The federal government pays people to stay poor

THE DAILY BLADE: Americans were recently shocked by a column by The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, who reported that parents in Appalachia are yanking their kids out of literacy classes because they’re afraid that if they 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. …

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. …

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.

Kristof has a revelatory (for a liberal) thought: “[W]e shouldn’t try to fight poverty with a program that sometimes perpetuates it.”

Kristof’s discovery that some parents are willing to do anything to keep benefit checks coming, even if their children will be harmed as a result, is supported by a new analysis by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO finds that poor people are less likely to apply for benefit programs doled out in the form of job training, pregnancies prevention for unwed women, transportation for job searches and day care than those that give them money, The Washington Times reports:

Through 2005, states saw a decline in the number of people on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or welfare, but 87 percent of the decline was attributed not to newfound employment and rising income, but rather to people whose income levels made them eligible for the program yet chose to no longer participate.

The decline in the appeal of federal assistance coincided with toughened requirements for the program, including “mandatory work requirements; changes to application procedures; lower benefits; policies such as lifetime limits on assistance; diversion strategies such as providing one-time, nonrecurring benefits instead of monthly cash assistance to families facing temporary hardships; and sanctions for noncompliance,” the report said.

The expenditure of welfare dollars remains high, but the percentage dedicated to direct financial support has plummeted in recent years, increasingly going to non-cash services … In fiscal year 2011, states spent more on non-cash assistance, at $19 billion, than they did on direct assistance, at $11 billion – a striking reversal from years gone by.

Meanwhile, proving that “a panel of experts” has even less common-sense than a New York Times columnist, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report concluding that food stamps have not improved the diets of low-income recipients because the benefit program “does not account for many barriers to finding affordable, nutritious food by inner-city shoppers” and … wait for it … recommends an increase in aid because inflation and a lack of affordable supermarkets in inner city neighborhoods has eroded the purchasing power of the monthly food stamp allotment, Reuters reports.

The panel did not address another significant factor in the failure of food stamps to improve the nutritional status of recipients: Many of them use food stamps – which are typically provided in the form of a pre-loaded card that looks like a debit card – to buy alcohol, junk food, fast food and pet food, as well as cigarettes, lottery tickets, street drugs, guns, lap dances, plastic surgery, iPads and other non-food items. Or food stamps are just simply traded in for cash.

Rather than increasing the amount of the allotment, the program would be more effective in achieving its purpose if there was an increase in accountability and transparency.


The second time around

CNN, FOX and MSNBC had “substantially” lower ratings for their coverage of President Barack Hussein Obama’s second inauguration than in 2009 – “approximately 17 million people watched Obama’s address on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in 2009, only around 7 million watched on those three channels in 2013,” MediaBistro blog TVNewser reports. Polling by Gallup also finds that a third of Americans avoided watching both the inaugural ceremonies in real-time and in news coverage later in the day, and that “in many respects, Americans reacted in a similar fashion to Obama's second inauguration as they did to Bush's second inauguration”:

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (56%) were more than twice as likely as Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (26%) to report watching Monday's inauguration ceremonies as they happened. Viewership among both party groups was down from 2009, when 70% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans reported watching the events as they occurred.

Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt notes that, coming as it did on Martin Luther King Day, Monday started out as a day of unity – until Obama spoke:

Watching thousands and thousands of people streaming on foot from miles away to stand in the bitter cold and watch power peacefully not transfer hands is inspiring, no matter your politics. …

It was simply a welcomed and unifying respite from all the nasty acrimony and thuggery and divisive politics of the past year. …

Instead, he gave us a low, divisive, political bleeding of the spleen that sounded pretty — if you were not listening to the actual words.

He could not get one paragraph in without bringing up race. How is that living the dream?

The race-baiting was followed by appeals to class-warfare, suggested edits to our Constitution – as well as a promise to completely neuter the Second Amendment – and Republican-bashing.

The speech unfolded just like countless others Obama had delivered during the presidential campaign – the antagonistic, accusatory themes are standard boilerplate by now. Been there, heard that, tired of the endless rerun. I am the 33%.


When kindness kills

Ronald Reagan famously observed that it’s not that liberals are ignorant, but that “they know so much that isn't so.” As a result, they are illogical, inconsistent, and too impulsive to think through various scenarios to anticipate possible unintended adverse outcomes that could occur as a result of their do-gooding.

If the post about parents keeping their kids illiterate because the government pays them for having intellectually disabled children doesn’t prove the point, consider this: A man who caught a mouse that had been scampering around his home and keeping him up at night, decided to spare its life and to give it a better home in a wooded area of a park. The mouse, which was in a garbage pail, seemed quite to stay put but the man encouraged it to venture out into the Great Outdoors (“C’mon Whiskers. You’re free. Get on out.”). Much to his horror, just seconds after the little critter darted out of the garbage pail, nature took its course and a hawk swooped down from the sky and snatched it in its talons and flies off with it – whereupon the friend who had been filming the ill-considered gesture began to laugh:

And then, the light bulb goes off: “Noooooooooo are you kidding me? He didn't last five minutes!,” the anguished bleeding heart cries. Realizing that his misguided intentions to help the mouse were directly responsible for its grisly demise, he adds, “I'm a terrible person.”

No, not terrible, just thoughtless. Maybe – just maybe – he learned that just because you mean well doesn’t mean things turn out well, so you should think before you act.


The Stiletto Scoops Mark Levin

Helen Thomas temporarily recovered from her dotage to consider the drone attacks that have killed three U.S. citizens in Yemen, the toppling of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, calls for Syrian strongman Bashir Assad to step aside and the various steps the president has taken to bypass Congress:

The imperial presidency has arrived. On the domestic front President Obama has found that in many ways he can govern by executive order. In foreign affairs he has the nerve to tell other people that they should get rid of their current leaders.

Oh, darn! The Stiletto mistyped that quote. Too lazy to retype the whole thing, so can you just substitute Bush for Obama, ‘cause that’s who Thomas was writing about back in July 2002.

On the domestic front, President Barack Hussein Obama, his cabinet, closest advisers and even some members of Congress have decided that the Executive branch of government is not co-equal to the Legislative branch but superior to it.
- Update to Never Mind Marxism. Will An Obama Administration Be Totalitarian?: Part II, The Stiletto Blog, October 28, 2011

I'm not into imperial presidents who act imperial and speak imperial and Obama forgets there's a Constitution. Yes, he keeps telling us he won reelection. Congratulations, but guess what? The Constitution wasn't up for election, it's not up for a referendum. He has to comply with it, too. When he gets up there and starts saying, if Congress doesn't do this, I'm going to do this unilaterally, it violates separation of power a lot of the times. And this is a man pushing the edge of the envelope as far as I’m concerned, whether it's the appointment clause, whether it's his unilateral action on immigration, whether it's trashing the commerce clause and the tax clauses under Obamacare. Now they're talking about executive orders on the Second Amendment. They've issued regulations on First Amendment attacking religious liberty. This notion that he might be able to lift the debt ceiling, you know, unilaterally under the Fourteenth Amendment.
- Mark Levin Reacts To Obama Presser: "We Have An Imperial President," RealClearPolitics, January 14, 2013

 

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