Skip to comments.An Honest Liberal Confronts the Problem of Government Dependency
Posted on 12/11/2012 7:05:10 AM PST by Kaslin
Ive written and pontificated about the problem of government-created dependency and how the welfare state traps people in poverty.
I also shared this dramatic chart showing how redistribution programs create shockingly high implicit marginal tax rates for those with modest incomes.
But when a liberal writer for the New York Times basically comes to the same conclusion, thats a sign that there may finally be some consensus about the need for reform.
Heres some of what Nicholas Kristof wrote, beginning with an acknowledgement of the welfare states perverse incentives.
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. This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that Americas safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Some young people here dont join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because its easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments. 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 its best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month.
He then gives an example of the SSI program for kids and how it has ballooned over time .
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 thats the outcome of a program intended to fight poverty.
By the way, you wont be surprised to learn that the disability program for adults also has expanded dramatically. The simple lesson (though folks in Washington seem oblivious) is that if you subsidize self-destructive behavior, youll get more of it.
Kristof is honest enough to recognize the problem, but that doesnt mean he agrees with libertarians about the solution.
I dont want to suggest that Americas antipoverty programs are a total failure. On the contrary, they are making a significant difference. Nearly all homes here in the Appalachian hill country now have electricity and running water, and people arent starving. kids have replaced the elderly as the most impoverished age group in our country. Today, 22 percent of children live below the poverty line. 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 dont have is hope. A growing body of careful research suggests that the most effective strategy is to work early on children and education, and to try to encourage and sustain marriage. Early interventions are not a silver bullet, and even programs that succeed as experiments often fall short when scaled up. But we end up paying for poverty one way or another, and early childhood education is far cheaper than adult incarceration. Look, there are no magic wands, and helping people is hard.
I dont think his hopes of early childhood education are a silver bullet, particularly if it results in a program run from Washington. But Ill also admit that libertarians dont really have a solution.
To a large extent, this is an intergenerational problem, with kids learning bad habits from adults. And thats true for inner-city blacks and rural whites, as well as every demographic in between. Im happy to make the case that the welfare state helped to create the problem (or at least subsidized it and made it worse), but simply ending the welfare state probably wont make everything better.
Its a lot easier to squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube than to put it back in. Once social capital erodes, it very difficult to restore it. Thats why its a mistake to create new programs in the first place. As this famous set of cartoons illustrates, welfare state programs always start small, but thats not where they end up.
P.S. When the welfare state destroys the lives of children, theres no room for any humor. But at least we can laugh about the absurdity of disability programs for adults. This joke captures the perverse incentives of the programs, but these real-world horror stories about Diaper Man and Footless Hans are only funny in a twisted way. And this Greek story about rewarding pedophiles with disability payments is beyond satire.
I would say that I’m glad he’s seen the absurdity of entitlement programs, but I can’t because he believes that such programs need to be tweaked.
Nicholas Kristof is NOT an honest liberal.
Obama and the Bigots
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Mr. Obama has spoken respectfully of Islam (he told me last year, on the record, that the Muslim call to prayer is one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset).
Obama: Man of the World
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (itll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.
“On the contrary, they are making a significant difference. Nearly all homes here in the Appalachian hill country now have electricity and running water, and people arent starving.”
And every building, water tower, road says “The Honorable Robert Byrd.”
He brought satellite TV to shacks. He brought discounts for septic tank cleaner for the outhouses. He brought lots of EBT cards and government handouts.
The one thing the Honorable Robert Byrd did not bring was jobs that would have taken these people out of poverty.
Sure we do. Temporary short-term help for those relative few who truly need it, with rigorous controls in place to prevent fraud.
Everyone else is expected to hump their own gear.
He was on Morning Joe this morning and, boy, is he light in his loafers!
He’s OK when he’s talking about women issues in the Mid East and this column is not bad. But now that he’s given himself an innoculation, he’ll be back on the liberal plantation in about half an hour. Cynical, me?
The liberal wants to invade the sanctity of the home because the incentives his kind have created are putatively causing harm to children. The irony is that the liberal blames the parents for the unforeseen consequences of his own social policy.
As always, the remedy for failed socialism is not real reform but more socialism.
The second observation is to note that it is inevitable that the elitists will turn on the lower classes which simply refuse to react in accordance with expectations to liberals' stimuli. We have seen this countless times in the Soviet Union and particularly in the treatment by the Russians of the Kulaks. It is not a novel observation to note that the most dangerous humanoid on the planet is a liberal setting out to do good.
When Obama and his kind run out of demons to blame, when they have abused the rich to their satisfaction, and the whites and the Christians, they will inevitably turn on the poor.The more good the Obama administration and its successors do, the more power they amass, the more likely we will see a cultural revolution.
I think this Kristoff a**cap was the same buffoon who was lamenting the fact that “rich” people in the NE had generators in the aftermath of sandy, and he thought it wasnt fair to the “poor” (aka “unprepared”)
socially selfish, indeed.
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.
Is that why New York wants rich gays to get "married"?
But gays want to disestablish and destroy marriage by dissipating and attenuating its benefits -- because heterosexual marriage is norm-affirmative and highlights gay couples' wantonness and perversity. Or, as they would put it, heteronormal marriage "hates them".
Make up your mind, Nicholas.
That's because having a secure job and the good opinion of one's neighbors makes a man "uppity". Can't have that.
Nice to know what Kristof thinks is good for Alabama white trash.
I think we’d be shocked to know what some (self-professed) Liberals are thinking today. Confronted with the reality that Marxism is on a full blown rampage in the U. S., they’re having to confront what this really means for them and their future generations. I am not convinced none of them are terrorized by this.
Even in a one party system, there will be people who sift out to the top, who disagree with party dogma.
We may see the Senate vote against some of Obama’s budget plans.