Bravo, Mr. Kristof

December 13, 2012

New York Times editorialist Nicholas Kristof did a brave thing on Sunday when he posted his article “When Parents Have an Incentive for Their Kids to Fail …” . In the article he reported on Kentucky parents who take their children out of literacy and reading programs because they want their children to remain illiterate so they qualify for disability payments; the $698 a month each illiterate child receives per month is a substantial part of the family budget.

The article touted the admirable efforts of Save the Children to provide literacy programs for children in this poverty-ridden part of the country, and we can all agree that this private program that battles illiteracy is worthy of our respect.

What was most striking, however, was  Mr. Kristof’s condemnation of welfare programs that leave recipients trapped in poverty:

“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.”

We agree; our travels around the country this year have exposed the many ways these programs become a trap that is difficult if not impossible to escape.

To have this message delivered by such a stalwart liberal gives us hope. If people like Mr. Kristof can look beyond the charged partisan rhetoric surrounding the issues of poverty, welfare, and entitlements, then there is hope for all of us.