Infuriated by a scathing United Nations report estimating that over 18 million Americans are living in “extreme poverty” and accusing the Trump administration of “deliberately” making such destitution worse with its tax cuts for the rich, the White House insisted in its June response to the U.N. analysis that the United States is overflowing with “prosperity” and that claims of widespread poverty are “exaggerated.”
“This is not as dramatic as Trump’s tweets or bald-faced lies at press briefings. But in a way it is far more insidious; the contempt for facts is pervasive and maddening.”
But internal State Department emails and documents obtained by Foreign Policy and the non-profit journalism website Coda Story show that the Trump administration ignored advice of White House economic analysts and knowingly lied to the public about the severity of American poverty, which the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston described as “shocking.”
Foreign Policy reported on Thursday that officials who were consulted last-minute on a draft of the White House’s rebuttal of the U.N. findings “questioned the accuracy of the data the administration was citing.”
Despite the fact that the U.N. analysis cited government statistics to bolster its claims about poverty in America, the Trump administration opted to draw from a report by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which concluded that 250,000 Americans are living in extreme poverty—a stark contrast to the U.N.’s conclusion that the correct number is 18.25 million.
The Heritage report cited by the White House also concluded that the conditions of the poor must be improving because many families living in deep poverty own cell phones and DVD players.
“What is your source for stating material hardship is down by 77 percent since 1980?” Trudi Renwick, an economist at the Census Bureau, wrote in an email questioning the Trump administration’s rebuttal to the U.N.
Foreign Policy reports that it is unclear whether Renwick received a response, and the White House kept references to the Heritage report in the final version of its response.
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