United States entitlement programs are government-run programs which provide citizens with financial aid, sometimes in the form of goods or services. To be eligible for a U.S. entitlement program, one must meet a variety of conditions. Social Security, unemployment, food stamps and Medicaid are examples of U.S. entitlement programs. The beneficiary of such a program is usually an individual, although it can sometimes be a business or local government.
Entitlement programs receive mixed reviews from citizens and economists. Those in favor argue they give aid to those in need, such as the elderly or poor. Others argue they hurt the national debt because Congress has trouble predicting how many people will be eligible for each program in a given year, giving them problems with budgeting. To combat this, certain entitlement programs are adjusted for inflation and other unpredictable factors. The benefits provided by Social Security, for example, are not fixed, but rather adjusted according to the number of eligible beneficiaries, inflation and so on. Thus, those who argue that entitlement programs create a number of economic problems seem to be mistaken, or at least exaggerating their harm. However, entitlement programs account for over half of national spending.
Many people argue that programs like Medicare and Social Security are not actually entitlement programs at all because the tax dollars of citizens go to support their own future eligibility. For example, 6.2% of tax dollars go to support Social Security, so individuals are paying into the program to receive the benefits. The largest component of Social Security dictates that an individual pay into it for 40 quarters to receive benefits. Since entitlement programs are those which an individual qualifies simply due to their circumstances, Social Security and Medicare cannot be considered true entitlement programs. A "true" entitlement program would be something like unemployment.