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Virginia Eubanks @PopTechWorks
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"The United States remains the most unequal society in the developed world.” I know I'm late, but spending #July4th reading UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston's (@Alston_UNSR) scathing report on extreme poverty in the USA. Expect updates.…
"The policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.” (Alston 2018: II. 5.)
“The US is alone among dev'd countries in insisting that, while human rights are of fundamental importance, they do not include rights that guard against dying of hunger, dying from a lack of access to affordable health care or growing up deprivation.” (ibid: III. 12.)
"The persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated." (Alston 2018: VI. 17.)
"Earlier experiments with welfare reform...should caution present-day proponents of 'welfare to work.' ... [T]here was a 748 (!) per cent increase in the number of children of single-mother families experiencing annual $2-a-day poverty between 1995 and 2012." (ibid: VI. 32.)
“Calls for welfare reform take place against a constant drumbeat of allegations of widespread fraud in the system.…Yet [there is] little convincing evidence. A GAO report showed an error rate in 2015 of 3.66% for SNAP....The error rate for travel pay by the DoD was 8%.” (VI 33)
“The shockingly high # of children living in poverty demands urgent attention. In 2016, 18% of children (13.3 million) were living in poverty....This is consistent with the fact that the US ranks 25th out of 29 industrialized nations in investing in early childhood ed.” (VI. 38.)
"Homelessness on [the] scale [of the US] is far from inevitable and reflects political choices to see the solution as law enforcement rather than adequate and accessible low-cost housing, medical treatment, psychological counselling and job training.” (Alston 2018: VI. 45.)
"In many cities, homeless persons are effectively criminalized for the situation in which they find themselves. Sleeping rough, sitting in public places, panhandling, public urination and myriad other offences have been devised to attack the 'blight' of homelessness." (VI. 44.)
“The criminal justice system effectively [keeps] the poor in poverty while generating revenue to fund not only the justice system but many other programmes. The use of the legal system to raise revenue, not to promote pervasive around the country." (VI. 47.)
“A major movement to eliminate bail bonds is gathering steam across the United States, and needs to be embraced by anyone concerned about the utterly disproportionate negative impact of the justice system upon the poor.” (Alston 2018: VI. 50.)
“The widespread use of risk assessment tools [in pretrial release & custody] raises human rights concerns. The fear is that highly political questions about the level of risk that society considers acceptable are hidden behind the veneer of technical design choices.” (VI. 50-51.)
“Poverty is frequently treated as a form of “child neglect” and thus as cause to remove a child from the home, a risk exacerbated by the fact that some states do not provide legal aid in child welfare proceedings.” (Alston 2018: VI. 56.)
“Ironically, politicians and mainstream media portrayals distort [the impacts of racial segregation] to suggest that poverty in America is overwhelmingly Black, thereby triggering a range of racist responses and encouraging Whites to see poverty as a question of race.” (VI. 55.)
"The 2016 poverty rate among American Indian and Alaska Native peoples was 26.2 per cent, the highest among all ethnic groups. [These groups] face almost a 50 per cent higher death rate than do non-Hispanic White people due to [preventable] illnesses." (Alston 2018: VI. 61-62.)
"Instead of responding [to the opioid crisis] with increased funding and improved access to vital care and support, the federal Gov't and many state gov'ts have instead mounted concerted campaigns to reduce and restrict access to health care by the poor.” (Alston 2018: VI. 65.)
“Punishing and imprisoning the poor is the distinctively American response to poverty in the twenty-first century. ... It is difficult to imagine a more self-defeating strategy.” (Alston 2018: VII. 71-72.)
Gov'ts incur vast costs in running jails and prisons. Sometimes these costs are 'recovered' from prisoners, fueling the cycle of desperation. Criminal records make it harder to find jobs, housing, stability. Families are destroyed and the burden on governments mounts. (VII. 72.)
“A cheaper and more humane option is to provide proper social protection and facilitate the return to the workforce of those who are able. In the United States, it is poverty that needs to be arrested, not the poor simply for being poor.” (Alston 2018: VII. 71-72.)
“Automation, AI and the increasing fluidity of work mean employer-provided social protection will likely disappear for the middle classes. If this coincides with dramatic cutbacks in government benefits, the[y] will suffer an ever more precarious econ existence.” (VII. 74.)
"The US already leads the developed world in income and wealth inequality, and it is now moving full steam ahead to make itself even more unequal. But this is a race that no one else would want to win.” (Alston 2018: VII. 75.)
“What extreme inequality actually signifies is the transfer of econ & political power to a handful of elites who inevitably use it to further thr own self-interest. While the poor suffer, so does the economy as a whole. High inequality undermines sustained econ growth.” (VII. 76)
“Extreme inequality often leads to the capture of the powers of the State by a small group of econ elites. The combined wealth of the US Cabinet is around $4.3 billion.… [This] poses a threat not just to economic efficiency but to the well-being of American democracy.” (VII. 77)
“Health care is, in fact, a human right. …The ACA was a good start, though limited and flawed from the outset. Undermining it by stealth is not just inhumane and a violation of human rights, but an econ and socially destructive policy aimed at the poor & middle class.” (VII. 78)
“The demonizing of taxation means that legislatures effectively refuse to levy taxes even when there is a desperate need. Instead they impose fees and fines through the back door. The rich get to pay low taxes...while the politically marginalized poor bear the burden.” (VII. 79.)
@Alston_UNSR's recommendations to the US:
1) Decriminalize poverty
2) Acknowledge the plight of the middle class
3) Acknowledge the damaging consequences of extreme inequality
4) Recognize a right to healthcare
5) Get real about taxes
The reply? "Accusations that the US shows 'contempt & hatred' for the poor, incl accusations of a criminal justice system designed to keep low income persons in poverty while generating public revenue, are inaccurate, inflammatory, and irresponsible."
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