D.C.) – Are we Americans unworthy? That’s certainly the
message we’re getting from our government.
40 percent of us are poor or low-income. How is that
possible in the wealthiest country in history?
States is alone among developed countries in insisting that while
human rights are of fundamental importance,” explains UN
rapporteur on poverty Philip
Alston, “they do not include rights that guard against
dying of hunger, dying from a lack of access to affordable health
care, or growing up in a context of total deprivation.”
“the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made
by those in power” — which means that “with
political will, it could readily be eliminated.” Unfortunately,
our government’s political will is increasingly exercised to
make things more, not less, difficult for us.
don’t know it, but in 1977 the U.S. actually signed an
international treaty called the UN
Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which
government responsibility to ensure their citizens do more than
merely survive. Unfortunately, one U.S. administration after the
other has completely disregarded it, and Congress never ratified it.
at the top have decided we don’t deserve better
apparently judged that we either don’t need — or don’t
deserve — things like an adequate standard of living and
universal health care. As one dizzy U.S.
congressman claims, “Nobody dies because they don’t
have access to health care.”
countries have ratified the treaty, but ours won’t.
Are their people more deserving than we are? Is it something we’ve
because we’re doing fine without those rights.
mean, look at
our minimum wage. There isn’t a “single
county or metropolitan area,” as a Guardian report
put it, where a minimum wage can get you a “modest two-bedroom
home, which the federal government defines as paying less than 30
percent of a household’s income for rent and utilities.”
price we pay
for this disregard for our fundamental human rights begins at the
beginning of our lives. Indeed, many of us struggle to survive to our
from the Centers for Disease Control, the Washington
Post declared our infant mortality rate “a national
embarrassment,” noting that it’s higher “than any
of the other 27 wealthy countries.”
painful enough. But they went on: “Despite health care spending
levels that are significantly
higher than any other country in the world, a baby
the U.S. is less likely to see his first birthday than one
in Hungary, Poland, or Slovakia. Or in Belarus. Or
in Cuba, for that matter.”
recent UNICEF assessment
of how children are faring found the U.S. near the bottom of 41 rich
countries when it came to meeting goals on child poverty, hunger,
health, and education.
an important difference between us and other prosperous countries:
Their citizens expect and demand more of their governments than we do
only as much as their citizens expect — not more! So why do we
accept so little from ours? How have we come to deem ourselves less
worthy than others?
Younis is a human rights advocate. This report was first published at
Otherwords.org and is reprinted here with permission. Otherwords is a
project of the Institute for Policy Studies, a community of public
scholars and organizers linking peace, justice, and the environment
in the U.S. and globally. IPS works with social movements to promote
true democracy and challenge concentrated wealth, corporate
influence, and military power.