The United Nations has just published a report on poverty in the U.S. based on a fact-finding tour that included parts of the Ohio Valley.
The UN report says that of the 40 million poor Americans about 5.3 million live in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty.”
The study also suggests recent tax reforms will worsen the situation for U.S. citizens and ensure that the country remains the most unequal society in the developed world. UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Philip Alston was the report’s lead author. In an interview with the Ohio Valley ReSource, he said poverty has significant human rights implications.
“I think that if people are really living in very poor circumstances their ability to exercise a lot of their basic civil rights is greatly impaired,” he said.
Alston spoke to the ReSource in December as toured the country, including a stop in Charleston, West Virginia.
This week he released his final report which finds the U.S. has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. In 2018 the country had more than 25 percent of the world’s billionaires. Alston also found the U.S. does not provide adequate funding to address its opioid crisis. The country also has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among developed countries, with just a little more than half of the population casting ballots in the 2016 presidential election.
Alston said it’s the responsibility of the government to make sure its people are able to live with dignity. He hopes this report will enlighten leaders in the U.S. to improve the lives of those in poverty.
“I think one of my challenges to the extent that I find really serious problems is to shed light on those, put the spotlight on them, and hopefully a government that really cares would really respond and try to address those problems,” he said.
Some of the report’s suggestions include reducing the incarcerated population, funding social programs, recognizing a right to health care and reducing income inequality.