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Poverty in US set to increase due to Donald Trump's policies, says UN official

Already dismal poverty rates in the US are set to worsen under President Donald Trump, a top UN official has said. Currently, one in eight people in the US lives in poverty.

A United Nations expert slammed the alarming levels of poverty in the US on Friday, saying that the situation is likely to get worse under US President Donald Trump.

Official US figures show that more than one in eight Americans live in poverty, but the UN official warned that the numbers are likely to rise under the Republican's new tax reform plan.

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Philip Alston, the UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, undertook a two-week fact-finding visit to several US states and Puerto Rico. Alston detailed several examples of poverty he found during his tour, including:

  • Hookworm, an intestinal parasite, has returned in several communities in the South
  • Wal-Mart workers who rely on government-issued food stamps
  • Children raised in poverty have little to no access to healthcare, quality nutrition or decent education
  • Poor people are often in and out of prison, making many unable to vote due to their criminal records

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'Inequality will skyrocket'

In a statement, Alston called out several Trump administration policies that will lead to an increase in poverty, saying:

  •  "The US Congress is trying desperately to pass a tax bill that, if adopted, would represent the single most dramatic increase in inequality that could be imagined."
  • Trump's proposed cuts to social welfare programs will damage a safety net for the poor that is already "riddled with holes" and that should the cuts become reality, "inequality will skyrocket."
  • "The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion, as the US now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries."
  • "Poor people have no chance of having their voices heard, no chance of influencing public policy."

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Why is this important: Trump has promised to boost economic prospects in the US. But many of his policies, particularly his pending tax reform bill, have been criticized as actually widening the gulf between rich and poor in the world's largest economy. 

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How bad are poverty levels in the US: US Census data shows that 40 million people — more than 12 percent of the population— are living in poverty in the US. Almost half of those are living in "deep poverty."

What does the US tax bill have to do with this: The Republican-backed bill proposes dramatic tax cuts for businesses as well as wealthy and some middle-class Americans. Democrats and others have criticized the bill for primarily benefiting the rich rather than alleviating financial strain on the poor.

Who is the special rapporteur: Alston, originally from Australia, is an independent expert who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate global poverty.

What happens next: Alston's full report on the state of poverty in the US will be released next spring and will be presented to the Human Rights Council next June. The full report will highlight the roles that race, gender, voter disenfranchisement and high rates of incarceration play in keeping people locked in the cycle of poverty.

rs/aw (AFP, Reuters)

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