The poor are still with us: Peter Edelman, policy advocate

Peter Edelman has worked in public policy for almost 50 years, specializing in issues related to poverty and welfare. In 1996, he resigned from his post in the Clinton administration to protest its support for welfare reform, a reform he believed would demolish the nation’s safety net for the lowest-income women and children in poverty. In 2012, he published So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America. He is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

What have been the greatest antipoverty successes in the U.S. in the last 40 years?

The greatest antipoverty success without a doubt is Social Security. It has been transformative in making sure that people can retire and not be destitute. The program was made stronger in the early 1970s when Social Security payments were indexed to inflation and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program was enacted. The result of this is that the elderly are our least poor age group. Those programs are phenomenal successes.