People who say money is not important to having a decent life have different perspectives then you. What do you mean by "money"? Wealth? What do others mean by "money"?
Poor people are unhappy and often turn to crime because they don't have the money to pay their bills. Wealthy people are often unhappy because money cannot build or support healthy relationships. The happiest people I have known had just enough to pay their bills with a little left over and enough in the bank for emergencies. Many were in debt and none were wealthy.
To say that the poor don't have the opportunities necessary to get out of poverty lacks support. The government is more than happy to help impoverished people with funding for a college education.
I currently live in poverty. I moved my family to another state with a lower cost of living, so now, although I often borrow from Peter to pay Paul, my rent is paid and my utilities are on, and I am happier than I have ever been. Furthermore, I receive government loans and grants and am a full time online student at Columbia Southern University where I am earning my BS in Psychology. I actually plan to teach GED and can do that with any Bachelors degree. My loans will be paid back at $75 a month, which is a drop in the bucket when you have a degree and make more money, so not wanting to acquire student loans is just an excuse. Also, I receive the balance of my loans and grants, and it helps a lot towards bills.
The lack of opportunities that you noted come from lack of knowledge. I am older now, but if I was made aware of the resources open to me years ago, I would be so much farther in my career right now.
That is my whole reason for wanting to teach GED. People who didn't graduate from high school usually come from lower socio-economic levels or have other personal issues and I look forward to showing them the opportunities available to them.
The reason social programs are not working is because they don't address all the issues. I am unable to work due to illness and a need to care for my 22 year old autistic and schizo-affective son. Yet, I've been denied public assistance because I am a student and don't work at least part-time. I could probably get SSI, but it takes at least two years to get approved and I will have my degree by then. I also have a young friend in Florida who has a baby and she receives state assistance. She is anxious to return to work, but needs child care assistance and the waiting list is 18 months