In the US? The poor are worse off in 2012 than they were in 1912, or earlier?
Did they have Medicaid in 1912? Could they walk into an Emergency Room and get guaranteed medical treatment in 1912?
Did they have Food Stamps, or Section 8 housing in 1912?
Did their kids get subsidized or free breakfasts and lunch at school in 1912? Did their kids get free vaccinations in 1912?
I could keep going, but you should get the point by now... I hope.
In 2012, there is more opportunity for the poor to work, educate and train their way out of poverty. More support from local government, charities as well as state and federal programs.
I know it isn't the PC thing to say, but some folks are just not capable of... well, of doing much anything. It's sad, but true.
Currently, the level of poor has increased for many reasons, most of which are not particularly their fault. But, many made bad choices and are paying for those choices now. Be it buying a house they couldn't afford, or not saving money for the lean times, or investing in the market and having all disappear. No one made them buy that house, or spend every cent they made, or put their money in the market, or any other choice they made. As I said, some are there by no fault of their own. They saved as much as they could on their low wage job, and after they lost their job, the money didn't last long.
To say, however, that they are worse off now than they were in 1912 or earlier, is just not a logical conclusion, and is not supported by the facts.
Of course, the poll does say miserable, not worse off.
So if it is the misery index we're talking about, IMO it has to do with self respect more than anything else. In 1912, the poor had to fend for themselves, and if we stipulate that they are more miserable now, it has to be because they are relying on others and have less personal input in their own life status, due to this. Lack of control leads to fear and depression. Give them more control and responsibility and they will have at the very least, a feeling of having more control and less fear. IMHO.