The groups typically labeled "the poor" and "the rich" are not static.
Please read that again and remember it.
The collectivist Left typically - and usually without challenge - speak as if income level is an immutable condition, that we're either born "poor" or born "rich," and that is where we stay for life. The facts of reality expose this as another collectivist fraud, passed off mostly on the strength of its never being questioned.
There are always people who are poor, there are always people who are rich, and there are always people who fall somewhere between. But here's the fact the Left do not want known:
The individual people who comprise those groups rarely stay put, especially people who start out as members of "the poor."
Assuming even a semi-free economy, people invariably move upward in income and in their consequent standard of living. And of course there is no guarantee that someone who has achieved wealth will stay wealthy (wealthy people can and do sometimes lose their shirts and fall out of the upper income groups.) At any given time, and assuming a relatively-constant level of government meddling with the economy, the percentages of people comprising the different income groups remain constant - but the specific people that comprise a given group, including the poorest quintile, are moving through it constantly, generally in an upward direction. The total quantities of people within those groups themselves remain constant despite the fact of people leaving them for higher ones, because people new to the job market constantly emerge to replace those who move up, For example, a recent college grad on his or her first entry-level job may be working at an income level that classifies that person as "poor" - until skill, effort and gained experience enable him to make more; the same is true of immigrant laborers - who are an asset, not a drain on the economy, assuming they're employed rather than dependent on government assistance.
So...what is the most effective method of raising people out of poverty on a continual basis? Is it the self-generated action of individuals exercising their effort, their creativity and initiative within a market that's left free enough for them to do so? Or is it the government handing out freebies, as "entitlements" that one collects passively for no other reason than possessing a pulse, and which drain the vitality of the economy as a whole?
History tells us that it is the former - economic liberty, a.k.a. capitalism - that "helps the poor," and only the former. The simple reason is that economic opportunity and advancement are available to all people, but only in an economy that is left free by its government to thrive and grow. Beyond that norm, charity can only come from surplus income earned by people who are... left free to earn. If government steps in and forces people at gunpoint to endure crushing taxation for the sake of "anti-poverty" programs, the entire fabric of the economy is dragged into poverty, and all "help for the poor" - voluntary or forced alike - dries up along with that destroyed economy.
- Up until 1981, forty-plus years of complete Democrat control of social policy in America caused multiple generations of welfare dependency and the most prosperous nation on Earth to get its clock cleaned by the Deming-schooled and relatively-free Japanese. Democrat policies culminated in Jimmy Carter 1.0's disastrous experiment with Keynes and its consequent "malaise," "stagflation" and the like - essentially across-the-board impoverishment of the American people, and by extension, the world's people;
- Then came eight years of Reagan's baby-steps in the direction of laissez faire, which in the face of withering opposition as "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor," despite an expensive but necessary restoration of national defense as government's first priority (see the Declaration of Independence,) and his consequent defeat of the Soviet empire - launched both the American and world economies into a boom cycle, during which those who started out in the poorest income quintile profited most. That "Reaganomics" boom cycle would last a full quarter-century, until...
- Un-jailed economic vandals Christopher Dodd, Barney Frank, Franklin Raines, Alan Greenspan, BillyBob Clinton, George Bush (both of them,) Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Barack Obama (Jimmy 2.0,) Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and a few dozen minor others, brought it to a screeching halt, I'm thinking by conscious intent. So as to provide justification for... a full return to the same Marxian / Keynesian cancer that Reagan successfully treated between 1981 and 1988.
So what is the goal of "charity for the poor?" Is it for the "giver" to feel self-satisfaction at his intentions regardless of effect, or is it to actually make a long-term difference in people's standard of living and thereby to eliminate dependence? The old bromide "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," is fully valid and applicable - but not if your ideology and your very profession require a dependent class for you to "help." In this sense the advocates of permanent welfare exhibit the same mentality as drug pushers - and occupy the exact same ethical status.
If the goal is to improve the standard of living of people who are poor, then the goal is to improve the standard of living of people who are poor.
It is not to enrich the ruling class via transforming everybody else into a "ruled" class - which is clearly the goal of the newly-religious Left.
Isabel Paterson's 1943 work "The God of the Machine" is directly relevant to the context of motives and their practical effects in "helping the poor." A notable excerpt:
Ayn Rand's broader analysis of the proper relationship between each individual and his own life, between each individual and every other individual, and between each individual and the government (which latter is just: a group of individuals,) is covered in two landmark 1963 articles that should be considered required reading prior to any discussion of wealth and poverty, and referred back to frequently:
"Man's Rights" -
and "The Nature of Government" -
Another useful reference, further analyzing the issue of income mobility vs. fixed statistics, is economist Thomas A. Garrett's 2010 article "U.S. Income Inequality: It’s Not So Bad" -
Both theory and the empirical evidence of recent history tell us two things, loudly:
- The market, when the control-fetishists are compelled to leave it alone and individual rights are upheld and enforced, is entirely self-regulating and a vast benefit to people of every income level, especially those who start out poor. IOW, though it may sound counterintuitive, the best - arguably only - way to "help the poor" is to release the government's shackles from the economy and allow that market to do its stuff. [Again, this is not a prescription those whose livelihoods require a dependent class - the Dependency-Dope Pushers - want to accept.]
- Government anti-poverty programs, to the degree to which they interfere with the natural, spontaneous function of the economy, impoverish not only the people they ostensibly are there to "help," but the whole of the economy upon which their, and everyone else's, livelihoods depend as well. Which makes such government "anti-poverty" schemes morally obscene.
If you doubt that Reagan's policies not only benefited people who started out poor but benefited them more than any other income group during the '80s decade, then consider the 1993 article "Gekko Echo" by economist Jeff Scott and philosopher David Kelley to be a mandatory bookmark and required reading. Its presentation is derived entirely from apolitical data from the Census Bureau and the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Analysis, and its conclusions are the exact opposite of the "decade of greed" narrative, promoted ever since in collectivist media:
Again, if the idea is to transform poverty to productivity to the extent of what is possible to human effort, rather than to enrich a ruling/taxing class, then both theory and history tell us that government programs are ethically monstrous - in outcome if not in intention - while economic liberty is an unqualified success, wherever and to whatever degree it is allowed to flourish.