In the past few decades it has become much rarer for the poor to move themselves out of poverty. From the LA Times:
The ability to go from poor to rich — or at least to climb out of poverty — has become much harder to do in the last three decades, according to an analysis by Wells Fargo Securities. The percentage of low-income people who moved up the economic ladder slowed sharply from 1980 to 2009, compared with the previous dozen years, the study found.
The drop in economic mobility, combined with recently declining government aid to the poor, has left many Americans with no way to dig themselves out of poverty.
It would be one thing if the growing income inequality in our country was somehow the byproduct of America becoming a magical, frictionless meritocracy with an expanding economy that allowed anyone to rise on their own efforts. That would define a society where anyone from any background with intelligence, drive and/or very special talent could make huge gains, a near perfect meritocracy where everyone is rewarded or punished fairly based only on their work and talent: a nation of incredibly fluid economic mobility.
That is not what has happened though. Not only has income inequality grown dramatically in the past few decades, but it has also become rarer for people to move from a lower economic class to a higher one. Together these are the indicators of a society where the people at the top are making incredible gains, not because of their talents but because they have aggressively rigged every level of the system to guarantee they can’t lose. Low economic mobility and high income inequality are hallmarks of feudal societies run by landed gentry, not nations founded on fairness and equal opportunity.
We are seeing the result of years of our country practicing lemon socialism, raw capitalism for the poor and endless advantages, welfare and bailouts for the top 1 percent.