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Why did the US leave the UN Human Rights Council? The Report that irritated the Trump administration

40 million people in the United States live in poverty, 18.6 million are living in extreme poverty, while and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. The new tax reform and the deregulation measures applied by the Trump administration in the financial, medical, environmental and welfare sectors risk putting 20 million of poor people under the poverty line in the next few years

(from New York) 40 million people live in poverty in the United States, 18.6 million live in extreme poverty, while and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. The new tax reform and the deregulation measures enforced by the Trump administration in the financial, medical, environmental and welfare sectors risks increasing these numbers by 20 more million in the coming years. Conversely, 1% of the US population owns 38% of national wealth with a 25% increase of US citizens among world billionaires. These figures are contained in the “Report on extreme poverty and human rights” presented in the June session of the UN Human Rights Council, according to which the United States remains “the most unequal society in the developed world.”

Philip Alston, Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, is the independent human rights expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. In these capacities he visited several US States, he met with political leaders and representatives of civil society, experts and scholars, people living in poverty, and drew up the Report that led the US to leave the Council a few days before the official presentation of the Report, June 22.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, US citizens have a shorter life expectancy than other countries with a rich democracy. They are among the sickest, with the highest rate of obesity. In the US the right to health , nutrition and social protection are not viewed as fundamental human rights of citizenry.

The same goes for education, enshrined in Constitutional rights, yet high levels of education are inaccessible by a number of social brackets.

The UN Rapporteur voiced concern over the impact of the tax reform on national welfare that envisages cuts to social programmes. Thus by “delivering better living standards for only the few and without a fair redistribution of benefits there will be general impoverishment that will undermine growth in all sectors and ensure that the American dream rapidly becomes the American illusion.”

The Report’s six chapters analyze the various faces of poverty and the impact of policies implemented by the various administrations, highlighting successes and failures. It concludes with five recommendations that invite to consider poverty-related discrimination, the critical situation of the middle class, the negative consequences of extreme inequality, the right to health care, the impact of tax cuts.

According to the American narrative the poor are often caricatured compared to the rich: while the latter are industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic and the drivers of economic success the poor are wasters, losers and scammers, most of them are Afro-American, Hispanic or members of the immigrant community as a whole.

But in reality there are 8 million more poor Whites than there are poor Afro-Americans while poverty is experienced by Asians and many other backgrounds present in the Country, as recorded in the national Census Bureau.

“There is no magic recipe for eliminating extreme poverty”, underlines the Report. However, “the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated.” Some of these claims irritated the US Ambassador to the UN Nikky Halley, who said the UN Report was “patently ridiculous” especially for having compared the commitment of the US Administration to that of Countries “whose governments knowingly abuse human rights causing suffering and sorrow.”

Yet the UN envoy did nothing but collect data on situations known to federal and state bodies and has publicly investigated the measures that government policies continue to ignore. Alston pointed out that inequalities could undermine the Country’s democracy, and that turnout rates in presidential elections amount to only 55.7% of the population, while approximately 6 million of Afro-Americans who are ex-felons were disenfranchised and were deprived of all civil rights. Although a procedure makes it possible to reacquire the right to vote, few people pursue it owing to bureaucratic delays and to the relocation of the competent offices, sometimes very distant from the poor districts and not served by public transport.

Special emphasis is given to one of the flagships of the current administration that advocates increases in job availability for low-skilled labour.

Although official figures support these claims, in reality there are very few job opportunities for these people and for people with disabilities, as a result of new technologies and the use of robotics that impact labour , while low wages prevent access to health care and to higher education. The Report mentions the case of Walmart, the US-based corporation, owner of department-stores and supermarkets, whose workers cannot survive on a full-time wage in the absence of food-stamps. Walmart benefited from the tax reform adopted by the Trump administration and announced it would spend an additional $700 million in increasing employee wages and benefits for its workers. But relying on the good will and the altruism of corporations is not enough to ensure a decrease in widespread frauds involving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, while failing to lower inequalities afflicting

Children, who represent 18% of those living in poverty and afflicting all poor people: 31 per cent are White and not Afro-Americans, as largely believed.

The Report equally underlines gender inequalities affecting young mothers, whose children often live on 2 dollars a day, and inequalities involving indigenous peoples who face almost a 50 per cent higher death rate compared to the rest of the Country. Finally, the Report highlights the criticalities of the US Cabinet, whose combined wealth amounts to 4.3 billion dollars, and which is unlikely to address extreme inequality that poses a threat to “to the well-being of American democracy.”

 

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