Thirty years ago, the great national debate was how to help ordinary, workaday Americans achieve the good things in life. Today, we are preoccupied with—and increasingly divided over—how to cope with the problems of poor and dependent Americans, most of whom cannot or will not work at the jobs available. Mead provides overwhelming and disturbing evidence that passive poverty—the failure of most of the poor to work at all—reflects defeatism more than lack of opportunity. In this controversial book, Mead proposes concrete steps to overcome the inertia of the nonworking poor trapped in the welfare system. If the poor return to work, he suggests, American politics would focus once again on the problems of the working Americans.