Peter Edelman

Peter Edelman is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Edelman resigned his post as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services in protest of President Clinton's support of the Republican welfare reform proposal.

Recent Articles

Robert F. Kennedy: Teachings for Today

RFK had an uncanny capacity to reach across racial lines. He learned by listening and empathizing.

(AP Photo)
This article appears in the Spring 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . An emblem of Robert Kennedy’s capacity to reach across racial lines was the way he campaigned in the steel town of Gary, Indiana, when he ran for president in 1968. He made a point to appear together with Mayor Richard Hatcher, the first post-Reconstruction African American mayor of a large city, and Tony Zale, a white local hero who was the middleweight boxing champion of the world. That reach has often been noted over the years, with the added note that many of the city’s white residents who voted for RFK went on to vote for Governor George Wallace in the general election after Kennedy died. I start there because we have never more needed to bring our people together. Of course, Robert Kennedy’s brother was the fallen president, and many of the whites who voted for RFK were Catholic. But there is much more to it. He listened to people, including people who disagreed...

The War on the Poor

The welfare reform of the 1990s left millions of Americans near destitution.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/AP Images
Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/AP Images A sign painted on top of a mural says 'We accept food stamps,' on August 19, 2013 in Harvey, Illinois. This article appears in the Winter 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine . Subscribe here . $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America By Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer Houghton Mifflin Harcourt We should know by now that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF—the so-called “welfare reform” enacted in 1996—is a failure. For every 100 families in poverty in 1996, 68 received cash assistance. Now it’s only 23 in 100. Less than 1 percent of our population—just 3.1 million people—receives TANF now. Cash assistance has all but disappeared nearly everywhere. Because states have complete discretion over who will get help, two relatively generous states—California and New York—account for close to half of the nation’s welfare rolls. The other...

The State of Poverty in America

The problem is worse than we thought, but we can solve it.

(Flickr/John Collier Jr.)
We have two basic poverty problems in the United States. One is the prevalence of low-wage work. The other concerns those who have almost no work. The two overlap. Most people who are poor work as much as they can and go in and out of poverty. Fewer people have little or no work on a continuing basis, but they are in much worse straits and tend to stay poor from one generation to the next. The numbers in both categories are stunning. Low-wage work encompasses people with incomes below twice the poverty line—not poor but struggling all the time to make ends meet. They now total 103 million, which means that fully one-third of the population has an income below what would be $36,000 for a family of three. In the bottom tier are 20.5 million people—6.7 percent of the population—who are in deep poverty, with an income less than half the poverty line (below $9,000 for a family of three). Some 6 million people out of those 20.5 million have no income at all other than food...