Willie L Brown Jr., former Mayor of San Fransisco, did an amazing thing tonight on Real Time with Bill Maher. He solved the poverty problem.
"If the poor people of this country," he said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "had the same resources as the corporations and Haliburtons of this country, they would not be where they are today."
No shit. If poor people had billions of dollars at their fingertips, they wouldn't be poor anymore. And if we could create money by snapping fingers, that would be a reasonable plan. But it's just a pipedream. In the real world, prosperity doesn't come from altruism. The pie doesn't get bigger because some gave their money to others. Economic pies grow when people create more; not when they are given more.
Thus the good news. The nation's down-trodden have a long list of institutional advantages that most of history's poor never had. A stable, peaceful government. Well defined private property. Easy access to employment. Easy access to entreprenuial activities. Freedom of movement (from neighborhood to neighborhood, region to region). Freedom of association. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. All of these translate into profit making opportunities (some more than others).
Immigrants understand this well. Most poor Americans don't, not because of their race or because they're stupid, but because they get welfare. Let's not kid ourselves; work is hard--that's why they call it work--and while there are many that take that money to move out of welfare, many others don't. That's what happens when you pay people not to do something they don't want to do.
I would like to believe, like Brown surely does, that we could pull the poor out of poverty with a snap. But Q is just a Star Trek character and despite what some may tell you, he's not real. Pretending that he is doesn't make the poor better off; it does them a disservice by telling them they are victims, not masters of their future.