In December last year, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, issued a statementon his 15-day fact-finding mission of some of the US’s poorest neighbourhoods. Alston, author of the quoted phrase in the subtitle above, is an Australian who is professor of law at New York University. During his mission he visited Alabama, California, West Virginia, Texas, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico.
Alston’s statement on American poverty and inequality has been overlooked by most of the mainstream media.
Alston has a record of consistent impartiality, which makes his statement on American poverty all the more credible.
He was critical of China in his report on that country (the Chinese government later accused him of “meddling” in its judicial system). He wants Sri Lanka to be investigated for war crimes against its Tamil minority population. According to The Guardian, Alston also “tore a strip off the Saudi Arabian regime for its treatment of women months before the kingdom legalized their right to drive, denounced the Brazilian government for attacking the poor through austerity, and even excoriated the UN itself for importing cholera to Haiti”. Alston also reprimanded the World Bank for “playing a double-game” that is “leading a ‘race to the bottom’ on human rights”.
Alston began his statement on the US by saying that “in practice, the United States is alone among developed 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 healthcare, or growing up in a context of total deprivation. . . at the end of the day, particularly in a rich country like the USA, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated”.