Date Published: 10/01/2012
I have the great privilege of introducing author Peter Edelman Tuesday evening to talk about his powerful new book, "So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America." Edelman is a Georgetown University law professor who has served at the pinnacles of power, as an adviser to U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy and in President Bill Clinton's administration. He may be most famous for resigning from the Clinton administration to protest the deep cuts to benefits and eligibility limits in Clinton's welfare "reform'' package in the mid 1990s. His book is a primer on the disgraceful prevalence of poverty in the world's wealthiest and most powerful nation. It's also one of the most misunderstood issues in our body politic. The compelling fact that Edelman drove home in a recent New York Times editorial is this: the failure of the private sector to adequately reward people who work hard for their living is by far the biggest driver of poverty and low-income status. Most poor people work and a whopping 104 million people -- a third of our population -- have annual incomes below twice the poverty line, or less than $38,000 for a family of three. A fourth of all jobs pay below the poverty line for a family of four, or less than $23,000 annually. As the world's only wealthy democracy without universal health care, and with some of the chintziest economic security benefits in the western world, our working poor and our disabled poor are signficantly worse off than the poor in all the so-called developed nations. Edelman will talk about his book at 7 p.m. on Tuesday Oct. 2 at Common Good Books, at the corner of Grand and Snelling in St. Paul.