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Mon Dec 25, 2017, 10:06 AM

Poverty Is Both a Political and a Moral Choice Made By the Powerful

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Monday, December 25, 2017
Common Dreams

The UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty reports that “the American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion.” Isn’t it time to wake up, discard both dreams and illusions, and act on the basis of the truth?

The U.S. views itself as the exceptional nation, the beacon of liberty and justice for the world. In the popular imagination, it is the land of plenty where everyone can thrive, the land of opportunity where anybody who works hard enough can realize the dreams of their heart. But is this really so or just a comforting illusion?

For two weeks this past autumn, Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, sought to find out, traveling over the U.S. to assess the state of extreme poverty in this country and its impact on human rights. His travels brought him to California, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C., as well as Puerto Rico. His report, published in mid-December by the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner of Human Rights, pulls the curtains on the illusions this country cherishes about itself and reveals the startling truth about where we stand and where we are headed.

Wherever he went Alston met people living at the edge of survival: homeless people on Skid Row in Los Angeles; unemployed workers forced into unpayable debt; families and communities devastated by the scourge of drug addiction; people who lost all their teeth because they did not have access to dental care. In the American South he saw yards filled with sewage because state governments don’t consider it their obligation to provide sanitation. Native American tribes told him about their degrading poverty, cultural debasement, and shocking suicide rates. In Puerto Rico, decimated by Hurricane Maria, he met people living next to a mountain of coal ash, which brings them illness, disability, and death.

Numerous studies have shown that along with its wealth and technological achievements, the U.S. also stands out by its extreme levels of economic inequality. Some 40 million people—12.7% of the population—live in poverty; almost half of these, 18 million, in deep poverty, with family incomes below half the poverty line. Infant mortality rates in the U.S. have been among the highest in the developed world. Americans live shorter and sicker lives than people in other affluent democracies. On scales measuring poverty, social safety provisions, wealth inequality, and economic mobility, the U.S. comes last among the ten most well-off countries and eighteenth among the top 21. Yet lack of financial clout is not the problem, for the U.S. spends more on national defense than the next seven countries combined, has the highest expenditures on healthcare, and the highest rate of incarceration.



My nation (Canada) does not have a perfect track record in this area either - but recent initiatives (Basic Income trials, etc.) along with a large increase in the minimum wage have been introduced by the Liberals here, both provincially and federally.

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Reply Poverty Is Both a Political and a Moral Choice Made By the Powerful (Original post)
inanna Dec 2017 OP
Irish_Dem Dec 2017 #1
quad489 Feb 2018 #2

Response to inanna (Original post)

Mon Dec 25, 2017, 11:59 AM

1. British policies led to the Irish Great Famines.

Millions died or immigrated, Ireland lost 20% of its population.

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Response to inanna (Original post)

Sat Feb 10, 2018, 03:06 PM

2. ''homeless people on Skid Row in Los Angeles''...how is that even possible in that great blue state?


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