Megan McArdle: "What Do Low-Income Communities Need?"
Welfare reform, by pushing mothers into work, producedreal if modest improvementsin most measures of average well-being. But as Jason De Parle documents, it didn't make them act like middle class parents. They were still single mothers with a lot of kids and no very helpful men available, and their kids did not start going to school more--in fact, more work hours meant the kids were less carefully supervised, and the daughter of one of the three women he followed got pregnant at 17, continuing a major portion of the "cycle" that welfare reform was supposed to break.
If poor people did the stuff that middle class people do, it's possible--maybe probable--that they wouldn't be poor. But this is much harder than it sounds. As John Scalzi once memorably put it, "Being poor is having to live with choices you didn't know you made when you were 14 years old." Which often means, he might have added, spending your whole life doing the sort of jobs that middle class people sometimes do when they're 14. It isn't that people can't get out of this: they do it quite frequently. But in order to do so, you need the will and the skill--and the luck--to execute perfectly. There is no margin for error in the lives of the working poor.
Eric Falkenstein, "What the 99% Really Need is a Little Willpower".
The 99% is a story that fits many journalists narratives about the major problem today: inequality. This seems like altruism, but focusing on the top 1% is also consistent with envy. Many think the top 1% are responsible for the poverty of the 99%, especially the truly poor, those in the bottom quartile. Yet the poor are pretty far removed from anything the top 1% can do. Graduate from high school, get married before you have children, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. Fewer than 10 percent of families that follow his blueprint live in poverty, while 79 percent of those who don't follow the three-step plan end up poor. There is no redistribution scheme imaginable close to this in reducing poverty.