How much of your income is the government entitled to? How much of a corporation's profit is the government entitled to? Should the government be entitled to a higher percentage of profits or income if an entity or person being taxed makes more money than a neighbor?
At what age should you be entitled to a Social Security check? Once you are retired, should you be entitled to a full cost-of-living increase every year? At what age should you be entitled to Medicare coverage? Should you be entitled to full Medicare coverage if you are wealthier than your neighbor?
The word "entitled" is contained in all of these questions. And, although most people don't think of taxes as an entitlement program for the government, it certainly can be argued that Congress regards it as such.
All of these entitlements are at the heart of the "fiscal cliff" debate. Briefly put, Republicans don't want tax rates to increase, Democrats don't want social programs cut. Republicans want social programs modified to reflect longer life expectancies, Democrats want the wealthy to pay more to keep those programs as they exist today.
In all the arguments about these entitlements, the only one where the roles seemed to be reversed is the question about "means testing" Medicare eligibility. Republicans want wealthy seniors to pay a bigger share of their health care costs, Democrats want them to receive the same benefits from Medicare as the less affluent.
What is apparent is that both sides feel "entitled." Both seem to be bent on protecting their special interests - and are willing to risk "fiscal cliffs" to protect political allies.
Perhaps it will take a fiscal cliff to make all these factions work together. For if there is no compromise and the economy goes over the cliff, we'll all be in the rubble at the bottom of it.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.