But we’re not as generous now. Even though the American economy is far larger than it was then, the middle class is a smaller share of it. For the last four decades America has been dividing into well-off professionals who don’t feel any connection to the poor, and a beleaguered working class that’s easily convinced any help to the poor will cause their taxes to increase. Hence, in 1996 even a Democratic president decided to end aid to poor kids, largely because polls showed that most Americans — including the vast majority of the working class — no longer supported welfare. Twenty-five years later — and even after the awful consequences of that decision have become apparent — a Democratic Congress has chosen not to provide permanent help to the nation’s poor kids. In other words, I don’t think we’ve prioritized the elderly poor over poor children. The big difference is we have become far less equal as a society, which has made us less willing to remedy poverty at all.