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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
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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
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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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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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