Powerline has a post titled "NPR goes rogue" because they ran a story on "This American Life" largely critical of the federal disability program and its perverse incentives. I clicked through the story and just shook my head at this:
Jahleel is a kid you can imagine doing very well for himself. He is delayed. But given the right circumstances and support, it's easy to believe that over the course of his schooling Jahleel could catch up.Good grief. Also in the story: 40 years ago, most disability claims were for heart disease; now, the lion's share are hard-to-diagnose back pain and mental illness.
Let's imagine that happens. Jahleel starts doing better in school, overcomes some of his disabilities. He doesn't need the disability program anymore. That would seem to be great for everyone, except for one thing: It would threaten his family's livelihood. Jahleel's family primarily survives off the monthly $700 check they get for his disability.
Jahleel's mom wants him to do well in school. That is absolutely clear. But her livelihood depends on Jahleel struggling in school. This tension only increases as kids get older. One mother told me her teenage son wanted to work, but she didn't want him to get a job because if he did, the family would lose its disability check.