The private "safety net" has shrunk.
Third, that improvements in economic efficiency (aka, "productivity") would lift living standards and finance bigger government without steeper taxes. Government could pay for new programs by taking a fixed share of rising incomes.
In reality, greater income inequality has dampened middle-class living standards, while existing programs - soaring health costs and the effects of an aging population - have claimed an ever-larger share of taxes.
Fourth, that lifestyle choices - to marry or not, have children, or divorce - would expand individual freedom without inflicting adverse social consequences.
Family breakdown has deepened poverty and worsened children's prospects. About 30 percent of children live with either one parent or no parent; on average, their life chances are poorer than those in two-parent households.
Weighed down by these contradictions, entitlement has been slowly crumbling for decades. The Great Recession merely applied the decisive blow.
We're not entitled to many things: not to a dynamic economy; not to secure jobs; not to homeownership; not to ever-more protective government; not to fixed tax burdens; not to a college education.
Sooner or later, the programs called "entitlements," including Social Security, will be trimmed because they're expensive and some recipients are less deserving than others.
The collision between present realities and past expectations helps explain the public's extraordinary moodiness.
The pandering to the middle class by both parties (and much of the media) represents one crude attempt to muffle the disappointment, a false reassurance that the pleasing past can be reclaimed.
This does not mean the economy can't improve. Derek Thompson, writing in The Atlantic, suggests that when "millennials" end their delays in marrying, having children and buying homes, they will administer a welcome stimulus to growth.
The trouble is that today's grievances transcend the economy.
In the post-entitlement era, people's expectations may be more grounded. But political conflicts - who gets, who gives - and social resentments will be, as they already are, sharper.
Entitlement implied an almost limitless future.
Facing limits is a contentious exercise in making choices.