How Trump Administration Misled World on US Poverty

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty

Former US Ambassador to UN Human Rights Council on Administration response: “The kind of tone that I would expect from China or North Korea or Egypt or Bahrain”


Deceptive statements are not limited to Donald Trump in this Administration — writing for Foreign Policy, Amy Mackinnon, Robbie Gramer, and Simon Ostrovsky explain how advisors were pushed aside for a misleading response to a UN report on American poverty:


After a UN agency issued a report in May on the state of poverty in the United States, concluding that 40 million Americans are poor and more than 5 million live in “Third World conditions”, the Trump “Administration ridiculed the findings.

In an unusually harsh statement the following month, the Administration labeled the report “inaccurate, inflammatory and irresponsible”, and included its own data in a rebuttal.

But according to internal State Department emails and a document obtained by Foreign Policy and Coda Story, a nonprofit crisis reporting website, the economic officials consulted on a draft of the rebuttal questioned the accuracy of the data the administration was citing.

Their comments, typed into the margins of the draft or included in emails, were either watered down or ignored altogether. As a result, the statement the administration issued in June included misleading data and painted an overly optimistic picture of the American economy.

Next to a line in the draft which reads: “The US is entering a new era of economic growth and prosperity,” an official from the White House Council of Economic Advisers remarked that the economic growth had long predated Trump and said the trajectory might not last.

“Already 8-9 years long … which started under 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.

Again, the final version of the statement, put out by the US Mission to Geneva on June 22, ignored the suggestion and used the original language.

In some cases, comments by the officials did prompt a change in the text.

“Wages haven’t really picked up, other than for supervisors,” one official from the Council of Economic Advisers wrote in response to a line in the draft about salaries going up. The line was deleted from the final statement. “This triggers the left—best to leave it off,” the official wrote.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report included a harsh condemnation of the Trump Administration’s economic policies, saying in part that tax cuts and reductions in social spending had exacerbated inequality in the country. Though it cited the United States’ own Census Bureau for the data on poverty, the report triggered broad anger across the administration.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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