Ultimately, my view comes down closest to Kristof's. My perspective on the economic opportunity vs. values debate goes back to the work of Goldin and Katz, Heckman and Kreuger, and other labor economists who thankfully have been studying inequality for two decades and built up a reliable body of evidence we can draw upon on. Yes, economic opportunity has been declining, but much of that can be attributed to the fact that lower-income Americans are not going to college, and that many who go are not prepared to get the most out of it.
Why is this the case? The answer seems to have a lot to do with early childhood care, and the habits of mind that the children of low-income parents are less likely to acquire. These habits, such as diligence, politeness, punctuality, etc. can be construed as "values." But as many studies on values-based issues like abstinence and smoking-cessation show, preaching values and shaming those without values simply does not work empirically. What does seem work is preschool, and comprehensive support programs like the Harlem Children's Zone.
Ideologues on both the liberal and conservative sides sadly tend to promote lazy thinking (e.g. government is the answer! government is the problem!). Poverty and inequality are complex problems, and they require us to understand the practical realities of the poor instead of either labeling them as moral dissolutes or unilaterally endorsing government subsidies. To me the answer is not about whether people are good or bad, or whether help comes from the government, NGOs, or the private sector. It's about thoughtful experimentation and rigorous empirical analysis to see what actually works to help low-income people go to college, get good jobs, and live fulfilling lives.