Where the right and left agree on inequality

The question is what to do about it.

We know, for example, that many children reach kindergarten far behind their more fortunate peers and that they never catch up. Poverty is part of the explanation, as liberals insist. But so are parenting and family structure, as conservatives believe.

We have a choice. We can continue a useless debate between two half-truths, or we can agree that we should work together on both parts of a complex and stubborn problem. We can do more to ensure that children do not grow up in poverty and that they receive effective preparation for formal schooling. And we can do more to encourage a culture of work and marriage while acknowledging that for the foreseeable future, a large percentage of children will grow up in single-parent households whose mothers and fathers will need help to become more effective parents.

Here’s another useless debate. Every serious analysis concludes that poverty in the U.S. would be far worse without the programs launched during the Great Society. So conservatives should stop repeating Ronald Reagan’s canard that we fought a war on poverty and poverty won. It is more accurate to say that we fought poverty to a draw in circumstances that became increasingly unfavorable for lower-wage workers and their families.