The idea of poverty being a cultural issue—the poor are poor because they are lazy—rather than a policy issue has become dominant in this country in the past few decades. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s recent remark about children in poor neighborhoods lacking work ethics highlighted how right-wing politicians both feed and capitalize on this understanding of poverty to divert public attention from the real issue of growing economic inequality as a result of decades of policy-making that benefits the rich and punishes the poor.

In this interview on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, Nation contributor and editorial director of Colorlines Kai Wright talks about how the particularly grinding poverty in the Bronx results from public policy rather than from personal choices. Pointing out the absurdity of “laziness” as a unique “culture” of the poor, Wright reminds us of the resilience of one community in the South Bronx to pull itself out of poverty. Building off his recent article in the January 2, 2012, issue of The Nation, “Hard Knocks in the Bronx,” Wright argues that policies should be made to protect and support these people.

Jin Zhao