Last week, the United Nations human rights council met in Geneva. At the meeting, the UN’s monitor on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, delivered the results of a six month-long investigation into poverty and inequality in the United States of America. The findings included words of condemnation for the Trump administration’s enacting of policies that would have the entirely predictable result of exacerbating the already-worst-in-the-Western world levels of inequality that exist in the country.
One of the key contentions in the report—and certainly the most damning—was a truth that is self-evident to all but the most swivel-eyed swamp monster adherents of a certain brand of free-market capitalism: That this state of affairs is not the result of some natural order or karmic market balancing; nor that it is arbitrary; no, the report went straight for the jugular in delivering a truism that the guardians of the current economic orthodoxy desperately want to keep buried or obscured. That is: Shit’s fucked up because they want it to be fucked up. Poverty and inequality exist for a reason. They were created on purpose. Anyone bleating on about how capitalism is ‘broken’ and not working as it’s supposed to be needs to be pistol-whipped with supreme prejudice. This is it, it’s in the design, everything’s working as it’s meant to.
Say it again:
Shit’s fucked up because they want it to be fucked up!
The United States is but the peak example, but the same issues abound around the world. Grotesque wealth inequality; the erosion of a secure job market and its precarious, rights-less ‘gig economy’ bullshit replacement; an entire generation being priced out of the housing market; the rise of a new class of super-billionaires who control and monopolize data and product distribution; top-down imposition of ideological austerity breaking down and dissolving any notion of civil society by ruthlessly cutting public services and outsourcing everything to private corporations; colossal wealth flight into offshore tax havens robbing nation states of trillions of dollars of income.
None of these things are fucking accidents.
Neither are they natural.
The head of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, saw his wealth grow by $5 billion during June 2018. Nobody grows their wealth by over $5 billion in less than a goddamn month without certain decisions having been made at policy level that not only allowed that shit to happen, but actually encouraged it. A single man is worth $140 billion. Ponder that absolute fuckery for just one hot minute and tell me you don’t want to grab whatever blunt item is nearest to you and to march on Washington. Nobody should be getting to that level of wealth; certainly not while 1 in 4 Americans have no emergency savings and 47% of Americans say that their savings cannot cover 3 months of expenses—and that’s not even mentioning the rest of the fucking world.
Anyone who defends the status quo deserves to have Khal Drogo pour a cauldron’s worth of molten gold all over their hollowed-out dumbfuck head. It’s irredeemable, and it’s unforgivable. Anyone who doesn’t consider it a fucking crime of gargantuan proportions makes a compelling case for the revival of any number of sadistic medieval punishments. Anyone who thinks the figures around such injustice shouldn’t be being brought to light must either be the most cynical opportunist humanity has yet seen, or they must be lacking something very fundamental deep down inside in that special part of every person that’s meant to glow with a warm hue of empathy and humanity.
‘It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America.
The Special Rapporteur wasted the UN’s time and resources, deflecting attention from the world’s worst human rights abusers and focusing instead on the wealthiest and freest country in the world.’
That was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, AKA the mouth of Sauron, writing to Senator Bernie Sanders, after the latter had raised the report’s findings as a matter of grave concern and had asked Haley to bring the findings to Donald Trump.
Listen here, Nikki. You jolly little hellmouth, you. You satanic little scamp. You soulless, shark-eyed deflector of goodness. Imma say it one time and Imma say it loud so it goes in:
POVERTY IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE. DOUBLY SO WHEN IT IS A CONDITION THAT ARISES ON A MASS SCALE DUE TO DELIBERATE POLICY DECISIONS. JUST BECAUSE THERE ARE SOME COUNTRIES WHERE THEY STILL BEHEAD PEOPLE DOESN’T MEAN THAT WE DO NO WRONG.
Lemme make that a bit simpler.
Because, you know. Just in case.
POVERTY IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE.
One more time:
POVERTY IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE.
It’s like this:
As of 2016, 40.6 million Americans officially live in poverty. Broken down into genders, that’s 13.8% of men, and 16.3% of women who live in poverty in the United States, the wealthiest country in the world.
For Americans living with a disability, that figure shoots up to 21%.
For seniors, 9.3%.
For children: 21.2%.
When accounting for ethnicity, we find that 26.2% of Black Americans live in poverty. It’s 23.4% for Hispanics. And 27.6% for the descendants of those who first inhabited the land.
(Figures taken from PovertyUSA)
And, you know what—I’m just gonna let the U.N. take over for a minute. From the aforementioned report (which you can read in full here):
4. The United States is a land of stark contrasts. It is one of the world’s wealthiest societies, a global leader in many areas, and a land of unsurpassed technological and other forms of innovation. Its corporations are global trendsetters, its civil society is vibrant and sophisticated and its higher education system leads the world. But its immense wealth and expertise stand in shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live. About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. It has the highest youth poverty rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the highest infant mortality rates among comparable OECD States. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations in among OECD countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world.
5. The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality. The consequences of neglecting poverty and promoting inequality are clear. The United States has one of the highest poverty and inequality levels among the OECD countries, and the Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks it 18th out of 21 wealthy countries in terms of labour markets, poverty rates, safety nets, wealth inequality and economic mobility. But in 2018 the United States had over 25 per cent of the world’s 2,208 billionaires. There is thus a dramatic contrast between the immense wealth of the few and the squalor and deprivation in which vast numbers of Americans exist. For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but 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 to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.
The thing about poverty is that it’s a cancer like no other. It’s a destructive force of creeping power the tentacles of which reach into every facet of the lives it afflicts. Poverty is the greatest thief in the world. It robs you of dignity, of health, and—especially in a society that has a barely functioning social safety net—it mercilessly strips away your freedom. In a ruthless, dog-eat-dog nation like America that values only those at the tippy top, having human rights enshrined on a distant, ancient bit of paper is cold comfort when in practice you can’t afford to feed yourself or to pay for your childrens’ healthcare.
Tell me again, Nikki Haley, how it is ‘patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America.’
Tell me again about the ‘freest country in the world.’
(Header photo courtesy of Getty Images)