U-T Cartoonist Insults Seniors By Portraying Them as “a Vengeful Mob”

by on May 12, 2012 · 17 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Media, Popular, San Diego

Steve Breen, the U-T San Diego in-house cartoonist, has done it again. He has gone off and insulted another group of American citizens with his drawings.

This time, it’s seniors.  His Thursday, May 11th, cartoon, went over the top by portraying American seniors as “a vengeful mob” – as one complaining letter writer stated in today’s paper.

Look at the cartoon itself. Look at the faces of the older people he drew.  Are they the faces of your grandparents, parents, or even of you or us ourselves?

U-T cartoonist Steve Breen's vengeful cartoon, May 11, 2012.

Plus, Breen more than implies that these grumpy, old people are upset due to their “entitlements” being slashed.  Hello?! Social security, Mr. Breen, is NOT an entitlement. (I’m holding back the real words I wish to express here …)  Let me repeat that:

Mr. Steve Breen: entitlements like Social Security ARE NOT ENTITLEMENTS.

And seniors, Mr. Breen, are not a vengeful mob. You’ll soon find out yourself what it’s like to be an elderly person. I hope someday that all you have is your Social Security check – mailed to you monthly.

Today (May 12, 2012) Kathleen Bates, a letter writer to the editor, set it straight:

Not a vengeful mob

On most days, Steve Breen’s cartoons are thought-provoking and humorous. Friday’s, however, I found insulting. Very few senior citizens resemble the vengeful mob he portrayed in Friday’s paper; there is not one smile to be seen. Seniors, are for the most part, happy people who enjoy life.  One reason seniors are happy is because we have time to read and think.  We vote!  That is why our legislators consider us important.

And what is this “entitlement” business? Didn’t we work and pay into Social Security? And didn’t our employers match our contributions?  Social Security is not a “benefit” given to us – we earned it.



{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

sir charles of old town May 12, 2012 at 10:22 am

Anybody who doesn’t believe that the right wing lies on a regular basis need look no further than the “Social Security is an entitlement” falsehood that Breen and his ilk spread with regularity. It’s part of the ‘big lie’ political strategy, tell it often enough and people will start to believe it.


Jack May 12, 2012 at 11:25 am

I don’t know when the word “entitled,” or “entitlement,” took on such a negative connotation. If I work for a particular reward, am I not entitled to the reward when I have completed my obligation?


John May 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Definition of ENTITLEMENT (from websters dictionary)

1a : the state or condition of being entitled : right
1b : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
2: a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program
3: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges


my entitlement to a refund
celebrities who have an arrogant sense of entitlement
entitlements such as medical aid for the elderly and poor


Ernie McCray May 14, 2012 at 11:15 am

Well, this old timer is feeling pretty vengeful in this moment (smile).


Brittany Bailey May 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Call me naive, ignorant, or just plain young, but I don’t see what’s so insulting about this cartoon. I’d like to make a few points:

1) It is my understanding that social security is called “entitlement” because the social security program is entitled to funding right off the top of the budget each year- it can’t be slashed the way that Congress can diminish the budgets for other programs and expenditures. It has nothing to do with misplaced ideas about what a senior deserves (or doesn’t).

2) I’m confused about the outrage over the cartoonist supposed faux pas. Political cartoonists have always come under fire for the content of their cartoons… but the point is that a) they have the free speech to make it b) opposing viewpoints are beneficial to the process of democracy and c) We should encourage our media to address every subject, every issue. There shouldn’t be any sacred or untouchable subject, and from my experience, some of the more controversial ones tend to spark the most interesting discussions.

3) Social security is a real problem that deserves discussion. Yes, seniors who receive checks paid into social security, so they absolutely earned it. However, the funds that are deducted from my check every two weeks go immediately to pay for a social security check for a senior; they don’t go into a trust account with my name on it for when I retire. There isn’t money set aside years in advance, which is a big problem. The annual costs exceeds the annual income. This is exacerbated as the baby boomers retire (my parents), since there was a higher birth rate in that generation than those in succession.

Subsection: Other interesting issues: When the social security program was first introduced, deductions from a single paycheck were distributed to 159 different recipients; today that number is 2.9.

Anyway, it is my personal hope that our opinions on the OB Rag can foster discussion and understanding. As I think about this, I realize that perhaps that’s not possible with the OB Rag taking such decisive stances on issues– which, of course, is why I support the Rag in the first place.


Frank Gormlie May 15, 2012 at 9:02 am

Brittany – to respond to your points:

First, I’ll never be a “super-senior”, in that I’m not growing older than I am now. So, you can scratch that off your list right now! Grrrr! (just kidding)

1) “Entitlement” has come to mean some kind of benefit that a certain class of people is “entitled” to because of their status, class, – kind of like a “reward’. Social security is not an entitlement because it is not a reward, it is money that the recipient and their boss/ employer paid for over the decades. Patty can explain this a lot better than I.

2) The cartoonist’s “supposed faux pas” as you call it is a breach of ethics. Obvious, there is a type of free speech and this cartoonist certainly fits into “protected speech” – but it is a moral breach, not a legal one, that Breen has committed by insulting all seniors – those portrayed in his cartoon – by making all seniors appear to be insanely, irrationally frothing at their mouths because of – implied – some “entitlement” that they are barely worth of.

This is not the case at all. Breen is making fun of seniors because they are irrational – as he portrays them. Not only that, it’s ageist – discrimination against people because of their age.

Obviously, Breen can make fun of anyone he and his editors choose. But he is THE editorial cartoonist of THE daily newspaper in a major city – and thus, he has a responsibility – and the editors and publisher do – of reflecting the morals and ethics of the entire community – not just a tiny cabal of rich, white Republicans.

3) Social Security is NOT in danger, or in crisis. Without one tinker, it will be flush for another 2-3 decades. See Patty’s article on this issue, on this site.

The rest of your points are a summation of your anecdotal experiences with seniors – which is cool – we all have them. But listen, don’t, I repeat, don’t judge all seniors on your experiences with your mother-in-law.

Growing old in this society is not easy. First, the health care system sucks; second, with the dismantling of the extended family, many seniors are left to fend for themselves, or find themselves at the mercy of resthomes and care centers. Their bodies – and minds in some cases – are breaking down, and it’s not easy to get around – especially with the lack of an adequate mass transit system.

And finally, Brittany – you – like Mr Breen – are still relatively young, and from my own experience I know that young people never imagine themselves getting older or old. But we all do.

Mr Breen needs a little more compassion and empathy in his drawings – or maybe just a hug – yo down fer that, Brittany!?


jim grant May 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Frank it’s all done in humor ….find some. It’s all good many movies, jokes and other things make light of oldsters AND youngsters alike get over it you all ….get a sense of humor you take it ALL Way to Serious !!!
Frank nobody’s picking on you its all good ….Gezze you guys bitch at everything get over it ….


Brittany Bailey May 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I forgot one other issue I wanted to mention!

Kathleen Bates states that seniors are happy people that enjoy life.

a) Isn’t that same sort of stereotyping for which the political cartoonist, Steve Breen, is condemned?

b) You can’t categorize Seniors as having a particular personality type because they’re just older versions of ourselves. Frank, when he is a super senior, will be crotchety, I’m sure. By comparison, his partner Patty, will be absolutely sweet and happy and lovely.

Personal Notes and my own Stereotyping: In my experience, “seniors” are not all happy people! I happen to work in property management, and most of the HOA board members are seniors. They are not “happy.” They like to stalk residents and report on “wrongdoing” constantly!

My mother in law is probably the least happy person I know, and once told a group of teens in a garage band that were talentless and should quit before they ruin their lives and her ear drums!

I also have to say that I am very grateful for the group of seniors that are my neighbors. I sing opera at the top of my lungs from early morning to late at night, and not one of them has ever complained!


mr.rick May 14, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Frank,the “I hope all you have is your social security check” (loosly quoted) would be better served as “I hope you will, at least, have your social security check. Brittany, the “RAG” reserves the right to “DOG” any one or anything that pops up in the public domain. At least that’s my understanding of the rules. You get your say also.


Frank Gormlie May 15, 2012 at 8:40 am

Hey Mr Rick – always good to hear from ya. Well, Social Security WILL be there, no doubt. My point is still that when Mr Breen grows old, he will be experiencing the same thing that seniors now are experiencing.


jim grant May 15, 2012 at 6:10 am

Well they are an angry mob : Have you ever seen an Old Man try to send back soup at a Deli ?? It’s not pretty . Kind of like the angry sea just relentless !!


Kathy May 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Maybe they’re just mad about the able-bodied SSI fraudsters who are draining the funds we all contributed to during our working years. Steve Breen would have gotten more mileage from a cartoon that targeted the generations of families who hand down the notion that public assistance is a life long entitlement.


sir charles of old town May 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm

oh by all means, miss kathy, do tell us about all those able bodied ssi fraudsters. no doubt you’re getting your info from the same people who conjured up thousands of welfare queens cruising the street of america in their Cadillacs. while i’m sure that there have been cases of ssi fraud, your inference that it is widespread can not stand up to scrutiny.
please, oh, please show us your sources. you won’t because you can’t.


Kathy May 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm

My information comes from personal knowledge, current events, and statistics.

Personal knowledge: My former neighbor is a perfect example. This SSI recipient migrated here from the east coast with her daughter, along with a benefit she obtained in her 20’s for a non-existent mental illness (agoraphobia), fraudulently used another’s SS # for a student loan she never repaid, had another daughter @ 40+ years old with a Navy guy she stalked who was 15 years younger and eventually was given custody of their child, was evicted from every apartment she rented, was approved and took advantage of Section 8 Housing when she no longer qualified because her children no longer lived with her. Her daughter had her first child at 19 years old and at last count, had three more with different boyfriends. She was charged for SS fraud, sentenced to probation, did time for a dirty drug test, and never paid a dime in restitution. She continues to receive SSI and Section 8.

While I cite one extreme example, I’m familiar with people who abuse SSI, and the “caregivers” who do nothing but split the benefit. I’m also aware of the qualified recipients who suffer the consequences when their benefits are cut without notice. It seems the crafty know the system, at the expense of the truly needy.

Current events: I read the news. Domestic violence and other crimes frequently involve untraditional family groups and young mothers who have children with multiple or non-supportive fathers they never married. In my generation, a young pregnant woman married the father or gave the child up for adoption. Today, the wide array of public assistance programs and society’s acceptance, encourages single teenage motherhood.

Statistics: 2012 Federal, State and Local Spending for welfare programs is $679.2 billion. http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year_spending_2012USbn_13bs1n_4050#usgs302

I don’t have fraud statistics, but the entitlement mindset has grown to an unacceptable level. I grew up in an environment of hard work, ethics and integrity. I wouldn’t trade that for all the freebies today’s losers capitalize upon!


sir charles of old town May 15, 2012 at 8:47 pm

your examples are hardly convincing that there is such a tsunami of fraud. there have been no Congressional hearings about the outrages you describe, the GOP is running the show and I’m sure that they’d be out front with such hearings if they thought they could prove anything. a search of google and lexis-nexus shows that such incidents as you describe are very clearly pretty rare.
as to your statistics: the number you cite includes unemployment and workman’s comp payments and four other line items besides “family & children”.
so you don’t have fraud statistics because there are none to back up your assertion. let’s face the facts, you’re just a hater and no numbers cited here are ever going to change your mind.


JEC May 17, 2012 at 10:32 am

Steve Breen is a brave soul – he willingly reveals nearly complete ignorance of facts. Is it his intelligence or lack of education; perhaps just a bias some might call bigotry. Steve, if you’re listening, name one ‘entitlement’; Social Security is a compulsory insurance program – bought and paid for by us members. Medicare – once you turn 65, unless you have ‘qualifying health insurance from a current employer, you must (more or less) join AND pay – it’s not free. Cobra does not qualify and if you do not sign up at 65 you are penalized – charged more. A welfare grant is an entitlement; food stamps are an entitlement; Medicaid, last ditch health care for the poor is an entitlement. But as Breen knows, not every ‘joke’ is funny.


James Cullem August 2, 2014 at 7:15 pm

It seems the crafty know the system, at the expense of the truly needy.


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