They’ve figured out how to game the system: keep the kids out of school for fear that they might learn something which would keep them from qualifying for a government check. How about that for an incentive? Nicholas Kristof, writing in The New York Times, explains:

This is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country [are] pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.

He quotes Billie Oaks who runs a literacy program designed to help the kids. But the parents don’t want her help:

The kids get taken out of the program because the parents are going to lose the check. It’s heartbreaking.

And then, in an astonishing admission, Kristof notes the obvious:

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency.

Such programs keep them out of the service, a traditional route to escape poverty, because it’s easier and simpler to just stay at home and collect and a “disability” check.

Such programs are also anti-marriage:

In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

The increasing dependency costs us as taxpayers huge amounts of money: more than a million kids are now getting S.S.I. checks, which costs about $9 billion a year. And for the kids? They never amount to much. Says Kristof:” They may never hold a job in their entire lives and are condemned to a life of poverty on the dole – and that’s the outcome of a program intended to fight poverty.”

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