Let's start with the liberal point of view. (Feel free to correct me should you choose to do so) We'll begin at the extreme of Marxism:
The guiding principle here is that it is the government's role is to remove these inequalities though the exercise of its power to redistribute wealth. This can be done through taxes, through regulation, through setting prices and wages, mandating specific benefits. In essence, it's the job of government to guarantee an equality of outcome.
Now on the other extreme is wholly free market capitalism. In this model, government stays out of things and is limited to the role of maintaining the most basic social order through criminal codes. It is Economic Darwinism, where those who work and succeed are rewarded, and those who fail, or choose not to produce, die. In this model, there is only equality of opportunity.
Obviously, I'm one who leans toward keeping the government out of our everyday lives as much as possible. This country was founded by very wise men on a principle of equality of opportunity. In these United States, every man (and woman now) is judged by his ability to produce in society. While their are inequalities in the system (the -isms) they are neither pervasive nor systemic. And the rightful part for the government to play in this is to correct things when an inequality that strays from the ideal of equality of opportunity becomes a problem. But we are continuing to fall prey to the idea that market forces can be manipulated to the point that opportunities are no more and must be legislated by the government.
I do believe in a form of safety net. I do believe that we must still honor obligations we have mistakenly taken on. But the more we seek to have the government legislate equality of outcome, the further we slide away from the self-determination that grew this country into the world power that it is in under 200 years. There have been many nations over the millennia that have become the most powerful in the world. And it is from within, from the failure to recognize why they became powerful, that has led to their destruction. And unless we learn this crucial part of history, we will be the next to fall.