In an eyebrow raising article, liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offered a startling concession: “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.”

Writing from Jackson, Kentucky, Mr. Kristof reported that numerous poor parents in Appalachian hill country are yanking their kids out of literacy classes in order to bag a $689 monthly Supplemental Security Income (S.S.I.) check per kid. The checks continue until the child reaches 18 years of age.

“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.”

Cornell University Economics Professor Richard V. Burkhauser says parents are inducing illiteracy to keep the taxpayer-funded welfare checks rolling in. “One of the ways you get on this program is having problems in school. If you do better in school, you threaten the income of the parents. It’s a terrible incentive,” said Professor Burkhauser.

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