“This is painful for a liberal to admit,” writes liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in soul-crushing dependency.”
Kristof is writing from Breathitt County, Ky., deep in the Appalachian mountains, about mothers whose Supplemental Security Income benefits will decrease if their children learn to read. Kristof notes that 55% of children qualifying for SSI benefits do so because of “fuzzier intellectual disabilities short of mental retardation,” far more than four decades ago when SSI was just a new program.
Evidently SSI administrators decided to be more generous to parents of such children. But, as Kristof notes, giving parents an incentive to keep children from learning to read works against the children’s long-term interest.