Haskins's ultimate conclusion:
[A]lthough there is room for government to help advance the cause of economic mobility in America, it can do so mostly by encouraging personal responsibility. Poverty in America is a function of culture and behavior at least as much as of entrenched injustice, and economic mobility calls not for wealth-transfer programs but for efforts that support and uphold the cultural institutions that have always enabled prosperity: education, work, marriage, and responsible child-rearing.
Thus, the inequality debate is not nearly as relevant to the more important question of mobility as it sometimes seems to many advocates and politicians. Inequality is a cloudy lens through which to understand the problems of poverty and mobility, and it does not point toward solutions. Great wealth is not a social problem; great poverty is. And great wealth neither causes poverty nor can readily alleviate it. Only by properly targeting poverty, and by understanding its social, cultural, and moral dimensions, can well-intentioned policymakers hope to make a dent in American poverty — and thereby advance mobility and sustain the American Dream.
I think one of the problems with contemporary liberalism has been its unwillingness to seriously acknowledge the destructive cultural factors that hinder economic mobility in some low-income communities. Many progressives behave as if "institutional inequality" is the only thing limiting the available opportunities for low-income families. But conservatives rightly point to the importance of personal responsibility and family stability.
Indeed, it often seems as though the liberal "model" of society has failed to account for the vast array of government-sponsored social welfare and social justice programs introduced over the past several decades -- most of which have failed to remedy the problems that they were designed to address.
Unfortunately, we now have a conservative movement that is more interested in browbeating the president over a simple "stay in school" speech than challenging him to more seriously address issues like parental involvement.
Update: Here is a good article explaining why conservatives should've been supporting Obama's speech to school children.