By Merton C. Bernstein, Coles Professor of Law Emeritus, Washington University; a founding board member of the National Academy of Social Insurance who served as the principal consultant to the National Commission on Social Security Reform (1982-1983).The bottom line is that cutting entitlements, as some advocate, would hurt business. At a time when the economy is under severe stress, shrinking a system that helps millions and bolsters the economy would be catastrophic. Those peddling benefit cuts make "entitlement" a bad word. They try to evoke pictures of arrogant, lazy, lay-about recipients who believe the world owes them a living. In truth, "entitlement" refers to a program in which claims must be determined by law rather than an official's discretion. In an earlier day, private charity or public relief focused on the "deserving poor." Selection of the "deserving" was subject to the "discretion" of those dispensing largesse and thus subject to abuse and exploitation. Deciding who received help very often turned on race, religion, politics or "character" of an applicant.