A frequent refrain I hear from my liberal friends is this. They are liberal and vote Democratic because they care about those who are poor and need help. Selfish conservatives/Republicans only care about "rich people." If it were so that those on the right support policies that harm those in need, I might also be voting for Democrats most of the time, too.
But, like this author, I think my friends are incorrect about what does and does not help those in need.
Some years back the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) calculated a "predicted poverty rate" based on economic growth alone. In other words, economic growth by itself lifts people out of poverty, even if nothing else is happening. The CEA results suggest that if there had never been a welfare state (no Aid to Families with Dependent Children, no food stamps, no Medicaid, etc.) the poverty rate would be lower today than it actually is! This adds to a wealth of evidence that the welfare state is subsidizing poverty, not eliminating it.
All in all, the welfare state probably isn't the primary reason poor people are poor. The main obstacles to success are (1) bad schools and (2) barriers to good jobs in the labor market.
And - if you are in the mood to support good education that is truly making a difference, think about making a donation to KIPP schools. Here is some information about the great work KIPP schools are doing in working toward fine educations for children at risk. As an aside, you might note that the photos on the front page were taken by yours truly a couple of weeks ago! My pleasure and honor to see these administrators, teachers, volunteers and students who are working so very hard.