While I agree with you on the point that only those people who have a desire to succeed (or hell, even survive) will be able to do so. The other ingredient to becoming self sufficient is opportunity though and that's what I am talking about. I find it quite cynical to suggest that anyone who is poor is just not trying hard enough. Back to Dubya, how hard did he have to work? How many other extremely powerful and rich people are in that position because of factors other than hard work or brilliance? And are ALL the poor people in that same country poor because they are lazy?
While you may have seen examples of poor people who seemed unwilling to take the McJob they are offered (there is always SOMEONE behind the counter when you go though, so somebody's taken that "opportunity"), many of the champions of free enterprise never had to worry about flipping enough burgers to pay the rent. If everyone had the same opportunities, if free market capitalism magically created a meritocracy, then it would be fair to say that everyone gets what they deserve.
I am not suggesting that it is possible to achieve that Utopian society with hand outs either, that would be stupid, but it's also stupid to say that there is nothing more to success and independance than hard work. The fact is, no matter how many burgers you flip, you can never hope to pay the bills. You need more than that, the priviledge of post secondary education maybe, or better yet a daddy with oil tycoons for golfing buddies.
As for what I have personally done to help others I must admit that I have never owned a business so I haven't yet hired anyone.
I began working to support my young family when I was 18, and work I did! I didn't sit and wait for someone to feed my child, I worked my butt off for a little more than minimum wage through a temp agency, fifty to sixty hours a week and eventually earned a full time position. The money I was making there wasn't enough to pay the rent even with the 20 hours of overtime every week.
Fortunately for me this workplace was unionized and while still working my guts out (in fact I was promoted and put in charge of my department while being the youngest employee of the company) I decided I wanted work to improve my situation and that of the people I worked with by running for a position on the union's bargaining committee. I was successful and was elected.
In that position I was able to help improve the livelyhoods of some 400 plus WORKING poor people through improving their wages and health coverage by over 100% over the course of 4 years and 2 collective agreements.
I'm not sure if in your mind those 400 + people that worked for those low wages or the thousands of people that flip your burgers or greet you when you go to DevilMart to buy rubbermaids offset the 12 lazy folks you have crossed paths with. To me the fact that there are people doing those jobs proves that not everyone is able to be just work their way to independance. They're doing as I did, working overtime at the worst low paying jobs for multi-billion dollar corporations and still sharing accomodations with family.
Things are not equal, and they probably never will be but things like inherited wealth, so-called "right to work" jurisdictions that basically outlaw labour unions and minimum wage rates that are far below a living wage make it much harder to work your way to independance.
Those are all things we could change to narrow the disparity of opportunity in society but you are correct to say that it would not be enough, people will always have to put forth the effort to survive.
I feel a little light headed... maybe you should drive...