For nearly half a century, there has been a steady drumbeat of government support aimed, in theory, at helping the poor. The result -- the poor have lost ground and their chances of becoming non-poor have gotten worse. Why?
The century that preceded all the government help saw constant improvement in the economic status of the poorest fourth of the American population. Then, along came help.
The erosion of the economic position of the middle class has been mostly the result, since the 1960s, of attempts by government to aid middle income workers. Providing benefits to workers raises employer costs and is ultimately completely born by the workers themselves -- not the employers.
The right to sue is a costly right and lowers wage income. The same is true of health care costs, unemployment compensation. OSHA rules, and on and on. It's surprising workers have any money income left after government mandates have directed most of worker income in ways that workers themselves would likely not choose.
To an employer, there is a single dollar cost of an employee. Government mandates simply dictate how that cost is borne and cannot affect the total. Increasing mandates reduce workers' disposable income, pretty much dollar for dollar.
So, now comes the "inequality" debate. It is no longer about opportunity and rising incomes, the debate has now shifted to spotlighting rich people. No wonder, since government programs have been completely ineffectual in improving opportunities and real incomes for the bottom quartile of the income distribution.
Helping poor people, whether in America or anywhere else, means removing the barriers that block their chances of improving their economic position. In education, people should be free to choose the schools they wish to attend. People should be free to pursue employment on whatever basis they wish to, including working for free or even paying an employer for the right to work -- if that's what they want to do. The government should butt out.
There is no evidence that, long run, anyone, except the legal profession, is helped by all the "rights" and "protections" afforded employees under government largesse.
The poor need the freedom to pursue their own way. They should be able to choose where to send their children to school instead of having that decision dictated by an unfeeling and unaccountable bureaucracy. The poor should be able to make whatever employment decisions they choose and start businesses without having to fight the ever-growing bureaucracy that thwarts small businesses in America at every turn. The poor need police protection and the rule of law in their neighborhoods, not political correctness that appeals mainly to wealthy elites.
In short, the poor need what everyone needs -- a chance. But, the government is too busy helping them to give them that chance.