U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said it was “patently ridiculous” for the international organization to examine the realities of extreme poverty in America.
On Thursday, Haley commented on a recent report by a U.N. expert calling out the alarming rates of poverty and inequality in the U.S., despite the country’s status as one of the richest in the world ― and she dismissed the findings out of hand.
“It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America,” Haley wrote of the report, the day before special rapporteur Philip Alston presented his findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday. Haley suggested the U.N. instead spend its resources looking into other countries “whose governments knowingly abuse human rights,” naming Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The U.S. pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this week.
Haley’s letter came in response to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other lawmakers, who wrote to her earlier this month of their “deep concern” on the report’s final findings (initial findings had come out in December).
In presenting the report Friday, the poverty expert denounced the Trump administration’s “massive new tax cuts overwhelmingly benefiting the wealthy.”
“The way in which those in the bottom 20 percent exist is in dramatic contrast to the wealth in the country ― and is being further exacerbated by current trends,” Alston said at a press conference in December, following his two-week trip through poor regions of the United States.
“If you want to talk about the American dream, a child born into poverty has almost no chance of getting out of poverty in today’s United States, statistically,” he added.
In her response Thursday, Hayley contended that while “poverty is an issue the Trump administration takes very seriously,” the U.S. currently had a low rate of unemployment and “the best way to help people get out of poverty is to help them get a job.”
It’s worth noting that ― even with low unemployment ― more than 40 million Americans are living in poverty, and more than 40 percent of U.S. adults don’t have $400 in savings to cover an unexpected emergency.
What’s more, as advocates for a $15 minimum wage often note, employment alone does not eliminate poverty, if workers are not making a “living wage.” Nearly half of people on food stamps (44 percent) in 2015 in the U.S. had at least one family member who was employed.
“The U.S. economy is currently booming,” the U.N. expert said Friday. “But the question is who is benefiting.”