Poverty in America is an often glossed-over subject. Except when faced with extraordinary events like Hurricane Katrina, the American poor are too infrequently thought about. But that’s really no surprise. The difficulties of poverty aren’t easy to grapple with and are tied to another uncomfortable issue: race.

One individual taking the forefront in discussing these issues is actor, comedian and activist Bill Cosby. Cosby, whose new book Come On, People debuted last month, spent the past several years speaking out against what he perceives as the failings of the black community – their “dirty laundry.” Cosby has made headlines since 2004 – his now famous “Pound Cake” speech in honor of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision forcefully derided “people with their hat on backwards, pants down around the crack. Isn’t that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? … With names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap, and all of them are in jail.” Cosby continues to visit poor communities and speak out against subjects like prioritizing materialism over education, the glorification of violence and single parents in black culture. He more or less blames the current state of low-income African Americans on modern black culture.

Now, Cosby’s sincerity should not be mocked, and it cannot be doubted his heart is in the right place. Although the question regarding his controversial comments should be: Are they helping?

My answer: Probably not. Although it would be easy to argue cultural problems plague lower-class black communities in the United States, these troubles most certainly arise as a product of poverty – not as an origin of it. In many ways, Cosby’s comments echo similar statements made by the onerous Fox News blowhard Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly’s perpetual crusade to pin black America’s poor economic condition on hip-hop music and culture resulted in an infamous feud with gangsta rapper Ludacris, which ultimately lead to the termination of Ludacris’ Pepsi commercial deal.

None of this is meant to necessarily compare Cosby to O’Reilly; it is meant merely to suggest that their comments have similar results. When one blames cultural faults for the socio-economic condition of an entire class, he or she subsequently circumvents responsibility from society as a whole to enact systemic changes and passes it back to the victims of poverty. While it would be nice for all impoverished Americans to raise themselves to financial success, it will not happen miraculously. One can’t introduce a micro solution to remedy a series of macro problems.

Fixing poverty in America requires policies that are both expensive and controversial because few solutions are simple. From the broken inner city school systems to community colleges in rural America, poor Americans will not rise out of poverty unless education is made a national priority. The draconian prison system in the United States needs to be reformed. Inmates need rehabilitation and education to reduce recidivism, rather than having them temporarily taken off the streets, only to feed them back into a cycle of violence. The war on drugs should be eliminated so police resources can be diverted to stopping violent crime. The list goes on, or at least it should. Unfortunately, few people are willing to talk about these issues.

If respected figures like Bill Cosby use their celebrity status to help enact societal shifts, push for better legislation and elect more courageous politicians, change could be enacted. Telling black parents to name their kids more common names and telling black children to pull up their pants may or may not be a worthy goal. What it most certainly is not is a solution to poverty.