US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has written a rather scathing retort to a UN report on US poverty. In a letter to US Senator Bernie Sanders, she stated, “It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America.” Her remarks were in response to UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s examination of poverty within the US. The likes of Nikki Haley do not seem to want to talk about poverty in the United States, which is precisely why everyone else should. Haley did not outright dismiss the need to address poverty in the US, instead claiming US officials work tirelessly to address poverty on a daily basis, but she did attempt to dismiss the UN effort as politically motivated. Clearly, an exchange between a Republican member of the Trump Administration and self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders is going to be politically motivated. To boot, the Trump Administration has been particularly critical of the UN, specifically the Human Rights Council, for an alleged biased against Israel, so geopolitics most likely plays some role in the origin of the report.
With that in mind, the UN does have a very compelling and legitimate reason to analyze poverty in the United States. The US is the world’s largest economy. In order to address poverty in Third World countries, which is where Nikki Haley seems to believe the UN should focus its efforts, it must understand poverty. If poverty was not prevalent in the United States, economic development and growth alone could fix poverty around the world. As it turns out, poverty is an chronic problem in the United States, where 40 million Americans live in poverty. Five million US citizens live in “absolute poverty,” which means they pretty much live like the destitute of Third World countries. One could reference statistic after statistic, but the state of poverty inside the US is undeniable and worsening. While the Trump Administration cannot be blamed for chronic poverty, it can be rightfully criticized for embracing policies that exasperate the problem and it can be asked to take a more proactive approach to addressing poverty.
Although the UN Special Rapporteur did embrace political positions, such as the view that healthcare should be a civil right and entitlement, criticism of the Trump Administration is what motivated Ambassador Haley’s terse response to Philip Alston’s findings. Her response was, however, unjustifiable and ill-conceived. Even if the Human Right Councils was simply conspiring against the US, the need to analyze and address poverty inside the US is valid, which she seems to recognize. Even if the Trump Administration disagreed with the specific criticism of its policies, the report still has validity. By attempting to simply discredit the need for the Human Rights Council to examine US poverty, Ambassador Haley and the Trump Administration have essentially tried to bury the findings. It is the kind of reaction that is deployed when attempting to avoid a problem, not solve one. As such, the American People should be very troubled by what the Trump officials are saying, not necessarily the largely well-established facts uncovered by a UN report.
Poverty is a difficult problem. It is why US political leaders often try to avoid it. In truth, even America’ massive social welfare system, which cannot meet the growing needs of a growing poor class, is an attempt to avoid the economic problems feeding poverty. Instead of engineering economic mechanisms to address the needs of the poor, social welfare programs subsidize the lifestyles of the impoverished. It is not enough. In fact, an examination of US social welfare programs and those of socialist countries like Venezuela, which is collapsing collapsing, would probably reveal the inability of social welfare programs to perpetually meet ever growing demand. In many respects, the United States has always been a massive social experiment. It has also been an economic experiment with results that have been favorable at times and unfavorable at others times. As such, the American People and their leaders should embrace the examination of this experiment’s results for the good of all. From there, it can offer better options for poorer countries, if the US can overcome its economic failings.
What Special Rapporteur largely criticized was the Trump Administration’s tax breaks, which further favored the already wealthy, and its attempts to shrink America’s social safety net. Cutting funding to social welfare program may save taxpayers money, but it will do nothing to eliminate the need they address. It will only make the struggle of the needy more unattainable. The only way to constructively ease the social welfare burden on US taxpayer is, therefore, to reduce the need for social welfare programs. Helping people get viable incomes through opportunities is the only way to do that. The Trump Administration is attempting to restructure America’s social safety net by placing all social welfare programs under one department. The fear is that a consolidated social welfare department would be far easier to undermine, which means the problems of America’s most vulnerable could be both exasperated and ignored by those who see no role for government in providing social services. Quite frankly, it is precisely the kind of policy shift that needs to be carefully reviewed and debated, especially it will do more to exasperate the problems of those trapped in poverty.
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