There’s something about the Caterpillar, Inc. (CAT) situation that’s been irritating me. If I asked you to guess what it is, you wouldn’t be able to come up with the right answer. I’ll share my thoughts with you in a moment, after I review some details of what’s been going on with CAT.
On January 31, 2017, CAT announced that it was moving its global headquarters from Peoria to Chicago. Everyone in Peoria was shocked by the announcement, which came two years after CAT unveiled plans for construction of a new global headquarters in Peoria. At that time (February 2015), the CEO of the company said, “Caterpillar will stay in Peoria. I repeat, we will stay in Peoria.”
After the January 2017 announcement that CAT was relocating its corporate headquarters to Chicago, there was an avalanche of complaints and criticism leveled against CAT by local politicians, business people, employees, and Peoria-area residents.
The complaints and criticism continued until March 2, 2017, when the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and several other federal agencies executed a search warrant against CAT. The agents walked into the corporate headquarters and two other buildings and seized documents and electronic records that were allegedly related to a scheme by Caterpillar to evade the payment of income taxes.
On the morning of the raid, WMBD radio interrupted its regular programming so that its morning hosts could provide minute-by-minute coverage of the raid. At that time, there really wasn’t anything to cover other than the fact that the agents had moved in on CAT and were inside three of the buildings reviewing and collecting documents. The so-called coverage of the raid quickly turned into a gripe fest, with one person after another calling the radio station to complain about how horrible and evil CAT has become.
Some callers talked about how they had three generations of CAT employees in their family who “dedicated their lives to the company” and, in return, were betrayed by CAT. Other callers talked about how they gave years of their lives to Cat, only to be ruthlessly shoved out of the company when they were nearing the end of their careers.
I was already irritated by all the criticism and complaining that had taken place before the raid, but the calls to the radio station aggravated me even more. The two morning hosts who were taking the phone calls were agreeing with the callers and telling their own stories about how rotten CAT has become. I got to a point where I almost picked up the phone to call the radio station, but I quickly talked myself out of it. I told myself, “Don’t waste your time. It won’t do any good to call in and give your opinion. Turn off the radio and get back to work.”
So that’s what I did! I turned off the radio and got back to work. I knew it would be a waste of time and effort to offer my opinion, which was that everybody who was complaining was playing the victim card. From my point of view, they all had an entitlement mentality. In their minds, CAT owed them. (Just for the record, I’ve never liked the corporate culture at CAT, but I’ll save that discussion for another day.)
The politicians who complained about CAT believed that the City of Peoria was entitled to have CAT stay in Peoria, forever. Local business owners felt betrayed because they believed that they were entitled to an explanation as to why CAT was moving its headquarters to Chicago. The men and women who had spent their adult lives working at CAT believed that because of their loyalty and hard work, they were entitled to continue their employment with CAT in Peoria, and to receive increases in wages and benefits, despite the multi-year economic downturn that CAT had experienced.
The sense of entitlement that was expressed by the politicians, business owners, and employees of CAT is something that has unfortunately become commonplace in our country. A majority of Americans believe that they have “rights” that entitle them to receive certain favors or benefits without having to pay or otherwise give up anything in exchange for those favors or benefits.
Over the past 100 years, the sense of entitlement in our country has grown to such an extent that a majority of our citizens now have the belief that they are entitled to certain handouts that historically were not available to citizens. Some examples of what I’m referring to are health insurance, medical care, medicine, food, rental assistance, phones, education, guaranteed minimum wages, birth control devices, disability payments, and other forms of welfare.
The U.S. Constitution provides that we are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The guarantee of the right to life and liberty has to do with protection from government interference. Our happiness is neither a right nor an entitlement and is not guaranteed by our Constitution. With regard to happiness, the only right we have is the right to pursue happiness.
All forms of entitlement thinking are dangerous and destructive. A sense of entitlement always leads to disappointment, resentment, anger, frustration, arrogance, complacency, and laziness. An entitlement mentality breeds helplessness and dependency and hinders a person’s ability to show appreciation and gratitude.
The most dangerous form of entitlement mentality is the belief that we are entitled to salvation because of our own goodness. The belief that we are entitled to something means that someone owes us. God does not owe anything to anybody. When we have a sense that we are entitled to salvation (or some other favor from God), we distance ourselves from God.
The opposite of an entitlement mentality is the strongly held belief that instead of someone owing you something, you owe it to yourself to go after what you want in life.
Hidden within most criticism and complaints (about businesses, the government, employers, employees, teachers, family members, religion, and God) is an entitlement mentality.
Be careful about what you criticize and complain about. Your time is better spent shutting off your negative thoughts and getting to work on taking responsibility for your own life and destiny.