UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston warned [statement] Friday that “[t]he American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion as the US … now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries.”
The statement was made after a two-week visit to the US in which Alston looked at the extreme poverty in America and evaluated whether it undermines the “enjoyment of human rights by its citizens.”
According to the US Census Bureau’s most recent official statistics, more than 40 million Americans are living in poverty [press release]. Alston wrote that most people assume that the poor are people of color, but he found that there are actually about eight million more white people than people of color living in poverty, writing that “[t]he face of poverty in America is not only black or Hispanic, but also white, Asian, and many other colours.”
Alston also expressed the fear [UN press release] that the proposed changes to US tax and welfare policies may have terrible consequences for those living in poverty. He wrote that “[t]he proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world.” He went on to say that it “will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest 1% and the poorest 50% of Americans.” The cuts to welfare that are already beginning to be implemented by the Trump administration “will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.”
The final report of Alston’s visit to the US will be published in spring 2018 and subsequently presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June.