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Why have Americans lost faith ingovernment’s ability to effect positive social change–for example, to solve worsening poverty in the wealthiest country on earth? A PBS documentary, “America’s War on Poverty” (premiering in January), looks for the answer, tracing the history of government programs that deal with social injustice and poverty, and exploring the role that government, business, and the community should play in rethinking solutions.

“War,” by the makers of the “Eyes on the Prize” series, is timely. The gap between rich and poor is widening: 1 percent of the population owns 40 percent of the net wealth; 60 percent owns virtually nothing. Poverty increased by 30 percent in the last decade alone. With poverty’s enormous social and human costs, a national dialogue has never been so urgent.

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