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Chapter Two: What Are Entitlements?


Published April 9, 2020

The open-ended nature of entitlement programs makes them a key driver of America’s budget problems. Though such programs always begin with a noble purpose, they become complex and costly, rarely target their benefits well, and often undermine the self-sufficiency of recipients. 

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Video Recorded: August 26, 2019.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the positive and negative impacts of entitlement programs? How might we balance these impacts to create effective reform?
  2. America has chosen to finance entitlement spending largely through debt rather than by increasing taxes. What are the consequences of continuing to fund these programs through debt?

Additional Resources:

  • Watch “Entitlements and the Budget” with John Cogan on PolicyEd, available here.
  • Watch “John Cogan Tells Us How to Think about Entitlements” on PolicyEd, available here.
  • Watch “Falling Short: Social Security, Medicare, and Payroll Taxes” with John Cogan on PolicyEd, available here.
  • Listen to the Area45 podcast episode “Is Entitlement Reform Possible?” with John Cogan, available here.
  • Listen to the EconTalk podcast episode “John Cogan on Entitlements and the High Cost of Good Intentions,” available here.