Trump Policies Highlighted in Scathing U.N. Report On U.S. Poverty
The United Nations released a report last month on the state of poverty in the United States — and it specifically criticized President Donald Trump’s policies.
“For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best,” the report states, “but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”
The 20-page report follows a visit to the U.S. last year by Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, to speak with local, state, and federal officials, along with members of Congress and people living in poverty. Alston will present his findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council on June 21, which he hopes will help put a spotlight on the issue and spur a debate. In the end, however, the U.N. has “no power to force any government to do anything,” Alston told the Los Angeles Times.
The report covers income inequality, voting rights, child poverty, mass incarceration, health care, racism, and stereotypes surrounding poverty. And it finds that the U.S. is failing the poor, and in particular, focuses on last year’s Republican tax bill and other Trump administration goals, including repealing the Affordable Care Act and increasing defense spending.
“The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries,” the report states. “The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”
The Trump administration has defended the tax bill; in December of 2017, President Trump called it “one of the great Christmas gifts to middle-income people.”
Some startling statistics about poverty from the report are below:
- 40 million Americans live in poverty; 18.5 million live in extreme poverty; and 5.3 million Americans live in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty.”
- “In 2016, 18 per cent of children (13.3 million) were living in poverty, and children comprised 32.6 per cent of all people in poverty.”
- In terms of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states, the U.S. has the highest youth poverty rate and the highest infant mortality rate.
- “On a given night in 2017, about 21 per cent (or 114,829) of homeless individuals were children.”
The report also focuses on the consolidation of wealth in the U.S.:
- “The share of the top 1% of the population in the United States has grown steadily in recent years. In 2016 they owned 38.6 per cent of total wealth.”
- In 2018, more than 25% of the world’s 2,208 billionaires were from the United States.
Overall, the report highlights how Americans view wealth and poverty through the lens of the American dream — with hard work, anyone can succeed — and worries that it’s not a reality.
“High child and youth poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion,” the report states. “The equality of opportunity, which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for minorities and women, but also for many middle-class White workers.”
Fortune contacted the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan for comment about this report. We will update the article if we get a response.