UN Envoy: 'The American Dream is Rapidly Becoming the American Illusion'

A homeless man sleeps curled up on the steps of a police station in Los Angeles' Skid Row area, home to the nation's largest concentration of homeless people, on Sept. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

A United Nations special rapporteur who recently wrapped up a two-week fact-finding mission in the United States issued a report last week stating "the American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion" as the nation "now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries."

โ€œAmerican exceptionalism was a constant theme in my conversations. But instead of realizing its foundersโ€™ admirable commitments, todayโ€™s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights," declared Philip Alston, an Australian who has served as the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights since 2014.

โ€œThere is no other developed country where so many voters are disenfranchised and where so few poor voters even care to go to the polls, and where ordinary voters ultimately have so little impact on political outcomes," he added. "There are no other developed countries in which so many citizens are behind bars.โ€

Alston's initial report from the trip will be finalized this spring and presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June. The UN official visited California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and thanked the Trump administration "for facilitating my visit and for its continuing cooperation with the UN Human Rights Councilโ€™s accountability mechanisms that apply to all states."

He said his mission, for which he spoke with government officials, experts, nonprofits, and the homeless, was "to look at whether the persistence of extreme poverty in America undermines the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens."

He charged that GOP tax reform pending in Congress "stakes out Americaโ€™s bid to become the most unequal society in the world, and will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest 1% and the poorest 50% of Americans."

"The United States is one of the worldโ€™s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty," said the initial report.

According to Census Bureau measures, in September 12.7 percent of the U.S. population lived in poverty and nearly half of those, or 18.5 million people, were living in deep poverty.

"I have been struck by the extent to which caricatured narratives about the purported innate differences between rich and poor have been sold to the electorate by some politicians and media, and have been allowed to define the debate. The rich are industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic, and the drivers of economic success. The poor are wasters, losers, and scammers. As a result, money spent on welfare is money down the drain. To complete the picture we are also told that the poor who want to make it in America can easily do so: they really can achieve the American dream if only they work hard enough," Alston wrote. "The reality that I have seen, however, is very different."

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