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Report: US has highest income inequality in the Western world

The American dream of mobility is turning into the American illusion

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UN ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council just days before a report was to be presented detailing the threat which poverty poses to human rights in America, and the threat which it poses to America’s democracy. Haley’s withdrawal took place on Tuesday, and UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s report came out on Friday. Haley’s personal position on the report was that it is ridiculous to pay attention to human rights and inequality in the US when there are issues in undeveloped nations in a sort of ‘don’t pay attention to us, look over there!’ maneuver.

In the report, Alston observes that the United States has the highest income inequality in the Western world, with 40 million Americans living in poverty, and over 18 million of them in extreme poverty. Additionally, amongst the middle class, 40% of them reportedly would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense. Alston goes on to describe the American dream as an illusion saying ‘In other words, the American dream of mobility, is turning into the American illusion, in which the rich get ever richer, and the middle classes don’t move.’

Included here is Alston’s statement, relative to his findings on America’s poverty to the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, added emphasis is mine:

Mr. President,
distinguished delegates,
representatives of civil society,

I am presenting three reports today, one on the USA, one on Ghana, and one on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and social protection.

1. The USA

I note with regret that United States Ambassador Nikki Haley has characterized this Council as a cesspool and chosen to withdraw from it just days before my presentation. Speaking of cesspools, my report draws attention to those that I witnessed in Alabama as raw sewage poured into the gardens of people who could never afford to pay $30,000 for their own septic systems in an area remarkably close to the State capital. I concluded that cesspools need to be cleaned up and governments need to act. Walking away from them in despair, as in Alabama, only compounds the problems.

The suggestion that this Council should only consist of rights-respecting States was made long ago by the US and others, but abandoned because there are no workable criteria to determine who should qualify under such a test, and because a body composed only of self-appointed good guys would not only be tiny but would be talking unproductively among themselves. Human rights promotion requires robust engagement, not behaving like the kid who takes his football and goes home.

Ambassador Haley complained that the Council has done nothing about countries like Venezuela. In fact I and several other special rapporteurs reported earlier this year that “vast numbers of Venezuelans are starving, deprived of essential medicines, and trying to survive in a situation that is spiralling downwards with no end in sight”. We warned of “an unfolding tragedy of immense proportions.”

Mr President, I turn now to my report on the United States. My starting point is that the combination of extreme inequality and extreme poverty generally create ideal conditions for small elites to trample on the human rights of minorities, and sometimes even of majorities. The United States has the highest income inequality in the Western world, and this can only be made worse by the massive new tax cuts overwhelmingly benefiting the wealthy. At the other end of the spectrum, 40 million Americans live in poverty and 18.5 million of those live in extreme poverty. In addition, vast numbers of middle class Americans are perched on the edge, with 40% of the adult population saying they would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense.

In response, the Trump administration has pursued a welfare policy that consists primarily of (i) steadily diminishing the number of Americans with health insurance (‘Obamacare’); (ii) stigmatizing those receiving government benefits by arguing that most of them could and should work, despite evidence to the contrary; and (iii) adding ever more restrictive conditions to social safety net protections such as food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, and cash transfers, each of which will push millions off existing benefits. For example, a Farm Bill approved yesterday by Republicans in the House of Representatives would impose stricter work requirements on up to 7 million food stamp recipients. Presumably this would also affect the tens of thousands of serving military personnel whose families need to depend on food stamps, and the 1.5 million low-income veterans who receive them.

The US health care system already spends eight times as much to achieve the same life expectancy as in Chile and Costa Rica, and African-American maternal mortality rates are almost double those in Thailand. The World Economic Forum recently ranked the US 26th out of 29 advanced economies for promoting intergenerational equity and sustainability, and 28th for promoting inclusion. WHO data released recently shows that babies born in China today will live longer healthy lives than babies born in America. In global healthy life expectancy rankings, the US came 40th.

In an exclusive Fox News story yesterday Ambassador Haley called my report “misleading and politically motivated.” She didn’t spell out what was misleading but other stories from the same media outlet emphasized two issues. The first is that my report uses official data from 2016, before President Trump came to office. That is true, for the simple reason that there will be no Census Bureau data on the Trump era until September this year. But these data provide the best available official baseline, and my report then factors in the effects of the combination of massive tax cuts for the wealthy and systematic slashing of benefits for the less well-off.

The second criticism, as noted by Sean Hannity, is that the US “economy continues to roar to life under President Trump.” Indeed, the US economy is currently booming, but the question is who is benefiting. Last week’s official statistics show that hourly wages for workers in “production and nonsupervisory” positions, who make up 80% of the private workforce, actually fell in 2017. Expanding employment has created many jobs with no security, no health care, and often with below-subsistence wages. The benefits of economic growth are going overwhelmingly to the wealthy. Average pre-tax national income per adult in the US has stagnated at $16,000 since 1980 for the bottom 50% of the income distribution, while it has really boomed for the top 1%, a trajectory that has been quite different from that in most European countries. Even the IMF has warned that in the US “prospects for upward mobility are waning, and economic gains are increasingly accruing to those that are already wealthy”. In other words, the American dream of mobility, is turning into the American illusion, in which the rich get ever richer, and the middle classes don’t move.

My report demonstrates that growing inequality, and widespread poverty which afflicts almost one child out of every five, has deeply negative implications for the enjoyment of civil and political rights by many millions of Americans. I document the ways in which democracy is being undermined, the poor and homeless are being criminalized for being poor, and the criminal justice system is being privatized in ways that work well for the rich but that seriously disadvantage the poor. Underlying all of these developments is persistent and chronic racial bias. That bias also helps to explain the abysmal situation in which the people of Puerto Rico find themselves. It is the poorest non-state in the Union, without a vote in Congress, at the mercy of an unelected and omnipotent oversight board, and suffering from record poverty levels in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Perhaps the best illustration of the cause and effect of these trends is what might be termed the Ferguson syndrome, recalling the city in which an unarmed African-American was shot dead by a white Police Officer in 2014. What happened in Ferguson, according to the US Justice Department, and what is happening in many other cities and counties can be summed up in the following composite picture.

In a nutshell: state and county taxes are capped; public budgets are slashed; governments are left without essential resources; they instruct their police departments to impose and collect more fines to fund the general budget; these fines fall overwhelmingly upon the poor; the victims cannot pay the fines and so additional penalties and fees accumulate; most scrimp and pay but some default and are imprisoned; when they are in prison their economic and family situations collapse; and when they emerge from prison they are even less unemployable because they have a conviction.

In her statement on my report, Ambassador Haley says that “it is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America,” and claims that I should instead be looking at the human rights situations in two war-torn African countries (Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo).

“Rather than using his voice to shine a light on those vulnerable populations, and so many others, the Special Rapporteur wasted the UN’s time and resources, deflecting attention from the world’ s worst human rights abusers and focusing instead on the wealthiest and freest country in the world.”

Leaving aside the fact that this Council has published many report detailing the situations in those two countries, my view is that when one of the world’s wealthiest countries does very little about the fact that 40 million of its citizens live in poverty, it is entirely appropriate for the reasons to be scrutinized.

If this Council stands for anything, it is the principle of accountability – the preparedness of States to respond in constructive and meaningful ways to allegations that they have not honoured their human rights commitments.

The United States position, expressed by Ambassador Haley seems to be that this Council should do far more to hold certain states to account, but that it should exempt the United States and its key allies from such accountability.

In terms of recommendations, I would single out three in particular. A first step would be to acknowledge that America’s proudest achievement –a vibrant democracy – is in peril unless steps are taken to restore the fabric from which it was crafted, including the adage that ‘all are created equal’. A second step would be to stop irrationally demonizing taxation and begin exploring how reasonable taxes can dramatically increase the social well-being of Americans and the country’s economic competitiveness. And a third step would be to provide universal healthcare, as every other developed and many developing countries already do. This would rescue millions from misery, save money on emergency care, increase employment, and generate a healthier and more productive workforce.

But Nikki Haley doesn’t seem all that concerned about her fellow Americans and their plight, and what it means for the future of America’s civilization. Her concern is about the political reputation of a nation which seems to be constantly involved in violating human rights, whether it is stealing land, bombing, shooting, unjustly detaining, blockading, or otherwise conducting offensive operations against a people whose land the Jewish state presently occupies.

The Trump factor, in and of itself, however, in many ways actually owes its existence on the political scene to the economic issues which America is experiencing. And on the left, Bernie Sanders was a representation of the same issues being presented from the other side of the aisle. Poverty and wealth are not partisan, they’re not concerned about identity politics, but they are not isolated from politics.

Nothing exists in a vacuum. The poverty conditions of America are exacerbated by political policies, however, and the politics of leading politicians and parties in America are both ensuring that the wealth generated by America’s labour force is concentrated into the hands of America’s elite, and the numbers and the polls both show this. By the time of the 2016 presidential elections, it was abundantly clear that public policy needs to be changed in order to solve the problem, since, if it were just a problem of personal initiative there would exist no incentive to do anything about the crisis and presidential candidates would not have been using it as a major part of their platform. This is why Trump ran on the platform of creating more jobs, and why Sanders was campaigning on combatting poverty and on increasing wages. But once in office, Trump went about conducting business as usual, and his trade wars only threaten to worsen the situation as the purchasing power of the dollar meets the costs of Trump’s tariffs.

America may boast of its misleading employment figures, but the poverty situation tells the other side of the story. Employment, without livable wages, does not equal prosperity. Just ask the guy works in a sweatshop, or any other non supervisory or white collar position. If the wages can’t cover a lower middle class existence, then there’s a real systemic problem in America, as productivity has lost its relationship to prosperity for many Americans.

To some extent, Trump understands this, and that’s why he wants to bring back manufacturing jobs. Once upon a time, a factory worker, with no special skills or education, could work his shift, and at the end of the day pay for the living not only of himself, but of his entire family. Presently, for the overwhelming majority of American jobs, not even two jobs accomplishes this.

Even if Trump could and does convince manufacturers to bring their production back to America and hire legal Americans, without a wage adjustment, it wouldn’t significantly improve the American condition. We supposedly have full employment right now, but the poverty situation remains, and the middle class continues to shrink, retirement savings are dropping, whole industries are drying up because they can’t sell their products because their customers can no longer afford them. The problem, then, can’t be entirely lodged on whether employment exists in an adequate quantity, but whether that employment compensates the employee at a livable level.

However, it’s not realistic that America’s manufacturers will bring their production back to America, as I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, as long as there is some other nation with lower regulatory standards and cheaper labour, and as long as these corporations can legally get away with it, their production will be accomplished elsewhere, and America will increasingly be comprised of what is being called a service economy, and those service jobs will continue to justify them as not being worthy of compensation that would even approach of the cost of living in America. Hence, not only is this problem likely to remain, but it’s likely to get worse as time goes on, as the cost of living increases, as the demographics change, as long as popular attitudes justify it, and the effects of poor policy become ever more manifest. The American dream is quickly becoming the American nightmare, and it isn’t ending any time soon.

 

 

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DenLilleAbeJNDillardtomConstantineYou can call me Al Recent comment authors
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DenLilleAbe
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DenLilleAbe

I have read the report. It is shocking. I will not comment further, let the report speak for it self in damning a system, constructed to oppress its own people. Sick.

JNDillard
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JNDillard

It is quite the report. One can only hope that Trump and Haley’s renunciation of it will only draw more attention to it, thereby causing more Americans to read it. I have posted this on my FB page and encouraged others to read it because it is so well done. It also needs to be noted that these trends cannot be laid at the foot of one party, as the data was assembled prior to Trump, but that these trends have continued under him.

tom
Guest
tom

The bitter joke about Bill Gates walking into a working-class bar is very applicable. The moment he crosses the threshold, everyone in the bar is a billionaire – on average.

Exactly the same is true of the USA. Summary statistics tell us that it is the richest nation on Earth, but only a very few share that wealth. The great majority live lives of quiet desperation, while the rich and their professional apologists tell us the poor are poor because they “are work-shy” or “prefer to live on handouts”.

What nonsense.

Constantine
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Constantine

Another good article by Mr. Sellers. Very descriptive of the situation in the wonderland of the free US Americans and the practices of its governments.

You can call me Al
Guest
You can call me Al

Excellent report. Full employment American style = 21% unemployed in reality. It is all smoke and mirrors.

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

comment image comment image comment image comment image

J Roderet
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J Roderet

Yep, the USA is quickly becoming a Third World country.

CumExApostolatus
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CumExApostolatus

Tariffs will help stem the tide of cheap goods brought in from elsewhere. As for a living wage, without particular skills, a living wage is difficult to come by, even if one lives in a less expensive housing area of the country. As for the poor, there are still plenty of free loaders living in Section 8 housing, which is paid for by the tax payer. Forgetting that however, WHY do we need a U.N. at all? It is, like so many other NGOs, siphoning off needed funds. Lets get rid of the U.N. and dismantle the Federal Reserve, the… Read more »

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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