Either the children of low income families have gotten really stupid or there’s something seriously wrong here. And this is from the New York Times, believe it or not.
Antipoverty programs also discourage 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.
Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month.
“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.
That is a burden on taxpayers, of course, but it can be even worse for children whose families have a huge stake in their failing in school. Those kids may never recover: a 2009 study found that nearly two-thirds of these children make the transition at age 18 into S.S.I. for the adult disabled. 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.
They are transitioning into a lifetime of welfare parasitism. And their kids are going to be more likely to register as disabled so that the proportions keep increasing. Meanwhile schools will be pressured to help them learn, their parents will pressure them to learn less, and we’ll have a perfect storm of educational and social welfare spending.
Of American families living in poverty today, 8 out of 10 have air-conditioning, and a majority have a washing machine and dryer. Nearly all have microwave ovens. What they don’t have is hope.
What they don’t have is a reason to break the cycle. On the one hand government fosters dependency, on the other hand its regulations make it harder for businesses to function and add to the expenses of owners and workers until it becomes easier not to work and not to hire.
The New York Times, predictably, can only offer more social welfare spending and supervision, little realizing that Big Brother is the problem here.