A report by the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights finds 40 million people in the United States live in poverty, 18.5 million live in extreme poverty and more than 5 million live in conditions of absolute poverty.
Special Rapporteur Philip Alston called the United States the most unequal society in the developed world. He said U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate the plight of the poor.
He said the policies of President Donald Trump's administration stigmatize the poor by insisting those receiving government benefits are capable of working and that benefits, such as food stamps, should be cut back significantly. He said the government's suggestions that people on welfare are lazy and do not want to work misrepresent the facts.
"The statistics that are available show that the great majority of people who, for example, are on Medicaid are either working in full-time work — around half of them — or they are in school or they are giving full-time care to others," Alston said.
He said 7 percent of people were not working.
Worst of the West
In his report, which will be delivered Friday to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Alston noted the United States had the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries, with the top 1 percent of the population owning more than 38 percent of total wealth. He said the Trump administration's $1.5 trillion in tax cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and would worsen the situation of the poor.
The U.N. investigator told VOA that at the completion of each of his country fact-finding missions, he issues what he calls an end-of mission statement. That, he said, gives some governments the opportunity to immediately respond.
"The U.S. chose not to do that, and since then there has not been any official response to either that end-of-mission statement or to the final report, which has now been out for a couple of weeks," he said.
As is common practice, after Alston formally presents his report to the Human Rights Council, the concerned country has a right of reply. Though the United States has withdrawn as a member of the council, it still has the right to respond to the report as an observer country.