It's an easy argument to make but it isn't quite that simple. I'm sure the poor of the US would love to take a trip abroad, then come back and realise things aren't so bad & make a start on getting themselves out of their situation.
Telling someone to be grateful that they have a roof over their head since most of the world doesn't won't make them any happier about shivering under a blanket because they can't pay the gas bill for heating. Yes, it could be worse, but it could also be a lot effing better, From my own experience, the whole thing tends to dull the mind to an extent where opportunities are no longer so obvious - or so easy to pursue (£5 for a domain name that may not pay off, or £5 to eat for a week and I'm bloody hungry).
True, absolute poverty is horrific and all efforts should be made to ensure that no one has to endure this through no fault of their own, but that doesn't make relative poverty a non-issue where people need to man-up. Of course, you weren't so extreme as to say that, but it gets side quite a lot and I don't really think it helps much tbh.
I'm sorry but I can't help but think that my ancestors (5 brothers that came over from Italy with almost nothing) who were poor from the start, had few if any social programs (other than help from other poor people in the community) to rely on, and were openly discriminated against as "Dirty WOPs" in the late 1800's / early 1900's, made it out of poverty and in the process helped make this country great. Generation 1 - low wage factory worker, Generation 2 - post man then small grocery owner, Generation 3 - first college educated one who started a body shop and then a neon sign business, Generation 4 - my dad, partner at a top CPA firm, Generation 5 - successful tech entrepreneur.
It just feels to me that the poor in first world countries have a victim mentality that keeps them from working with the kind of hard determination that not only gets people out of poverty, but builds up the nation in the process.
Do they need more help to develop that work ethic? Probably. Do they need more handouts? I think that is what's keeping them where they are.
I think there's something to not giving handouts. I'd prefer a hand. The strange thing is that we look at the poor as if we are a meritocracy. the general distribution of talent, intelligence and ability is likely to be statistically the same for all classes. And since there are more poor people there should be more success stories. Under a meritocracy there would me more processes in place that reached out to the "underprivileged." But what we see is a war on drugs...
There are lots of anecdotes like these, but one factor often overlooked is social capital. That's difficult to measure, but consider the difference between a fairly cohesive and inter-reliant sub-community on the one hand (Italian) vs. one riven by gang warefare and in which high grades may get you branded as "too white," on the other.
Not that that proves anything. Discussions like these are 90% a game of "re-enforce my confirmation bias," imho. Believe people are poor because they make bad moral choices? I'm sure you can find lots of great examples of that. Believe people are poor due to external societal forces? Ditto. A question I'd like to see more of in these types of discussions is "what would falsify my theory of poverty?"
Oh I'm certainly not arguing for more handouts. As an other commenter pointed out, these tend to mainly go on keeping your head above water anyway. For true betterment I agree totally that it's up to that person to make it happen. They just maybe need a bit of help to get started.
> Telling someone to be grateful that they have a roof over their head since most of the world doesn't won't make them any happier about shivering under a blanket because they can't pay the gas bill for heating.
But, the thing is, every US state that gets cold enough in the winter has heating assistance aid available from the utility companies. If you can't afford to pay your gas bill in the winter, it gets paid for you. This seems to be mandated by the public utility commissions.
So, if you're shivering under a blanket because you didn't pay your gas bill, it's probably your own damn fault that you didn't apply for home heating assistance. I've even had the gas company mail me a big letter in multiple languages when I was a few days late paying my bill saying "do you need help paying your bill? Please call us." And in a lot of northern states, it is illegal for the gas or electric company to shut off your utilities in the winter months, as long as you can prove financial hardship.
One more thing I want to comment on that you wrote:
> From my own experience, the whole thing tends to dull the mind to an extent where opportunities are no longer so obvious - or so easy to pursue
The way that is written shows a huge problem in peoples' perception - why do we assume the poor can only get by if opportunities are "obvious" or "easy to pursue"? Working your way up society's ladder is HARD, but people are capable of amazing things when it's their only way out. Throwing scraps to the guys at the bottom of the ladder will only take away motivation to make the long and difficult climb. Don't we want people to look back on their lives with pride on what they accomplished, in the face of difficult odds, rather than disappointment that their lives were spent living off of others' charity?
Throwing scraps down to the guys at the bottom of the ladder is to keep them from setting the house on fire. Ethically, stealing is considered a right if your situation is so bad that starving is the alternative. Don't agree with me? Consider that practically every religion on this planet reaches the same conclusion.
So while I don't think that throwing scraps to the guys at the bottom is going to be effective it still better than all the alternatives that have come before. Those tend to end up as revolutions, civil wars, or worse.