Ex-Clinton official Edelman to discuss poverty

Posted: February 28, 2013

When it comes to the poor, people still quote President Ronald Reagan's line, "We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won."

That notion is "a canard" that couldn't be further from the truth, says Peter Edelman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who served as a top adviser to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and was a member of President Bill Clinton's administration.

Federal programs created to fight poverty - including Social Security, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit - keep 40 million people out of poverty, says Edelman, author of So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America.

Edelman, 75, was scheduled to speak Thursday at the Free Library at 7:30 p.m. The library event is free and open to the public. His visit will be partly sponsored by Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY).

"Peter has a practical understanding of what it takes to live in poverty," said Donna Cooper, executive director of PCCY.

Edelman, who is married to Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, had been an assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under Clinton.

He believed that changing welfare from an entitlement to a block-grant program that requires recipients to search for work and imposes a five-year lifetime limit on benefits would increase poverty.

He said his prediction was borne out, as 40 percent of women who left welfare rolls ended up without a job or cash assistance.

"We're in a bad place right now," he said Tuesday. "The largest single determinant of poverty in America is the huge number of jobs we have that don't pay enough to live on."

Contact Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or alubrano@phillynews.com

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