III. Income Inequality Continued to Rise
Poverty rate in the United States remained high. Income inequality continued to rise. Almost half of American households lived under financial strain. Low-income populations lacked health insurance. The number of homeless people stayed high.
The United States had the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. The U.S. Census estimated that 13.4 percent of Americans, about 42 million, lived below the poverty line in 2017. More than 5 million Americans who work full-time jobs year-round earned less than the poverty line. According to a report by the Brookings Institution, the disabled generally had a harder time finding steady work and earning above-poverty wages. About 25.7 percent of the disabled lived in poverty (www.usatoday.com, October 10, 2018 and November 19, 2018).
In May 2018, Philip G. Alston, the United Nation's special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published a report saying the United States had the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. According to the report, 18.5 million Americans lived in extreme poverty. The country had the highest youth poverty rate in countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2016, the top one percent of the richest population in the United States owned 38.6 percent of total wealth. In relation to both wealth and income the share of the common people had fallen in most of the past 25 years. Alston further pointed out that the U.S. government's series of economic stimulus measures in recent years only benefited the rich, not the common people. "The U.S. government's policies provide unprecedentedly high tax breaks to the very wealthy and the largest corporations and pay for these partly by reducing welfare benefits for the poor. The tax reform will worsen inequality." (www.washingtonpost.com, June 25, 2018)
Almost half of American households lived in financial difficulties. On July 17, 2018, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders wrote in an article published on the USA Today website, saying 43 percent of U.S. households lived paycheck to paycheck and can't afford to pay for their housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and their cell phone without going into debt. The Urban Institute's survey found that nearly 40 percent of non-elderly adults reported difficulty meeting basic needs such as food, health care, housing, and utilities (www.usatoday.com, July 17, 2018 and October 1, 2018).
Low-income populations lacked health insurance. In May 2018, Philip G. Alston, the United Nation's special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published a report saying almost a quarter of full-time workers, and three quarters of part-time workers, received no paid sick leave. About 44 per cent of adults either could not cover an emergency expense or would need to sell something or borrow money to do it (www.washingtonpost.com, June 25, 2018). Gallup's annual poll, conducted in November 2018, found 46 percent of U.S. adults worry about not having enough money to pay for their healthcare (news.gallup.com, December 10, 2018). According to a new Urban Institute analysis, Texas had 19 percent of uninsured residents under age 65, totaling 4.7 million (abcnews.go.com, December 17, 2018).
The number of homeless people stayed high. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than half a million Americans lacked permanent shelters. Many homeless individuals were in dire need of medical attention and suffered from mental illnesses (www.usatoday.com, October 1, 2018). According to an audit report issued by the State of California in April 2018, the state had the largest number of homeless population in the nation, reaching 134,278 in 2017, an increase of 16,136 people over 2016 (www.auditor.ca.gov). In Cincinnati of Ohio, homeless people set up camps near the heart of the city. But a local judge named Robert Ruehlman declared homeless camps a public nuisance and banned them in the affected part of downtown. He later expanded the ban to include most of the city and all of surrounding Hamilton County (www.usatoday.com, August 14, 2018).
Drug overdose deaths and suicides continued to rise. A report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said drug overdose deaths among U.S. residents exceeded 70,000 in 2017. The rate had increased on average by 16 percent per year since 2014. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Since 1999, the suicide rate had climbed 33 percent. In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans killed themselves (nytimes.com, August 15, 2018).
IV. Worsening Racial Discrimination
Systematic racial discrimination has long existed in the United States. Ethnic minorities faced restrictions in exercising their voting rights. The law enforcement and judicial departments made no progress in reducing racial discrimination. Hate crimes were common. Minorities were at an extremely disadvantageous position.
Systematic racial discrimination was criticized by the United Nations. According to the report of the ninety-third session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance prepared pursuant to a UN General Assembly resolution, the phenomena of promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred have long existed in American society. The United States failed to unequivocally reject and contain racist violent events and demonstrations. High-level politicians and public officials, including the President, propagated nationalist and populist remarks, and published racist and xenophobic statements on print and social media (UN documents A/73/18, A/73/312, A/73/305).
Minority voters were disenfranchised. According to a report of the American Civil Liberties Union on October 12, 2018, North Dakota's restrictive voter ID law required voters to bring to the polls an ID that displays a current residential street address. As many of Native Americans live on reservations in rural areas and don't have street addresses, the law disenfranchised thousands of Native Americans. Twenty-three states since 2010 have passed some type of voter suppression law, while 17 have voter suppression laws that target Native Americans and other indigenous people, according to an online report of the National Catholic Reporter. The Reuters website reported on November 28, 2018 that during the mid-term elections, due to an "exact match" policy adopted in Georgia, 70 percent of the voters whose registrations were pending before the election were black. African-Americans account for about one-third of the state's population. On August 11, 2018, the Economist commented on its website that in the south of the United States, some states adopted laws to impose rigid requirements on African-American voters. "They seem to push America back towards the early 20th century, when blacks were systematically prevented from voting."
African-Americans became innocent victims of police shooting because of their skin color. According to a BBC report on November 12, 2018, Jemel Roberson, a 26-year-old African-American security guard, was holding down a suspected armed attacker at a bar in suburban Chicago, but police shot and killed him upon arrival. A witness recounted that everybody was screaming out "he was a security guard," but police still did their job and saw a black man with a gun and opened fire on him.
On the Thanksgiving night of November 22, after a gunfire happened at an Alabama mall, Emantic "EJ" Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., a 21-year-old black who was helping other shoppers to safety, was mistaken for the gunman and shot three times from behind by police. Witnesses said he posed no threat to anyone at that time. Fitzgerald's "senseless death is the latest egregious example of a black man killed because he was perceived to be a threat due to the color of his skin," the newspaper quoted Ben Crump, the lawyer for Fitzgerald's family, as saying. (www.usatoday.com, December 4, 2018).
The Starbucks incident highlighted common discrimination against African Americans. On April 12, 2018, two African Americans entered a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia and asked to use the restroom. But they were refused by store employees, and wouldn't leave when asked by the employees to do so. Police came and arrested them on the spot. This discriminatory act sparked protests. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross at first defended that the police officers "didn't do anything wrong", but later apologized due to pressure. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said that the arrest caused many Philadelphians to witness and relive "the trauma of racial profiling" (www.usatoday.com, April 15, 2018; abcnews.go.com, April 19, 2018). Many say the Starbucks incident exposed discrimination that people of color and black people in particular face every day, said a report by the Guardian (www.theguardian.com, May 28, 2018).
Minorities suffered judicial discrimination. As of late 2017, in 15 high-profile cases involving deaths of black people, only one officer faces prison time, according to the website of The New York Times on June 7, 2018. According to the national statistics on the death penalty and race released by the U.S. Death Penalty Information Center on December 14, 2018, among the persons executed for interracial murders in the United States since 1976, the number of black defendants executed for the murder of white victims reached 290. In contrast, only 20 white defendants were executed for murdering black victims (deathpenaltyinfo.org, December 14, 2018). According to the Washington Post's analysis on July 29 of homicide arrest data, in the past decade, police arrested someone in 63 percent of the killings of white victims while they did so in just 47 percent of those with black victims.
Racial discrimination-related hate crimes reached a record high. Hate crimes rose in the United States by more than 17 percent in 2017, the biggest annual increase in reported hate crimes since 2001. Around 60 percent of the 7, 175 hate crimes were related to racial discrimination and nearly half of the victims were African Americans, according to a report of the Los Angeles Times on November 13, 2018. James Harris Jackson, a white Army veteran, planned to murder several black men in the company of white women because of his hatred of interracial dating. As a "practice" for a larger racial terror attack, he cruelly killed a 66-year-old black with a short sword in March 2017, The New York Times reported on September 20, 2018.
Anti-Semitism Prevails. Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old white, stormed into the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a rifle and handguns, shouting anti-Semitic slogans. He opened fire on worshipers in a 20-minute attack, killing 11 people and injuring six others. The attack was believed to be the deadliest on the Jewish community in U.S. history (edition.cnn.com, November 27, 2018; www.usatoday.com, October 29, 2018). Anti-Semitic pamphlets were spread throughout Pittsburgh. Nazi-themed posters were found in various locations around the State University of New York. A 21-year-old man was arrested for allegedly plotting to kill worshipers in a Jewish synagogue in Toledo, a CNN report said on December 12. There were 938 hate crimes against Jewish people in 2017, a 37 percent increase in anti-Jewish crimes, according to an FBI report (www.latimes.com, November 13, 2018).
The economic condition of African Americans is worrisome. The Economic Policy Institute reported on its website on February 26, 2018 that the median white family had almost 10 times as much wealth as the median black family. It also pointed out that the black unemployment rate has been roughly twice the white unemployment rate for a long time and African Americans were 2.5 times as likely to be in poverty as whites (www.epi.org, February 26, 2018). African Americans represent 13 percent of the general population, but more than 40 percent of the homeless population is African Americans, the National Alliance to End Homelessness reported (endhomelessness.org, June 6. 2018).
Racial discrimination causes health disparities. When looking at the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, including cancer, stroke and heart disease, mortality rates among black Americans were higher than among white Americans. Compelling evidence suggests both individual- and institutional-level discrimination causes this disparity, the Huffington Post reported on February 5, 2018. The infant mortality rate of black infants was 2.3 times higher than white infants. An African American born today on average, still expect to live about 3.5 fewer years than a white person born on the same day, according a report from the Economic Policy Institute on February 26, 2018.
Serious racial discrimination exists in the financial sector. Black applicants were rejected at more than double the rate of non-Hispanic white applicants on all types of loans, data with the federal Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection showed. Black and Hispanic applicants were charged interest rates more often at least 1.5 percentage points above the "average prime offer rate" for loans of a similar type, Los Angeles Times reported on May 27, 2018.