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.