Peter the Citizen

“For, in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'holds office'; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.”
John F. Kennedy
Writing about TANF is Broken!, Ron Haskins, the “architect” of welfare reform, states: “Germanis’ criticisms are reasonable and well supported by evidence. Congress and the administration would be well advised to carefully consider ways TANF could be reformed to minimize the game playing that many states now use to avoid spending TANF dollars on core TANF purposes and to avoid the federal work requirement.

“Anybody … really interested and serious about TANF … should read the important papers by Peter the Citizen,” Robert Greenstein, past president, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Peter the Citizen — deeply concerned about truth in policy making and policy assessment.” – Michael L. Wiseman (RIP).
About Peter the Citizen: I have worked on poverty and welfare-related issues for 40 years at The Heritage Foundation, the White House (presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush), the American Enterprise Institute, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views expressed in my papers are my own as a citizen and do not reflect the views of any organization I am now or have ever been affiliated with. I believe policy should be based on facts and evidence, to the extent possible, with careful attention to policy details and implementation.

Updated April 22, 2021

  • “Work Requirements are Dead and Conservatives Killed Them: An Explanation for Larry Mead,” April 18, 2021 – View
  • “On the Dignity of Work: Ron Haskins ‘Responds’ to Matt Weidinger (Sort of),” April 11, 2021 – View
  • “Is the New Child Tax Credit “Reversing Welfare Reform and Returning to ‘Welfare as We Knew It’”? A Response to Robert Rector and Leslie Ford,” April 3, 2021 – View
  • “Why AEI drives me crazy: A 2021 Update,” March 21, 2021 – View
  • “Should 2021 Libs Acknowledge that Welfare Reform Was a ‘Great Success’? A Brief Response to Casey Mulligan,” March 7, 2021 – View
  • “Explaining Welfare Reform Tweet by Tweet: A Response to Mickey Kaus,” February 24, 2021 – View
  • “AEI’s Poor Response to a Child Allowance,” February 17, 2021 – View

Archived Papers

  • “Robert Rector and “The Truth – About the New Food Stamp Work Requirements’ Effects”,” December 14, 2019 – View
  • “The Importance of a Credible Counterfactual: An Explanation for the American Enterprise Institute,” December 14, 2019 – View
  • “The Case for Evidence-Based Public Assistance Reform: A Response to Matt Weidinger,” November 11, 2019 – View
  • “Is Relying on an Econometric Study to Promote “Policies Similar to Welfare Reform” a Basis for Evidence-Based Policymaking?,” October 6, 2019 – View
  • “Would Reinstating the pre-1996 AFDC Program Reduce Poverty? A Response to the National Academies of Sciences,” September 15, 2019 – View
  • “TANF Just Received the Golden Fleece Award! Well-Deserved, but Who Should Get Credit: HHS or Congress?,” July 31, 2019 – View
  • “Evidence-Based Policymaking Should be a Two-Way Street: A Note to the American Enterprise Institute,” July 6, 2019 – View
  • “TANF Can’t be Reformed – It Must be Repealed and Replaced: A Brief Explanation for Matt Weidinger,” June 17, 2019 – View
  • “Why AEI drives me crazy: A Brief Response to Robert Doar,” June 7, 2019 – View
  • “TANF Deepened Poverty: A Note to the National Academies of Sciences,” March 9, 2019 – View
  • “How Well Do You Know TANF? A Quiz,” March 9, 2019 – View
  • “TANF is Broken! The Real Irony is Believing It’s been a Success,” January 26, 2019 – View
  • “Who Killed Work Requirements for SNAP in the Farm Bill? Answer: Conservative Ideologues!” January 1, 2019 – View
  • “TANF is Broken! Is Congress Fixing the Problems – or Just ‘Kicking the Can Down the Road’? A Response to Senator Steve Daines,” January 1, 2019 – View
  • “Explaining Welfare Reform Tweet by Tweet: A Response to Scott Winship,” October 21, 2018 – View
  • “Expanding Work Requirements in Non-Cash Welfare Programs: TANF is NOT a Model, but a Cautionary Tale,” October 22, 2018 – View
  • “Will Work Requirements Reduce Poverty? A Response to Robert Doar,” September 22, 2018 – View
  • “Do Work Requirements Work? Understanding the Limits of the Evidence: A Response to Angela Rachidi and Robert Doar,” August 8, 2018 – View
  • “How Do the Foundation for Government Accountability’s Evaluations of Welfare Reform Measure Up? A Report Card (Hint: The FGA Fails),” June 24, 2018 – View
  • “The House Ways and Means TANF Reauthorization Bill: Fixing the Problems or Just Treating the Symptoms? A Response to Robert VerBruggen,” June 17, 2018 – View
  • “The JOBS for Success Act: A Noble but Futile Attempt to Reform ‘Welfare Reform’,” June 16, 2018 – View
  • “The Importance of a Credible Counterfactual: An Explanation for Tarren Bragdon and the FGA,” May 20, 2018 – View
  • “The Best Way Forward on TANF is to Start Over: A Response to Angela Rachidi,” May 12, 2018 – View
  • “Why We Must Be Bold and Smart on Welfare Reform: A Response to Kay Coles James,” May 10, 2018 – View
  • “Is It Time to Reform TANF’s ‘Punishing’ Work Requirements? Applying New Insights from the ‘Intellectual Godfather’ of Welfare Reform,” May 10, 2018 – View
  • “The Misuse of Opinion Polls to Promote ‘Punishing’ Work Requirements: Why Policy Details Matter,” May 6, 2018 – View
  • “The Games They Will Play – the Welfare ‘Reform’ Edition: A Tale about Congress, Loopholes, and the Need for Competent Legislation,” January 1, 2018 — View
  • “In a Competition of Ideas, a Block Grant is the Worst Option: A Response to Lanhee Chen,” September 23, 2017 — View
  • “Senator Cassidy Thinks a Block Grant for Health Care is a Good Idea – That’s Not the Lesson from the TANF Block Grant in Louisiana,” September 16, 2017 — View
  • “A Note to Pre-Post Conservatives: You Are Not Fooling Anyone – Except Maybe Yourselves (and Some Politicians),” September 2, 2017 — View
  • “The FGA’s Simplistic, Misleading, and Irresponsible Report on Work Requirements in Kansas: A Sentence-by-Sentence Critique,” September 2, 2017 — View
  • “‘The Truth About Welfare Reform’ Won’t be Found at the Foundation for Government Accountability: A Response to Jonathan Ingram,” August 31, 2017 — View
  • “TANF is NOT a ‘Blueprint’ for Serious Policymakers: An Explanation for Nic Horton,” August 26, 2017 — View
  • “‘Welfare Reform’ New York Style: A Model for the House Budget Committee?” July 26, 2017 — View
  • “TANF Work Requirements are NOT About Work: An Explanation for Katherine Bradley and Robert Rector,” July 23, 2017 — View
  • “It’s Time for a Serious Conservative Welfare Reform Proposal: 5 Tips for Representative Jim Jordan,” July 16, 2017 — View
  • “Using Squirrely Data is No Way to Justify Conservative Policies: A Note to AEI’s Marc Thiessen,” July 8, 2017 — View
  • “The FGA’s ‘First of Its Kind Study’ Should Have Been the Last: An Evaluation Note for Pre-Post Conservatives,” July 4, 2017 — View
  • “Senator Mike Lee Should Read His Own ‘Welfare Reform’ Bill – To Find Out What’s In It,” June 17, 2017 — View
  • “The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act: A Conservative Plan to Eviscerate the Safety Net (An Update),” June 11, 2017 — View
  • “Maine DOES NOT Show How to Make Welfare Work: A Response to Jared Meyer and Mary Mayhew,” June 4, 2017 — View
  • “The Failure of Conservative Welfare Reform is what ‘Traps the Poor in Payouts’: A Response to Adam Brandon,” June 1, 2017 — View
  • “TANF: A Great Innovation or a Massive Policy Failure? A Response to Arthur Brooks,” March 4, 2017 — View
  • “TANF Can’t be Reformed – It Must be Repealed and Replaced: A Brief Explanation for Angela Rachidi,” March 4, 2017 — View
  • “Losing Ground on TANF: AEI’s The Reach of the Cash-Based Safety Net Misses the Big Picture,” March 1, 2017 — View
  • “A “Super Block Grant” is a Super Bad Idea: A Response to Gary Alexander,” February 19, 2017 — View
  • “‘Wisconsin Works for Everyone’ as a Model for National Welfare Reform: Is Robert Doar Right?” February 12, 2017 — View
  • “Making Progress on TANF: A Response to Angela Rachidi,” February 12, 2017 — View
  • “Show Me the Evidence: Peter the Citizen’s Fight for Rigor and Results in Social Policy (A response to Ron Haskins),” February 12, 2017 — View
  • “Speaker Ryan Has Failed the Poor and the Sick: We Need ‘A Much Better Way,’” January 19, 2017 — View
  • “Did a Flexible Block Grant for Welfare Spur State Innovation? Absolutely – But That ‘Innovation’ Didn’t Help Poor Families,” January 14, 2017 — View
  • “Ten Facts Conservatives Don’t Want You to Know About ‘Welfare Reform,’” January 14, 2017 — View
  • “‘Wage War on Poverty, Not Poor People:’ A Comment on the Heartland Institute’s ‘Roadmap’ for Winning the War on Poverty,” January 7, 2017 — View
  • “TANF is a Step Backward for the Poor and for Conservatism: An Explanation for Shawn Fremstad,” December 21, 2016 — View
  • “The Failure of TANF Work Requirements in 2015: The Need for ‘A Much Better Way,’” December 20, 2016 — View
  • “Making ‘Opportunity Grants’ Great Again: A Worthy but Challenging Prospect,” December 18, 2016 — View
  • “It Takes More than Bipartisanship for Enduring and Successful Policy: The 1996 ‘Welfare Reform’ Law is Not a Model to Emulate – A Response to Governor Jon Huntsman,” December 5, 2016 — View
  • “Making Welfare Reform Great Again: Five Recommendations for President Elect Donald J. Trump,” November 29, 2016 — View
  • “Does Making Welfare Much ‘Less Appealing’ Reduce Poverty?” November 29, 2016 — View
  • “Opinion Polls and Public Policy: Why Policy Details Matter,” November 29, 2016 — View
  • “The “Poverty Measurement Improvement Act”: A Small Step Forward, but We Can Do Better,” November 29, 2016 — View
  • “The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act: A Conservative Plan to Eviscerate the Safety Net,” November 29, 2016 — View
  • “The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act: The Epitome of Dysfunctional Conservatism –An Explanation for Rachel Sheffield,” November 29, 2016 — View
  • “Making Progress on ‘Welfare Reform’: A Response to Scott Winship,” September 30, 2016 — View
  • “TANF in Texas: The Need for “A Much Better Way”: A Cautionary Tale for Ways and Means Chairman Brady,” September 1, 2016 — View
  • “Welfare Reform: A Failure of Conservative Policymaking: A Response to Ramesh Ponnuru,” August 30, 2016 — View
  • “Making Progress on TANF: A Response to Scott Winship,” August 27, 2016 — View
  • “Pre-Post Conservatives Say TANF is a “Success”: Let’s Make It Even Better – A Possible Compromise,” August 24, 2016 — View
  • “TANF is a Massive Policy Failure, But Other “Liberal” Welfare Policies Reduced Poverty: A Response to Scott Winship,” August 22, 2016 — View
  • “The Failure of TANF Work Requirements in Wisconsin: A Note for Speaker Ryan,” August 22, 2016 — View
  • “Speaker Ryan’s ‘Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility Report’: The Need for ‘A Much Better Way’,” August 17, 2016  — View
  • “The Failure of TANF Work Requirements: A Much Needed Tutorial for the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute,” August 12, 2016 — View
  • “The American Enterprise Institute’s Proposals to “Improve” TANF: A Cruel Hoax on the Poor,” June 13, 2016 — View
  • “Understanding ‘$2 a Day’ Poverty: An Explanation for Robert Doar,” June 11, 2016 — View
  • “The 1996 ‘Welfare Reform’ has NOT Served the Poor or the Country: A Response to The Washington Post,” May 29, 2016 — View
  • “TANF in Michigan: Did We Really “Fix” Welfare in 1996? A Cautionary Tale for Speaker Ryan,” May 25, 2016 — View
  • “House Lacks Courage to Undertake Real Welfare Reform: A Response to Angela Rachidi,” May 22, 2016 — View
  • “Profiles in (Dis)courage(ment),” May 15, 2016 — View
  • “Republican Study Committee Blueprint on the Safety Net: It’s Time to Go Back to the Drawing Board,” May 14, 2016 — View
  • “Reforming ‘Welfare Reform’ New York Style: A Possible Doar-Germanis Compromise?” May 11, 2016 — View
  • “‘Welfare Reform’ Increased Poverty and No One Can Contest It: A Note to Conservatives,” April 24, 2016 — View
  • “Saving Speaker Ryan: 20 Reasons Why TANF is NOT ‘Welfare Reform,’ NOT a Model for Reforming the Safety Net, and NOT Conservatism,” April 24, 2016 — View
  • “The Failure of Conservative Welfare Reform: Insights from Seinfeld,” April 22, 2016 — View
  • “Will Conservative Reforms to the Safety Net Reduce Poverty? A Skeptical Conservative Responds to Scott Winship,” January 17, 2016 — View
  • “Which Safety-Net Programs Responded To The Recession? A Brief Response to Scott Winship,” January 17, 2016 — View
  • “The Need for Common Sense Conservative Welfare Reform: Ten Questions for House Speaker Paul Ryan,” January 6, 2016. — View
  • “TANF is Broken! The Louisiana Story: A Response to Representative Charles Boustany,” November 8, 2015. — View
  • “How to Really Discuss Poverty like Grown-Ups: A Cautionary Tale about ‘Opportunity Grants,’ the ‘Flex Fund,’ and ‘Serious’ Conservative Anti-Poverty Strategies,” November 4, 2015. — View
  • “TANF has been a massive policy failure – Let’s start over: A Response to Robert Doar,” October 22, 2015. — View
  • “$2 a Day – An Even More Complete Picture: TANF is ‘Welfare for States,’ Not for Needy Families,” September 27, 2015. — View
  • “TANF is Broken! It’s Time to Reform ‘Welfare Reform.’” Personal Statement of Peter Germanis. Working Draft, July 25, 2015. — View
Press Coverage and Citations
  • “Polling the Uninformed,” Sheila Kennedy, June 1, 2018 – View
  • “They’re the think tank pushing for welfare work requirements. Republicans say they’re experts. Economists call it ‘junk science’,” Caitlin Dewey, May 18, 2018 – View
  • “Do states regret expanding Medicaid?,” Mark Hall, March 26, 2018 – View
  • “The Real Lessons From Bill Clinton’s Welfare Reform,” Van R. Newkerk II, February 8, 2018 – View
  • “West Virginia’s billionaire governor is waging a war on anti-poverty programs,” Greg Kaufmann, February 6, 2018 – View
  • “After all these years, ‘welfare reform’ is the same racist dog whistle it always was,” Jared Bernstein, January 8, 2018 – View
  • “Focus on Welfare ‘Reform”: More Thoughtful Analysis From a Conservative,” Max J. Skidmore, December 5, 2017 – View
  • “Using Government Programs to Encourage Employment, Increase Earnings, and Grow the Economy,” Ron Haskins, November 21, 2017 – View
  • “Why Sociologists Matter in the Welfare Reform Debate.” William Julius Wilson, October 27, 2017 – View
  • “The latest Obamacare repeal bill is modeled after welfare reform. That was a failure,” Dylan Matthews, September 20, 2017 – View
  • “The Return of Welfare Reform,” Tara Golshan, Vox, July 1, 2017 — View
  • “How the Big Lie Works,” Sheila Kennedy, June 27, 2017 — View
  •  “Restoring the Entrails of Welfare Reform,” Zachary Parolin and Michael Wiseman, Poverty & Public Policy, June 2017 — View
  • “TANF at 20: The 1996 ‘Welfare Reform’ Law and its Impact,” Don Friedman, March 24, 2017 — View 
  • “Those Pesky Facts,” Sheila Kennedy, March 17, 2017 — View  
  • “Post-Election Federal Policy Update — December 2016,” Josh Protas — View 
  • “TANF: The Wrong Model for Medicaid,” Jon Peacock, August 22, 2016— View
  • “Welfare Reform and the Safety Net: Evidence Contradicts Likely Assumptions Behind Forthcoming GOP Poverty Plan,” Robert Greenstein, June 6, 2016— View
  • “How Michigan ‘games’ the welfare-to-work system,” Mike Wilkinson, Bridge Magazine, December 9, 2016 — View
  • “Labels Aren’t Analyses,” Sheila Kennedy, December 28, 2016 — View
  • “TANF, Peter the Citizen and ‘Less Appealing’ Indiana,” Sheila Kennedy, December 30, 2016 — View
  • Anne Jordan, “Making ‘Work First’ Work Better A Descriptive Analysis of Ohio’s TANF Program & Options to Improve its Cost-Effectiveness,” July 2016 — View
  • Zach Parolin, “The Sum of Its Parts? Assessing Variation and Trends in Family Income Support Across the 48 Contiguous United States, November 2016 — View
  • Skidmore, Max J. “How Successful has TANF Been? Taking Seriously a Thoughtful Analysis from the Right, with a Tip of the Hat to Peter the Citizen” (Editorial). Journal of Poverty & Public Policy, 8(4), 438-458.— View
  • “Yes, the ’96 Welfare Reform Reduced Child Poverty,” Scott Winship, National Review, September 7, 2016 — View
  • “The Decline of the American Family: Can Anything be Done to Stop the Damage?” Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, August 27, 2016 — View
  • “The Libertarian Case Against the 1996 Welfare Law.” Samuel Hammond, Talk Poverty, August 23, 2016 — View
  • “Twenty Years Since ‘Welfare Reform.’” Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, The Atlantic, August 22, 2016 — View
  • “Block Grant’s Flexibility for States = Less Support for Families,” Wisconsin Budget Project Blog, August 19, 2016  — View
  • “‘If the goal was to get rid of poverty, we failed’: The Legacy of the 1996 Welfare Reform.” Dylan Matthews, Vox, June 20, 2016 — View
  • “The Failure of Welfare Reform.” Jordan Weissmann, Slate, June 1, 2016 — View
  •  ”Increasing Work Opportunities and Reducing Poverty Two Decades After Welfare Reform.” Sandra Danziger et al., Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2015. — View
  • “From Welfare to a Work-Based Safety Net: An Incomplete Transition.” Sandra Danziger et al., Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2015. — View
  • “TANF at Age 20: Work Still Works.” Ron Haskins, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2015. — View
  • “Supplementing TANF’s Work Requirement: A Compromise.” Ron Haskins, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2015 — View
  • “The Republican Party’s Strategy to Ignore Poverty.” Eduardo Porter, The New York Times, October 27, 2015. — View