"If you give a man a fish, you have fed him for today. If you teach a man to fish, you have fed him for a lifetime." Few would deny that poverty exists in the world, and fewer still that it is a problem of sorts. From there, the opinion tend to diverge a bit more widely. Is poverty a technical problem which can be "solved" by government intervention--whether in the form of a sort of socialism which meets every man's basic needs (which might include everything from food and clean water to a modest house and two cars)--and if so can it actually be solved?
Most debates of an economic nature tend to treat poverty as a technical problem, with varying opinions as to whether or not said problem has a possible (let alone plausible) solution. To use a bit of Catholic theology, they believe that the solution is to be found in the works of corporal mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drinks to the thirsty, clothing the naked, harboring the harborless. The debate is then over who ought to do these works: the government (at any level, but inevitably at the federal level), the community (e.g. through charitable organizations), or the individual people (often working as a community).
The problem with this is that it gets the diagnosis wrong, at least in part. Yes, the works of corporal mercy are needed; but the problem is not a technical one, or at least is not only a technical one. It's solution is not, therefore, only a technical solution--though the solution must have a technical side, too--and so it cannot be resolved only through the corporal acts of mercy. Rather-dare I say primarily?--it is a moral problem, and so there must be a moral element to approaching poverty. This means that it must have some sort of moral solution, too.
Part of this moral solution is what we call the works of spiritual mercy: instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, reproving sinners. After all, nor all poverty is material poverty, and there is such a thing as moral capital, even if it is in ever shorter supply today. The poor might rise a little from their poverty, and their lives will not seem (or be) quite so "nasty, brutish, and short" with a bit of this moral capital. They can gain this moral capital by recognizing their own dignity as members of the human community, by recognizing that although there are many things which are beyond their ability to control--economic factors and such--there are some things over which they may exert some modicum of control (moral factors). This does not mean that they will all become virtuous overnight (or perhaps ever); but the mere effort to move in that direction can give them a greater sense of their own dignity, since such a struggle for virtue is in accordance with that dignity. To be unemployed or "underemployed" does not mean that a man ought to cease taking responsibility for himself (or for his family).
There is, of course, a second part to this moral solution. So far I have spoken as if the entire solution to the problem must be applied to the poor. Give them money or education or instruction and they will not be poor anymore. That is, of course, quite false. The other part of the solution applies to us, those who do not live in poverty; since poverty is a moral (and perhaps technical) problem for us, too. And this should make it clear why the government solutions will fail to alleviate poverty if they are the only (or even primary) approach to "solving poverty." We also must recognize the dignity of the poor, and can be helped in that endeavor when we carry out he works of mercy (both corporal and spiritual). We need to give them their fish for today--and teach them how to fish for tomorrow. We must look at them and see another person, another "I." We must look at them and say, "There but for the grace of God go I."
I am not claiming that this will rid the world of poverty, or even that it will mean there are no more poor people. The poor we will have always, and perhaps poverty as well. But at the very least we will rid ourselves of what poverty we have: that spiritual poverty which prevents us from being truly poor in spirit. We may just help others to do the same while we're at it: which is more than can be said for employing a purely technical solution administered by bureaucracy to the unnamed masses.