Kudos to the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof for not only daring to question whether anti-poverty programs might actually harm some people more than they help them, but for doing some on-the-ground reporting about how that happens in specific individuals’ lives. His entire piece from Sunday is well worth reading, but here’s the crux of it:
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