On Friday morning, the United Nations launched a tour of the US to investigate instances of extreme poverty. They will be visiting four states in addition to Washington DC and Peurto Rico. They want to shine a spotlight on the factors that push people into perpetual, deep poverty even in the world’s richest country.
The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, has an impressive track record when it comes to holding power accountable for human atrocities. The purpose of his fact-finding tour is to discover if it is actually possible to enjoy human rights like voting if you aren’t even able to meet basic living standards.
In remarks before the tour, he stated, “Despite great wealth in the US, there also exists great poverty and inequality.” He went to say that he intends to focus on the detrimental effects of poverty on the human and political rights of Americans. Poverty experts hope that this tour brings attention to this largely ignored, but very important part of American society.
David Grusky, director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford said that this visit could do two things. He explained,
It has the potential to open our eyes to what an outlier the US has become compared with the rest of the world, or it could precipitate an adverse reaction towards an outsider who has no legitimacy telling us what to do about internal US affairs.
This tour is coming on the heels of the 2016 state of the nation review where the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality found that the US is ranked at the bottom of 10 well-off countries in terms of the extent of its income and wealth inequality. Basically, this means that the chasm between the rich and the poor is almost impossible to cross – making the “American dream” only a dream for many. Unlike all other industrialized nations, the United States does not recognize fundamental rights like healthcare, shelter, or food – making help for struggling families almost nonexistent.
Initial findings of the tour will be released on December 15 – and because Alston has the freedom to investigate at the federal and state levels, he can be as critical as he needs to be. This man changed the Saudia Arabian practice of banning women from driving – if he can do that, what will he do to Trump? Alston is a man who has said that Trump is “avowedly nationalistic, xenophobic, misogynistic, and explicitly antagonistic to all or much of the human rights agenda.”
After Alston gives his report, we will await the angry tweets from Trump. He will be disparaging and will call the findings “fake news,” because that is how he convinces his blind supporters that everything is fine while the country burns to the ground around him.