There is a long history of dividing the poor into those deserving help (e.g. becasue they are disabled and unable to work), and those who are undeserving (e.g. they are fully capable of work, and if they are unemployed it must be because they are lazy and aren't trying, not because jobs aren't available -- we heard echoes of this in the debate over extending unemployment insurance). It allows those who might be asked to pay the bills to support the unemployed -- those who benefit so much from a system that can displace workers into the ranks of the unemployed, workers who have done nothing wrong exept be employed in the wrong industry -- to deflect responsibility onto the poor themselves. Attempts to draw such distinctions have led, in the past, to things such as workhouses. Chris Dillow wonders why, if we are going to make such distinctions, we don't also point to the underserving rich:
A few days ago, the great Paul Sagar noted an asymmetry in the Tory attitude to "fairness" - that whereas they are keen to point to the "undeserving poor", they are silent about the undeserving rich.