'Poor kids are as bright as white kids', said Joe Biden. Don't fault him. It's a sticky topic.
Consider, the expectation of fairness has never been higher. Politicians, business leaders don't just lip-serve the poor, but must, as routine, denounce inequality -past, present, and future. When one fails, like Trump, they lose the title of Capitalist, are deemed Fascist; a purely political animal that should have gone extinct.
And yet 'inequality' has never been so stark. This not only in terms of wealth. Even Democracy most-benefits the top few. But while Trump and Biden tackle the extreme-rich's to-do list, we the Left bog ourselves down trying to make Capitalism work for the poor.
Biden may as well speak for us, since his' gaffes are our' outcomes. That's because our jeremiad on inequality doesn't indict wealth, itself. On the contrary, we need wealth -remitted via wages, taxes, tithes, etc.- to fight poverty.
But using wealth to fight poverty is absurd on its face, since denying others their' needs is what makes wealth. -Wealth is just private property. Whereas, 'inequality' suggests a continuous line between rich and poor -even if they hold opposite ends- that funnels wealth, mostly up, but some down, property sets a price-wall (or border wall) between its owners and its dispossessed. -A wall, not a line.
Capital circulates; whether digitally or in burlap sacks, whether in business or government hands, through private networks as private property. Often, we say it's 'stolen' by 'corrupt' agents; profiteers, financiers, governors, etc. But the agents are its ticketed destination.
And if workers reach any of it, it's by competing for lower wages. Therefore, capital flowing into a country, region, or strata ultimately increases inequality by joining new wealth to existing stockpiles, pushing the local poor further against capitalism's global wall.
In other words, because they compete, the poor can't take advantage of capital. Yet, whether or not (often not) capital needs them, it cannot take its boot off their neck. Because unless its entire world is parceled, capital hasn't the sovereignty it takes to produce wealth.
So, the best Capitalism can offer its surplus population -denied both self-sufficiency AND sufficient wages- is scraps from the profit system that keeps them poor. -Then insist they use it to compete with 'rich kids' -since agreeing to compete is what makes them eligible and joins them to society. -Then it asks men like Biden and Trump to still step on them as hard as needed to make sure they don't impede the flow of capital.
Liberals want this. Competition is both the means and the point of Liberalism. It follows, then, in a society that competes for resources, that 'equality' means the right to enter the fray. (Recall, desegregation became law in the South because it impeded commerce.) But the 'right to compete' belies a profoundly conservative lust for 'real' meritocracy, as merit justifies inequality. Thus, when Joe Biden says, 'poor kids are as bright as white kids', it's an understandable gaffe, not just from someone trying to unmask poverty without revealing capitalism, but from someone who thinks survival should stem from competition: Someone who not only excepts but believes in inequality.
The (allegedly) progressive response -ala Warren or Sanders- is that competition is ok, provided there's a reasonable chance of employment and some safety net. A 'safety net' meaning taxes rather begging for the absolute basics of survival for capitalism's lumpen hostages. But if they're willing to kick in taxes or make laws to assure fairer(?) (safer?) play, it must be realized this is a defense of capitalism, not a critique.
The broader notion is still that a more level playing field would reduce inequality. Hence, it ignores that even well-fed workers are at the best of times competing against themselves by widening the gap between them and their bosses. (And even bosses have no choice but to compete by cheapening the workers.)