Kristof Is Missing the Point About Supplemental Security Income

Sunday, Nicholas Kristof scribbled this on the NY Times op-ed page:

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.

Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a $698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18.

“The kids get taken out of the program because the parents are going to lose the check,” said Billie Oaks, who runs a literacy program here in Breathitt County, a poor part of Kentucky. “It’s heartbreaking.”

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.

Leaving aside the fact-free assertion (did Kristof actually investigate this? Of course not), this isn’t a problem with SSI. The problem is that, as a nation, we will not provide the necessary educational resources to people who are so poor that they have to choose between keeping a roof over their heads and teaching their children how to read. This, in a nation, that routinely uses infrared devices to flush toilets. That is the problem, not some notion of soul-crushing dependency (and, for Intelligent Designer’s sake, we’ve been through a previous round of this in the 1990s. It was stupid then, and it’s stupid now).

Nicholas Kristof: partying like it’s 1989.

An aside: Let’s not even get started on the idea that young people should ‘take responsibility’ by signing up to be cannon fodder in Afghanistan.

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2 Responses to Kristof Is Missing the Point About Supplemental Security Income

  1. Jim Thomerson says:

    Just saw him discussing this on MSNBC. He sounded very rational about it all, and talked at some depth about his observations. He is all for Save the Children organization.

    • Zachary Smith says:

      I’ve no way of checking on whether or not this fellow was taking Truth or Nonsense, for he provided nothing in the way of evidence. That impression was echoed by a person commenting on Kristof’s blog who says it better than I can.

      “This all seems extremely dubious to me, since Kristof appears not to have interviewed any of the “moms and dads” he accuses of gaming SSI, and also appears not to have examined any SSI rolls in the areas he’s claiming these abuses are rampant. Nor does he name any of the diagnoses for which the kids supposedly being pulled out of literacy programs are receiving SSI, nor does he offer any evidence at all that it’s really happening. Saying something is true doesn’t make it true; saying it’s true without providing any evidence that it is is shoddy and amateurish reporting.”

      The gentleman is a highly paid employee of the NYT. He ought to be producing better output for the kind of money they pay him.

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