A UN report found that, among all countries in the developed world, the US has the highest rates of:— Jeremy Slevin (@jeremyslevin) June 22, 2018
Here is how the Trump Administration responded: pic.twitter.com/RLaIw4A9Qp
President Donald Trump’s White House appears to have lied about U.S. poverty levels simply because it was angry at a United Nations report regarding the number of Americans living in “extreme poverty.”
The UN’s report stated that 18.5 million Americans live in “extreme poverty,” and that 5.3 million live in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty.” So in its response, the White House stated that the UN report “does not give due credit to current policies enacted by this administration to spur economic growth and the prosperity it brings for all Americans.”
But thanks to emails obtained by Foreign Policy and nonprofit crisis reporting website Coda Story, it appears that the White House’s response may have not been as truthful as one would expect.
The emails reportedly show that the economic officials consulted on the original draft of the White House’s official response questioned some of the data used by the administration. But instead of being taken seriously, they were mostly ignored.
Next to the line in the draft that claims the country “is entering a new era of economic growth and prosperity,” a White House Council of Economic Advisers official made a note reminding the administration that the growth had come prior to the current administration, adding that the current trajectory is not foolproof.
“Already 8-9 years long … which started under [President Barack] Obama and we inherited and then expanded. But it will end prob in 1 – 2 years. So I’d not get into this,” the official wrote.
In the final rebuttal, the line criticized by the adviser remained intact.
When the draft talked about Americans going through housing difficulties having “fair and equal access and [being] connected to available housing and related assistance based on their strengths and needs,” an economic adviser noted in the margin: “Massive waiting lists for vouchers — not sure this is our strong suit.”
And in the response’s comments about the $18 billion allocated to Puerto Rico following the 2017 hurricanes, one official wrote: “Pretty sure that’s peanuts compared to what the mainland got so you may want to rethink this.”
At least one of the suggestions made by economic advisers actually produced some change in the final product.
Foreign Policy reports that an official noted that “[w]ages haven’t really picked up, other than for supervisors,” and the administration proceeded to delete a section discussing salaries going up.
In one email sent by adviser Trudi Renwick, she asked the White House, “[w]hat is your source for stating material hardship is down by 77 percent since 1980?”
In the final version of the rebuttal, the administration stated that “some measures of consumption” poverty was down 77 percent since 1980.
Foreign Policy was not sure what documents were sent back to her.
While it's fair to assume the criticism regarding how the country is doing under Trump is what angered the White House, perhaps what really ticked the administration off was the UN report’s strong condemnation of Trump’s economic policies, taking a particular jab at the decision to pass tax cuts while so many Americans live in poverty.
It was thanks to this report, Mari Stull, the senior State Department adviser wrote in an email, that the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the Human Rights Council in June. However, the U.S. claimed at the time their decision had followed the country’s revision of the council’s bias against Israel.
In the same email, Stull also criticized the UN report’s claims regarding children living in poverty, calling it “propaganda.”
"Based upon my own experience, my sons are destitute poor and living off the welfare state of Mom — so guess they contributed to the 'youth poverty' crisis in America," Stull wrote.
The comment (and the fact the administration lied) drew great criticism.
US whitewashed, falsified facts to respond to UN report on poverty in US. Unbelievable quote from Mari Stull of @State_IO, showing contempt of Trump admin to reality of life for poor people. Sad what’s become of @State_IO, @USUN, @usmissiongeneva. https://t.co/v0sTUCaWcU— Bathsheba Crocker (@shebacrocker) August 2, 2018
So darn corrupt!— Sharon Oliver (@olivershar7) August 3, 2018
'Insidious': Emails show Trump White House lied about US poverty levels to discredit critical UN report https://t.co/qBZg6OQ9gp
#Trump and #Ford seem to both make good use of #lying, #lies, distortion and manipulation ... 'Insidious': Emails Show Trump White House Lied About US Poverty Levels to Discredit Critical UN Report - https://t.co/XGgX9mR5wW via @commondreams— andrew wilkin (@adwilkin79) August 3, 2018
It’s clear that the administration is out of step with the UN and its review of American economic data. And to the Trump administration, that means going full-force against their assessment just because it hurts the White House’s narrative of prosperity and wealth.
After all, the assessment painted Trump's policies as callous and unrealistic.
Thankfully, this lie was exposed. But how many other lies have yet to be revealed? That’s a question that remains unanswered.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas