The culture of dependence you speak of is indeed a fact, medievalelks (wow! I typed it right on first try! where's my cookie? )
But it is mostly sponsored and nurtured by the governments themselves. It's almost laughable, if it didn't make you cry, that They moan about how people are so dependent on Them, when They spend rivers of money on campaigns promoting better welfare when elections day come. It is also the result of one simple fact... it doesn't work. Born poor, die poor is the life of the vast majority of the population with this problem. It's all their fault?
Regardless it is the task of the government to provide for those in need, give initial support and help catapult them to a better life. That some take advantage of the system, I have no doubt. On the other side of the scale you have the successful that take advantage of holes in the tax system.
But to think anyone that doesn't succeed in life is a loser, is too a selfish act. Money exclusion, social discrimination, differentiated education, aren't just inventions. Whether you want to believe it or not, in America, just like in any other western country, poverty exists. And the vast majority of this people work hard in their lifes to try to improve at least the future of their kids. The vast majority fails. Being born slaves and dying slaves to a system that still needs someone to clean their urine, wipe their gutters and feed their mouths.
I'm happy for your inlaws. But don't even think using their experience as the proof everyone else is to be blamed if they don't do it too. try being born latino, black or white in a trailer park in America. Then come to me and tell me in the face when you can't make it when you reach 50 that you are loser.