1a: to receive as return for effort and especially for work done or services rendered 1b: to bring in by way of return (bonds earning 10 percent interest)
2a: to come to be duly worthy of or entitled or suited to (she earned a promotion)
2b: to make worthy of or obtain for (the suggestion earned him a promotion)
1a: the state or condition of being entitled : right
2b: a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
3: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
In the sad state that is America today, many people seem to have mixed up the definitions of earn and entitlement. For example, lately I have heard a number of people who have never worked a day in their lives (because they inherited money or mooched off a trust fund or married into money or married someone who makes a lot of money) complain that Obama's proposed tax plan was stealing from them. "Why should I fork over my hard-earned money to the government to spend it on lazy people?" one woman, who has not worked in decades because her spouse supports her,** whined to a friend.
See, you didn't earn that money, lady. Your spouse did. Or your mom or dad or grandpa did. To earn something, you have to actually do something. Being born or marrying to the "right" people does not count. People who work multiple jobs and still can't pay for housing, health care, and education earned their money. And they are entitled to live decent lives.
Really, you are angry that someone is chipping away at your entitlement, saying that you did not earn your privileges. You are furious that other people are somehow as deserving as you are (if not more so) to live above the poverty line. Believe me, even when you pay your fair share of taxes, you will still live a far better life than the vast majority of Americans, who struggle to make ends meet.
Let's stop confusing earning with entitlement, shall we?
*Thanks to my friends at Merriam-Webster Online for the definitions.
**And I am not lumping stay-at-home moms into this category, as those women work hard, even if they are not paid for their labor.