No doubt a generation of smug post-Reagan TV twits has conditioned many people -- even otherwise self-described liberals -- to make reflexive assumptions about poor people. They're either stupid, lazy, or both, practically by definition. (As if Paris Hilton and most of the Bush clan were not also both of those things, and demonstrably so.) In America, even poor people are fat and have color TVs. That sort of thing.
And of course poverty is a relative thing, in that in other countries, poverty is quite literally a life-threatening condition, with a greater immediacy of danger to the people living in it. (And yes, Robert Mugabe's thuggish despotism is and should be held directly responsible for the inexcusable misery of his people and the squandering of one of Africa's few decent post-colonial economies. And, um, someone else bears responsibility for one-third of Iraqis now having to eke their way through brutish and foreshortened lives by scavenging in garbage dumps. This is what the administration meat puppets consider successmanship. Good for them. At least we know exactly where they stand.)
But this is not only a symptom of the lower two (or even three) quintiles of American society slipping further and further down, but of the increasingly serious income disparity. Even as more and more people are forced to figure out how to support a family of four on less than $10K per year, the precious few at the very top accumulate more and still more.
Americans, proud of what we presume to be a classless society, tend to dismiss even the appearance of "class warfare". This is ridiculous, because it presumes that we have any say in the matter, and that it hasn't already been happening. We have been trained somehow to shy away from picking on predatory capitalism (as opposed to genuine capitalism), while we look askance at the consistent, continuous transfer of wealth upstream.
When our government's priorities are skewed far more in favor of helping the WalMart Walton family, already billionaires many times over, save $32.7 billion more in the next decade, than to help the poorest of the poor from freezing to death in the winter, or giving them a fuckin' sack of groceries once or twice a month, then we might as well be done for.
It is absolutely unconscionable that we can find money in the budget for the most ridiculous shit, for bridges to nowhere, and museums to nothing, but we can't help little old ladies from freezing or having to survive on cat food. That's where the rot of a nation's soul takes hold, when we fight exponentially harder for swag-bellied plutocrats and useless heiresses than for our own neighbors -- or even ourselves. And we disenfranchise ourselves with our distractions, and our apathy and cynicism, until it's us having to choose between health care and food.