Progressives are in the business of complaining and denouncing -- as a prelude to seeking sweeping powers to control other people's lives, in the name of curing the ills of society. The last thing they want is to discover and discuss how millions of people rose out of poverty by entirely different methods, often by freeing economies from the control of people with sweeping power over other people's lives. Poverty and economic disparities are the raw materials from which the political left manufactures a sense of moral superiority, self-importance and political power. Against that background, it is understandable how they strive to keep poverty alive as an issue, even as they claim to want to end poverty, by playing lady bountiful to the poor. Even as they define deviancy downward, many of the progressive intelligentsia define poverty upward, so that people with amenities that even the middle class could only strive for, two generations ago, are still called "the poor" or the "have-nots." Except for people who can't work or won't work, there is very little real poverty in the United States today, except among people who come from poverty-stricken countries and bring their poverty with them. Talk about "the working poor" still resonates in politics, but most of the people in the bottom 20 percent of American households are not working full-time and year-round. There are more heads of household who work year-round and full-time among the top 5 percent of American heads of households than among the bottom 20 percent. The left has striven mightily to make working no longer necessary for having a claim to a share of what others have produced -- whether a share of "the nation's" wealth or "the world's" wealth. They have also striven mightily to inflate the number of people who look poor by counting young people with entry-level jobs, who are passing through lower income brackets at the beginning of their careers, among "the poor," even though most of these young people have incomes above the national average when they are older. The real obsession of the left is in gaining power or, at the very least, engaging in moral exhibitionism. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is www.tsowell.com. COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. ??