A United Nations report condemning entrenched poverty in the United States is a “misleading and politically motivated” document about “the wealthiest and freest country in the world,” according to the Trump administration's ambassador to the world body.
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley criticized the report for critiquing the United States' treatment of its poor, arguing that the United Nations should instead focus on poverty in developing countries such as Burundi and Congo. The U.N. report also faulted the Trump administration for pursuing policies it said would exacerbate U.S. poverty.
“It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America,” Haley wrote in a letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday. “In our country, the President, Members of Congress, Governors, Mayors, and City Council members actively engage on poverty issues every day. Compare that to the many countries around the world, whose governments knowingly abuse human rights and cause pain and suffering.”
The rebuke comes two days after Haley announced the United States' resignation from the U.N. Human Rights Council over that body's perceived bias against Israel and toleration of human rights abusers.
In May, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston released a report saying the United States has the highest rates of youth poverty, infant mortality, incarceration, income inequality and obesity among all countries in the developed world, as well as 40 million people living in poverty. Alston accused President Trump and the Republican Congress of deepening poverty and inequality in the country, citing the Republican tax law passed last fall.
“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,” Alston wrote in the report.
Haley pushed back in Thursday's letter, arguing that the administration has created a strong economy that would lift people out of poverty and that Alston's report was premised on misleading statistics. Haley said the U.N. special rapporteur had “categorically misstated” the progress America has made in reducing poverty, but she gave no examples.
“I am deeply disappointed that the Special Rapporteur used his platform to make misleading and politically motivated statements about American domestic policy issues,” Haley said. “Regrettably, his report is an all too common example of the misplaced priorities” of the United Nations.
Sanders, who initially requested Haley's comments on the U.N. report, asked Haley to respond to statistics showing more than 30 million Americans lack health insurance, more than half of older workers have no retirement savings and 140 million Americans struggle to meet basic living expenses.
“You are certainly right in suggesting that poverty in many countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi is far worse than it is in the United States,” Sanders said. “But ... as it happens, I personally believe that it is totally appropriate for the U.N. Special Rapporteur to focus on poverty in the United States.”
Alston did not immediately reply to a request for comment.