There are a lot of people who think Kanye West is a musical genius.

They are the young people who buy his songs and albums. Many critics agree, pointing to his album The Life of Pablo.

He may be a genius but as George Bernard Shaw once said of Wagner's rabid anti-Semitism: "Wagner is proof that genius can coincide with rank stupidity."

Considering some of his recent over-the-top opinions, West may indeed be the modern poster boy for Shaw's bon-mot.

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Taking opposite stances during two different Republican presidencies, West has provided evidence of his own outrageousness.

In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, particularly the 9th ward, home to mostly African-Americans, the federal government's response was lacklustre at best, negligent to the eyes of the world.

West, a Democrat and an activist, famously said: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." President Bush recognised the episode as the low point of his presidency.

Perhaps President Obama's calling West a jackass caused his change of allegiance.

At a meeting with Donald Trump, whom West now supports, he claimed that wearing a MAGA ("Make America Great Again") hat "makes me feel like Superman, my hero."

He's entitled to his political choices, just not opinions that are the tropes of anti-black racism.

"Blacks are in poverty cause there's no father in the home." "Democrats and welfare payments encourage blacks not to work, just have children." and this: "Slavery was a choice."

As oxymoronic and intrinsically contradictory as is this last (which some critics excuse on the basis of West's acknowledged mental health issues) it's not so far from the thinking of many, even in New Zealand, about the supposed moral deficiencies of the poor.

After all, Sir John Key said the reason people remained in poverty was because they made poor choices.

Now Key was neither a genius nor stupid.

He was just a lucky guy whose Holocaust survivor mother provided the striving background that led him from state housing to the currency trading seat of Merrill Lynch and a fortune of $50 million.

His politics of lowering taxes on the well-off but increasing them on the rest, with a 25 per cent increase in GST, exacerbated the situation of the poor, thereby feeding into Key's idea about the poor and bad choices.

It is a view that is widely shared, especially by the rich.

While such a view lends a moral patina to ignoring the plight of the poor, it happens to be false.

Getting food, getting shelter, finding safety in a threatening environment ... and that's only an approximation and a beginning. The important distinction is that the choices are forced upon the poor by the daily circumstances of living in poverty.

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My essays on the United States opioid crisis describe how being poor, unlike being well-off, puts people in circumstances where they are forced to make many serious decisions daily, perhaps hourly.

Getting food, getting shelter, finding safety in a threatening environment ... and that's only an approximation and a beginning. The important distinction is that the choices are forced upon the poor by the daily circumstances of living in poverty.

In a vicious cycle, those many difficult money choices are made more difficult by the facts and structure of poverty.

Recent studies by Dr Eldar Shafir of Princeton and Dr Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard have shown that while the poor are just as intelligent in IQ tests as the well-off, their thinking is compromised by the degree of attention needed to deal with daily monetary problems.

It's like the limits on bandwidth on a computer, slowing it down.

Focusing on money problems, money for food, for the rent, for heating etc slows down the ability to do long-range planning, like figuring out how to save a little, or to actually improve income status to get out of poverty.

These studies also show that poor people are actually more generous and more willing to help others in need.

What this means is that any government, like our present one, which aims to reduce poverty, especially child poverty, will need to provide support to improve the cognitive functioning, the ability to do long-term planning by people burdened otherwise by poverty, itself.

It's a big task. Like most long-term projects, it must start from the bottom, not top down.