The Tax Bill Will Make Inequality Far Worse in the US, UN Expert Says
The bill will ‘essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.’
Today, the United States House of Representatives and Senate will vote on the tax bill proposed by Congressional Republicans and endorsed by US President Donald Trump. The bill is expected to pass, which would give Trump his first major legislative victory.
But what will the bill mean for the poorest Americans?
According to United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who spent two weeks documenting poverty in the US, the bill may “[stake] out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world.”
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“The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion, as the United States now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries,” Alston said in a statement. “The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by President Trump and Speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.”
Alston spent two weeks traveling to poor communities in California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and West Virginia, according to the Guardian.
Along the way he documented his findings on his Twitter page.
It is clear that many, probably most, Puerto Ricans believe deeply they are presently colonized & the US Congress is happy to leave them in the no-man’s land of no meaningful Congressional representation and no ability to really move to govern themselves. #USApoverty#PuertoRicopic.twitter.com/yGPDlxlKaX— Philip Alston (@Alston_UNSR) December 15, 2017
According to government statistics, more than 40 million people - more than one in every eight Americans - live in poverty. Almost half of those, 18.5 million, were living in deep poverty with family income below one-half of the poverty line. #USApovertypic.twitter.com/S9FEBNC4hA— Philip Alston (@Alston_UNSR) December 15, 2017
Lowndes County in rural #Alabama I saw homes that are not connected to public sewage systems, whose owners can't afford to install septic tanks. Many resort to digging ditches & straight piping waste water to within meters of homes, posing serious health risks. #USApovertypic.twitter.com/1A1fmB5hDz— Philip Alston (@Alston_UNSR) December 8, 2017
Income inequality in the United States is already among the highest in the developing world.
The United States is the fourth most unequal member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is a coalition of the world’s biggest economic powers. According to the Atlantic, the richest 1% of Americans own 40% of the country’s wealth.
The tax reform bill would further exacerbate this by giving the richest Americans tax breaks that are four times larger, proportionally, than those of the average lower- or middle-class family, the Atlantic reports.
Alston documented more than just inequality in America. His report considered many of the factors that contribute to poverty in the United States, which affects more than one in 10 Americans — or about 45 million people — including high infant mortality rates, a troubling rise in neglected tropical diseases, a lack of access to clean water and sanitation, limited options for dental care, high rates of criminalization, sexual harassment problems, environmental threats, and counter-productive drug policies.
According to the Huffington Post, Alston will present a detailed report about poverty in the US to the UN Human Rights Council in June, but if the tax bill passes in the next week, the damage may be already done.