If you’re entitled to something, it means somebody owes you that thing or that you have a right to claim it.

If you are entitled — full stop — it means you THINK you are owed something when in fact you are a spoiled brat.

So. Let’s talk about “entitlement programs.” Are they programs that give people something they’re owed, or are they programs for entitled people — that is, ways to give out something for nothing to a bunch of lazy parasites?

Good question.

“Entitlement programs” are government programs that give money or vouchers to participants. In the United States, such programs include Social Security* (money for retired people), Medicare (healthcare for retired people and people with disabilities), Medicaid (healthcare for poor people), and SNAP (food for poor people).

You could make a case that, because you have to pay taxes to participate, you’ve helped fund the programs, which means you’re “entitled” to benefits in the first sense of the word. The government owes you.

But “entitlement” here is intentionally ambiguous. When you hear it, it’s usually because the speaker wants you to think of the other kind of “entitled” — the universe-owes-me-something-because-I’m-so-special kind — and to imagine hordes of worthless layabouts at your front door, all claiming they have a right to eat your Thanksgiving turkey while it’s still warm.

Whether these programs are a good use of government money is another discussion entirely. But if you’re willing to characterize everyone on Medicaid and food stamps and Social Security as entitled, you’ve made up your mind already.

*Yikes, is that really what we call it? We’ll deal with “social security” some other time.