22 June 2018

Note From Norm: The UN Poverty Attack On The US

This week the Trump Administration announced the United States was pulling out of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

And, none too soon, I might add.

I admit it.

I have a Love-Hate relationship with the United Nations.

I love its potential for being a powerful platform to bring nations together.

I hate that it uses its platform to find ways to drive nations apart.

I hate it being a platform for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias.

Particularly, in recent years, I hate its penchant for making the United States a favorite punching bag.

Which is ironic given that the United States is responsible for covering about 22% of the overall U.N Budget, or roughly $1.2 billion.

Overall, including our support for UN peacekeeping efforts and various UN agencies and committees, the United States provides about $3.3 billion a year to finance United Nation’s activities.

One might think our commitment to making the world a better place for all people would be evident based on that alone – as well as the roughly $40 billion we spent on foreign economic aid to other nations last year.

But, then one might also think the United Nations had better things to do than to accuse the United States of deliberately impoverishing its own people.

Which is what they have done in a recent report commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council (whose membership includes Cuba and Venezuela).

The report led by an “independent expert” named Philip Alston was commissioned to examine “extreme poverty”

Alston spent two weeks in Alabama, California, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

At the end of his trip, ostensibly, he concluded that the United States has made the “political choice” to create extreme poverty and “is now moving full steam ahead to make itself even more unequal.”

Reading excerpts of the U.N. report one might think it was written by propagandists of nations who view the United States as little more than a criminal enterprise.

And, reading statements from the Australian born Alston, Americans can be forgiven for wondering how much money the United States must give to the U.N. to get any respect.

Here are some of the more remarkable indictments against our country by Alston and the U.N.:

  • “The way in which people living in poverty are treated across the U.S. system amounts to a violation, in effect, of their civil and political rights.”
  • “The United States already leads the developed world in income and wealth inequality, and it is now moving full steam ahead to make itself even more unequal.”
  • “At the end of the day, however, particularly in a rich country like the United States, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power.”

To Alston’s credit he does concede that all his complaints about the United States pre-date the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress that is currently in power in Washington.

Alston and the United Nations have concluded the massive tax cut and reform law passed by a Republican Majority in Congress, and signed into law by President Trump is the root of all that is evil in America.

“The Trump administration is frantically exacerbating the situation, but it’s true that much of what I describe pre-dated it,” said Alston.

Alston is long on accusing the United States of deliberately enacting policies to making its people poor but short on solutions for helping the poor.

The following paragraph from the Minneapolis Star Tribune captures Alston’s lack of policy solutions but does emphasize his enthusiasm for embracing tax increases as a political and policy panacea.

“The Alston report is short on recommendations, mentioning only five. One, entitled “Get real about taxes,” insists that most Americans should recognize that “taxes are not only in their interest, but also perfectly reconcilable with a growth agenda.”

Today, it is estimated that 13% of Americans live in poverty.

And, while that percentage is far too high, there are more than 100 nations on the planet that have substantially higher percentages of its people living in poverty.

Of all the countries that the United Nations should be focusing on when it comes to addressing the scourge of poverty the United States should be one of the last.

There is no American President, or political party, that has declared open season on poor people or proposed policies to impoverish Americans.

While Democrats and Republicans may be miles apart in finding common ground on solutions to confronting poverty in America, there is no shortage of efforts by political leaders on both sides of the aisle to combat and conquer poverty in America.

From Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty over 50 years ago, to Speaker Paul Ryan’s recent “Better Way “there has been no lack of initiatives or zeal from liberals or conservatives to fight poverty in America.

The goal is a shared goal. The differences lie in the path to achieve that goal.

In a world in which there is far too much suffering and nations in which its leaders are deliberately persecuting their people there is no shortage of need for the United Nations to be a strong, principled voice to advocate for the poor and the persecuted.

But when you put politics ahead of people it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.