tax expenditures", those targeted deductions that lobbyists have bought and paid for.
Let's cut the entitlement defense contractors think they have to keep coming up with every more expensive, useless weapons systems that are still designed to fight the Soviets in East Germany.
Let's cut the entitlement farmers and farmland owners have to be paid for the crops they don't grow.
Let's cut the entitlement drug companies have to get ridiculous prices from Medicare, not to mention the non-controlled prices charged to the rest of us.
Let's cut the entitlement bankers have to make ridiculously risky bets, keeping the profits nearly tax-free when they win and getting bailed out when they lose.
Let's cut the entitlements wealthy investors have to receive unearned income from dividends taxed at a low rate, when the corporations weren't even actually paying the corporate income taxes that led to the "double taxation" bleat.
Let's cut the entitlements that fossil-fuel companies have to rape the land and not restore it, harming their neighbors and the future.
Join in, everyone. What entitlements do you want to see cut?