America Is the Most Inhumane Developed Country on the Planet — Are We Going to Let It Stay That Way?
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This week marked the 65 th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was drafted by a commission of the United Nations that was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. The Convention became effective in 1951, the United States finally ratified it in 1988 and it was signed by President George H.W. Bush.
What would it be like if people in the United States knew they had these rights and demanded to have them realized? We believe it would be a very different world – the economy would be a more equitable with full employment, healthcare for all, no people without housing and more humane on every front. Instead, this week an annual report of Credit Suisse ranked the US as the most unequal of all advanced countries.
As a general guide for understanding human rights there are five principles that should be applied to every policy: universality, equity, transparency, accountability and participation. In a nutshell, universality means that policies apply to all people. Equity means that people have what they need in order to be at the same level as others. Participation means that people have input into the policies that affect their lives.
Harriet Tubman once said, “I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Similarly, we have human rights and our rights are being violated every day, yet many are not aware of this.
Economic Inequality and Austerity
Wealth inequality has worsened under the Obama Presidency. This is remarkable because historically after an economic collapse, the wealth divide closes during the recovery phase. According to the 2013 report, “In the U.S., the bottom 90% of the population own only 24.6% of all the privately held wealth, whereas in most of the developed world, the bottom 90% own around 40%; so, the degree of wealth-concentration in the U.S. is extraordinary…”
There hasn’t been any recovery for the bottom 90%. Public policies have continued to funnel wealth to the top while cutting the social infrastructure. Ellen Brown explains that the Federal Reserve Act prevents the Quantitative Easing (QE), the $85 billion created each month, from being used to invest in businesses and create jobs. She describes the Act as being “drafted by bankers to create a banker’s bank that would serve their interests. It is their own private club, and its legal structure keeps all non-members out.” So, instead of assisting Main Street, the QE has gone to Wall Street and has been used for financial trading that places our entire economy at risk of collapse. Activists will begin a yearlong campaign to change the Fed on Dec. 23 rd at all 12 Federal Reserve Buildings. Taxpayers need to take back the power to create money in a transparent way; the government should be spending debt free money on urgent necessities and providing people with the money they need to survive and create full employment.
Since early 2010, the Obama administration with Congress has pursued austerity with the federal budget, which is the opposite of what is needed in order to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment. Working closely with deficit hawks such as Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles and the Peterson Foundation, whose mission is to end social insurances, necessary programs such as unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicare and Head Start have been cut.
Pascal Robert writes that this year alone, the Sequester forced “$9.9 billion in cuts to Medicare, $840 million in cuts to special education programs, and $400 million in cuts to Head Start, in addition to the nearly $2 billion slashed from housing aid.” He calls this “Obama’s war on the poor.” Economist Robert Reich calls the new budget “dumb” because it “doesn’t close tax loopholes for wealthy, restore food stamps to poor, or extend unemployment benefits for jobless.” He calls for investment in repairing our failing infrastructure which would solve critical safety concerns and create jobs.