Wednesday, December 12, 2012

$9 Billion in Government Checks Result in Some Parents Keeping Their Children Dumb

Government programs create such distorting incentives that sometimes a smart liberal can even spot them.

Nicholas Kristof at NYT reports:
This is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country 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.
And Kristof goes on:
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. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire...“One of the ways you get on this program is having problems in school,” notes Richard V. Burkhauser, a Cornell University economist who co-wrote a book last year about these disability programs. “If you do better in school, you threaten the income of the parents. It’s a terrible incentive.”...About four decades ago, most of the children S.S.I. covered had severe physical handicaps or mental retardation that made it difficult for parents to hold jobs — about 1 percent of all poor children. But now 55 percent of the disabilities it covers are fuzzier intellectual disabilities short of mental retardation, where the diagnosis is less clear-cut. More than 1.2 million children across America — a full 8 percent of all low-income children — are now enrolled in S.S.I. as disabled, at an annual cost of more than $9 billion.

(ht  Joel Dever)


  1. As a H.S. Special Ed teacher here in Chicago I can sadly say that is the truth. The kids call it the "The Crazy Check". I have a current student looking forward each month for her check so she and her mother can go shopping for some cool stuff. Some students will show up just enough days to qualify for it. The whole thing is just pathetic.

    1. That just makes me sad. What a soul crushing job you have. Please try to educate the ones you can about Austrian Econ.

    2. Of course. I have had positive responses on the issue of "What is Money?". But I have to be careful what I say. For example, our union rep is an English teacher (smart nice guy I like him), but as a commie-red baby growing up his views are what is expected...he has a giant poster of Lincoln in his room.

    3. Commie red-baby....check
      Giant poster of Lincoln in his room....check.

      I think that's all I need to know.

      Smart guy? Umm...ok.

    4. Ingnorant would be more appropriate.

  2. (Teacher reading a story to children)

    And that's what happened, class. All peaceful citizens stopped accepting government checks, jobs, everything. They refused to pay taxes too. They let voluntary market choices of individuals be the framework to build a better world. The countless sources of human problems was ameliorated to the point that they could be handled or solved privately, without coercion. It wasn't perfect, but compared to the systems of the past, it was perfection. Billions of people promised themselves to do everything they could to make this worldview survive and thrive.

    The End/Beginning