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Fri Dec 7, 2012, 03:01 PM

This will not be popular here. Kristof: Profiting From a Child’s Illiteracy

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.

<snip>

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.

<snip>

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/opinion/sunday/kristof-profiting-from-a-childs-illiteracy.html?_r=0

this is, as are most pieces by Kristof, a thoughtful article and worthy of discussion.

16 replies, 1890 views

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Response to cali (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 03:08 PM

1. it also discourages them from becoming cannon-fodder

there is a danger that just like in more affluent areas, people in the poor areas might join the military because they want to, not out of desperation.

Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.


Regarding his main point, I'm not so sure. 8% on disability? How does that compare with the country at large? Kristof is good, I agree, but presenting that figure as alarming without giving us context is not good imo.

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Response to Enrique (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 03:55 PM

3. First, you're right about the relative lack of context for the statistic; however,

the article does state that

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.


My best take on this is as follows:

40 years ago, not long after LBJ declared the War on Poverty, 1% of poor kids were on SSI for physical or mental disabilities. This was a very low number, with many disabled kids not yet on the program.

Currently, 8% are on SSI disability. This may be an excessively high number.

55% of those currently on have "fuzzier" intellectual disabilities. If we imagine that all of these kids are inappropriately on SSI, then the expected number who are correctly classified would be about 4%.

Therefore the number being served with SSI is at most about 2x what it should be.

A number between 4 and 8% is not an unreasonable estimate for what the number of correctly classified cases should be.

Consider that, more or less by definition (i.e. WAIS IQ<70), about 2% of the general population meets the criteria for mental retardation. There is a genetic component to IQ. People with genetic predispositions to lower intelligence tend to drop into poverty, and tend to have low-IQ offspring. Perhaps the rate of MR is twice that of the general population. This would result in an expected frequency of MR of 4%. Furthermore, there is likely a higher rate of environmental problems, ranging from exposure to lead paint in old buildings to dietary deficiencies and stimulus-deprived environments, in the low-income group.

So maybe a number between 6 and 8% is not unreasonable.

And I haven't even begun to discuss the physical disabilities that might exist in that group, which would further elevate the number of appropriately classified SSI recipients.




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Response to cali (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 03:33 PM

2. It's the outcome of a bandaid approach


not the outcome of every program intended to fight poverty.

For example: There are dozens of groups selling themselves as foundations intended to "help Appalachia."

They get the grants and help themselves. I see it happen over and over. Yet we read articles like this on the bottom of the food chain, and rarely a story on the scavengers who have a second home in a gated community far removed from actual Appalachia selling their latest "foundation" as if they know a frickin' thing about Appalachia. Getting grants that should go to actual hurting mountain people.

These are well-to-do people who want to appear altruistic and wise, and maybe they have a smidge of care, but they are taking advantage of programs that really are designed to help the poor.

There are a handful of groups I know who do actually help; one was started by uppity wymmins here.

Appalachia's issues need to be resolved, and our "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" Republican Supermajority in the state of Tennessee should make it a priority here, but of course Republicans want the little problem of Appalachia to be a SOCIALIZED problem. Especially when they know their own families benefit from the exploitation of the mountain people.

Republican Family Values: Privatize the profits of your exploitation of families, socialize the economic fallout for those families.


Anyhoo.....





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Response to cali (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 04:00 PM

4. interesting - bookmarking for later reading

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Response to cali (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 04:07 PM

5. what's to discuss? it's the logical outcome of a no-jobs/min-wage economy. who is "profiting" here?

 

The Kristof piece repeats all the usual right wing talking points, including the "marriage keeps people out of poverty" talking point, without any of the broader context that makes nonsense out of them, such as:

More than 7 million married adults under age 65 in the United States have incomes below the austere federal poverty line—currently about $23,000 for a married couple with two children. Among parents living below the poverty line and caring for minor children, 43 percent are married (and not separated). There are more married parents with incomes below the poverty line than there are never-married ones, and more food-insecure adults live in households with children headed by married couples than in ones headed by just a man or woman.

http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/married-without-means-2012-11.pdf

One of the parties actually profiting from SSI is the pharmaceutical industry, in fact, as many of those disabled are mandated to use pharma in exchange for their minimal benefits.

It is not a "thoughtful" article; it's the usual winger trash disguised as concern.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 04:15 PM

6. Been saying it for years...Military is the stop gap for lower-class unemployment...even citizenship

Military advantages and job funding that never have to pass the electorate...cannon fodder ... lower classes and path to citizenship for immigrants. This would include only those with sound body and sound mind.

Until there is a mandatory 2-year service plan (not all military) for all...such as the Mormons have...the above would continue. Think of the benefits to Appalachia...federal jobs programs, education, public service.

And from a practical viewpoint, exactly what are the job prospects in Appalachia...rhetorical question....because we know...slim and none. Only answer...move to the city. It's not quite as cut and dried as this and the culture shock would be tremendous for an 18-year-old.

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Response to cali (Original post)


Response to cali (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 09:53 AM

8. The tragedy is that they have to pick between education or starvation

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Response to cali (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 11:10 AM

9. This isn't popular because most people here understand that poverty is hard

And that opportunity is difficult to find in some places. Also, I agree with another poster that 8 percent of low income children is an artificially high number.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 11:34 AM

10. The comments at Kristof's blog

are far sharper in their criticism than anything written here.
I note that Kristof is a thorough researcher when the subject is foreign poverty, but he is woefully bereft of the facts in his domestic poverty research.
Read the comments at the NY Times site.
They make a good case for not believing every word of this article.
I heard Joe Scarborough talking about the article this morning, praising it as if Jesus Christ himself had penned it.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 07:07 PM

11. This has to be the biggest load of illogical garbage I've ever read

"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."

...

“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."

...


Shame on you, Billie Oaks! It's pathetic that you, or anyone, would ever claim that parents are incentivized to keep their children illiterate for the sake of receiving a disability check.

Kristof's unfounded and laughably idiotic tirade has as much in common as Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" remark.

If the New York Times had any common sense they'd fire him, remove his op-ed, and issue a statement condemning him.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 08:51 AM

12. Better yet would be a

point by point refutation, criticism for the lack of research and the unverified claims.
The slipshod reasoning and lack of work should get indeed get him fired. No one should publish anything making such outrageous claims without a thorough grounding in the facts, as they are and as they have been analyzed.
Kristof is just trading horses on the "good name" he made for himself with foreign poverty.
He is a voice only for entrepreneurship.
He really doesn't care about poverty or what it does. The poor are unprincipled in their pursuit of benefits.
This is his vision, clearly stated. He is no voice for social justice.
And he should be called out as such.


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Response to cali (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 08:56 AM

13. "Oh, dear god, have I seen this movie before."

<...>

Comes now Nick Kristof in The New York Times with the latest true story of waste, fraud, and abuse in the SSI system, this one from West Virginia.

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. Some young people here don't join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it's 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 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."

Oh, dear god, have I seen this movie before. You have the heartbroken local bureaucrat without any specific examples, just "many people." You have the statistics-free analysis of programs, and you have the pet "scholar" from the American Enterprise Institute who, in a stunning coincidence, writes a book concluding pretty much the same thing about social-welfare programs that everyone else at AEI believes. Indeed, his work reinforces the ideas that the AEI was set up in the first place to promote. (Burkhauser, you will note, has made a career out of suggesting an increased work ethic on people who are not him.) And, of course, there is the anguished liberal conscience of the Times columnist. What's missing, of course, are any of the actual people who allegedly are getting fat on disability payments. This is what I learned in Mississippi.

- more-

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/nicholas-kristoff-social-security-fraud-121012

Proof that the RW can sell anything to anyone who wants to believe it.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 09:03 AM

14. You were right. We have to fix our minds before we can fix our problems.

 

The meanness of spirit displayed here, especially at this time of year, is both telling and depressing.

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Response to cali (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 09:06 AM

15. Ugh!

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.

<...>

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.

What's the "conservative" point: That the "poor and desperate" are getting rich off $698 a month? That these "poor and desperate" Americans don't deserve to be rescued? I mean, how many people are they talking about? Who are they?

Stop selling RW bullshit: http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=1960112



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Response to cali (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 09:07 AM

16. What a load of horseshit - what is this, the Beverly Hillbillies version of the Welfare-Cadilliac?

Yeah, and black women in the cities have dozens of children so they can get a bigger monthly check. I have never seen such horseshit sucked up so quickly - it is nonsense, utter nonsense.

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