The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the United Nation’s Human Rights Council on Tuesday, citing the body’s frequent criticism of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians.
But the move also came two days before the Council was to consider a scathing report on poverty and inequality in the United States—and the role of the president’s tax cuts in exacerbating those problems.
In the report, the Council’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights described the U.S. as “a global leader in many areas, and a land of unsurpassed technological and other forms of innovation” and a place where “corporations are global trendsetters, its civil society is vibrant and sophisticated and its higher education system leads the world.”
The rapporteur, Philip Alston, also found that our country’s “immense wealth and expertise stand in shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live.”
About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. It has the highest youth poverty rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the highest infant mortality rates among comparable OECD States. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations in among OECD countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world.”
The rapporteur went on to write: “The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality. The consequences of neglecting poverty and promoting inequality are clear.”
Trump supporters might note that, despite those shortcomings, thousands of people are still risking life and limb to enter the country—hence the situation at the border, which the U.N.’s human rights chief on Monday condemned.
And there’s no denying the Council did frequently criticize Israel (with six resolutions to that effect this year alone) and does have as members countries with ghastly human rights records like Egypt and Venezuela.
But clearly, the disagreement between the administration and the U.N.’s Council involved more than Israel and immigration, reaching deep into American self identity. “Defenders of the status quo point to the United States as the land of opportunity and the place where the American dream can come true because the poorest can aspire to the ranks of the richest,” Alston wrote. “But today’s reality is very different.”