America's poor becoming more destitute under Trump - U.N. expert

* U.N. rights expert issues report on extreme poverty in U.S.

* Says Trump policies remove safety net for the poor, reward rich

* Urges U.S. authorities to provide health care, social protection

* 41 million live in poverty in America, one third are children

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, June 2 (Reuters) - Poverty in the United States is extensive and is deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor, while rewarding the rich, a U.N. human rights investigator has found.

Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty, called on U.S. authorities to provide solid social protection and address underlying problems, rather than "punishing and imprisoning the poor."

While welfare benefits and access to health insurance are being slashed, President Donald Trump's tax reform has awarded "financial windfalls" to the mega-rich and large companies, further increasing inequality, he said in a report.

U.S. policies since President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty in the 1960s have been "neglectful at best," he said.

"But the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship," Alston said.

Almost 41 million people live in poverty, 18.5 million of them in extreme poverty, and children account for one in three poor, he said. The United States has the highest youth poverty rate among industrialized countries, he added.

"Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent and it has the world's highest incarceration rate...and the highest obesity levels in the developed world," Alston said.

However, the data from the U.S. Census Bureau he cited covers only the period through 2016, and he gave no comparative figures on the extent of poverty before and after Trump came into office in January 2017.

The Australian, a veteran U.N. rights expert and New York University law professor, will present his report to the United Nations Human Rights Council later this month.

It is based on his mission in December to several U.S. states, including rural Alabama, a slum in downtown Los Angeles, California, and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

U.S. officials in Geneva were not immediately available for comment.

Related: Inside POTUS' controversial first year: 

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President Donald Trump's controversial first year
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President Donald Trump's controversial first year
First lady Melania Trump chats with U.S. President Donald Trump during their return from Germany at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., July 8, 2017. Carlos Barria: "After President Trump's trip to Germany he arrived back at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. First Lady Melania Trump said goodbye to Trump as she was heading off in a different direction that day. While chatting a breeze blew Melania's hair up in the air." REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Senior advisor Kellyanne Conway (L) attends as U.S. President Donald Trump (behind desk) welcomes the leaders of dozens of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "We're often asked how much access we have to the Trump administration, and the answer is we have an awful lot. President Trump himself is very comfortable in the spotlight, and his aides are similarly unfazed by cameras. In this instance, senior advisor Kellyanne Conway was so comfortable in our presence she seemed not to consider the optics of kneeling on a Oval Office sofa to take pictures with her phone." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Vice President Mike Pence laughs as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a baseball bat as they attend a Made in America product showcase event at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. Carlos Barria: "This summer the White House organized an event to showcase 'Made in America' products. All kinds of exhibitors brought their products as the President and Vice President toured the event. One of the companies was Marucci Sport, a manufacturer of baseball bats based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As Trump approached a table full of baseball bats, photographers at the event, including me, rushed to get a good angle hoping that he would pick up a bat. As we predicted, he did. He took one and joked around as though he was hitting something hard. The only thing closer to him right there, was the media." REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "Chancellor Merkel made one of the earliest important visits of any U.S. allies to meet Trump in his first months in office. When world leaders give joint news conferences they don't always tend to give each other their full attention - but Merkel watched Trump intently at several key moments, and here seemed particularly rapt." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner sits behind U.S. President Donald Trump during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2017. Kevin Lamarque: "The role of Jared Kushner has gone through a series of changes. He began front and centre as a high profile adviser, but as time has passed and issues surrounding him have surfaced, he has become more of a background figure." REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he sits on a truck while he welcomes truckers and CEOs to attend a meeting regarding healthcare at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2017. Carlos Barria: "The White House organised a listening session with truckers and CEO's of major American companies, regarding healthcare reform. An 18-wheeler tow truck was parked on the South Lawn of the White House and as Trump welcomed the truckers someone invited the him to come and sit in the driver's seat. Trump jumped into the cab and started yelling and pretending to drive - creating one of the most memorable pictures of the year. A lesson learned, always be prepared for the unexpected." REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes 11-year-old Frank Giaccio as he cuts the Rose Garden grass at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 15, 2017. Carlos Barria: "Working in Washington, covering politics, I struggle with the rigid and tightly controlled images we're asked to take. But once in a while I get to witness a natural, unscripted moment. One morning, we were told the White House Pool would gather by the door of the Rose Garden for a photo opportunity. It was unscheduled so I didn't know what to expect. As it happened, the President was planning to surprise 11-year-old Frank Giaccio, who had written a letter to Trump offering to mow the White House lawn. Giaccio had been invited to work for a day at the White House alongside National Park Service staff. As we waited for Trump, I saw that Giaccio was very focused on this job and not paying much attention to the group of journalists, photographers and cameramen milling around the garden. Suddenly, from the other side of a hedge, wearing his signature, long red tie, President Trump appeared, dropping in as if this were an episode of The Apprentice. He walked towards Giaccio to say hi and pose for a picture. He began shouting to the boy above the noise of the lawnmower, but it was too loud. Giaccio was so focused on his job that he didn't notice Trump. He walked right past, pushing the machine. Trump paused for a second and walked to the end of the lawn to talk to Giaccio, but again, the boy didn't stop mowing. He kept going until his father rushed onto the scene to grab his attention, and he finally stopped to greet Trump. The image of Trump shouting at a kid who is mowing his lawn might have many interpretations in today's politically polarized United States. But for me it was just a kid who loved what he was doing, to the point he almost appeared to ignore the President." REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES
Without his protective glasses on, U.S. President Donald Trump looks up towards the solar eclipse while viewing with his wife Melania and son Barron at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 21, 2017. Kevin Lamarque: "On a day when everyone, and I mean everyone, was told not to look at the eclipse without protective glasses, Trump, President of the United States, couldn't help himself." REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping shake hands after making joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. Damir Sagolj: "It's one of those "how to make a better or at least different shot when two presidents shake hands several times a day, several days in row". If I'm not mistaken in calculation, presidents Xi Jinping of China and Donald Trump of the U.S. shook their hands at least six times in events I covered during Trump's recent visit to China. I would imagine there were some more handshakes I haven't seen but other photographers did. And they all look similar - two big men, smiling and heartily greeting each other until everyone gets their shot. But then there is always something that can make it special - in this case the background made of U.S. and Chinese flags. They shook hands twice in front of it, and the first time it didn't work for me. The second time I positioned myself lower and centrally, and used the longest lens I have to capture only hands reaching for a handshake." REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend the Liberty Ball in honour of his inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "What I see when I look at this picture is the end of a very long day, not to mention weeks and months of preparation by many photographers, editors and network experts and the beginning of everything since." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump poses for a photo as he and first lady Melania Trump help volunteers hand out meals during a visit with flood survivors of Hurricane Harvey at a relief centre in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. Kevin Lamarque: "Trump, eager to deliver the image of a hands-on response to Hurricane Harvey, made this visit to a relief centre and obliged this woman with a selfie as Melania continued to work." REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo Kevin SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man kneels with a folded U.S. flag as the motorcade of U.S. President Donald Trump passes him after an event at the state fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., September 27, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "In the days after his widely commented-upon remarks about some players' kneeling protest in the NFL, President Trump made a day trip to Indiana. People along the motorcade route will often make (sometimes visceral) displays of how they feel about the president. As we drove along, I wondered if someone might kneel. Someone did." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump throws rolls of paper towels into a crowd of local residents affected by Hurricane Maria as he visits Calgary Chapel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S., October 3, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "During an afternoon visit to Puerto Rico for President Trump to survey damage from Hurricane Maria and greet some of its victims, Trump made a stop at a church where food and supplies were being distributed. Among the items were paper towels and Trump, apparently caught up in the moment, decided to distribute some of the rolls." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One to depart for Vietnam from Beijing Airport in Beijing, China, November 10, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "There is a Reuters photographer in the tight pool covering the U.S. president for every appearance he makes 365 days a year. This was just one of 32 images of mine that were transmitted on the Reuters wire of President Trump visiting China and Vietnam that day. You never know when a sudden interaction, a gust of wind or a unique facial expression will lead to a striking image that grabs peoples' attention." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump registers his surprise as he realises other leaders, including Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte and Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, are crossing their arms for the traditional "ASEAN handshake" as he participates in the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines, November 13, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "Having covered a few ASEAN summits, I knew to expect the ASEAN handshake. Not everyone in the room knew to expect the ASEAN handshake. A lot was written about this unscripted moment, and what deeper meaning it might have. The simple truth is that sometimes in life there are unscripted moments." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at a rally in Huntington, West Virginia, U.S., August 3, 2017. Carlos Barria: "President Trump travelled to Huntington, West Virginia, for one of his usual campaign rallies. While members of his family spoke to the crowd he was waiting under a black curtain to be introduced. Suddenly he walked onto the stage, one of the first frames that I took was of his hand. I set my exposure for the light on the stage hoping to create this dark background and it worked." REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Barack Obama wipes away tears as he delivers his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 10, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "In his final days in office, Obama made a visit home to Chicago. As he spoke from the stage to his wife and daughter in the audience, he became emotional when he talked about what they had sacrificed during his time in office. I turned from photographing the Obama women embracing to find him onstage wiping away tears." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Secret Service agents use a presidential limousine as cover from spraying water as U.S. President Donald Trump lands via Marine One helicopter in New York, U.S., May 4, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "The best part of any trip to New York City with the sitting U.S. President is the helicopter ride into Manhattan. The ride out at night can be stunning. Here, Secret Service agents protect themselves from the spray from the East River as Trump lands on the helipad." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (C) says hello to reporters as he and White House advisors Sebastian Gorka (from L), Omarosa Manigault and Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci accompany President Trump for an event celebrating veterans at AMVETS Post 44 in Struthers, Ohio, U.S., July 25, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "The most visible person in any White House is naturally the President, followed by the press secretary. But there are also the staff who support them, any one of whom might suddenly jump into public view and be national news for a day or two. For those of us covering the President Trump administration, there seem to be more compelling figures in the West Wing than ever before. It's crucial to know who's who and why they're important. When I raised my camera and back-pedalled ahead of the group to take this image Lewandowski gave me a hello and pointed right into the lens. I liked the photo, but had no idea it would go a little bit viral, especially since Scaramucci, who was the biggest mover and shaker that week, was hidden back in the pack. But I guess the image catches a glimpse of what it's like to be a West Wing staffer on the road." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he arrives at Harrisburg international airport, before attending a rally marking his first 100 days in office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 29, 2017. Carlos Barria: "President Trump travelled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to celebrate his hundred days in office with a victory rally. He was in friendly territory as he won with a big difference over his opponent Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, during the November elections. As usual when the commander-in-chief arrives local residents gather to greet him. This time a small group of military personnel attended the arrival. Surrounded by secret service agents Trump walked from the Air Force One and raised his hand in a sign of victory as the crowd cheered him on." REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges the audience after taking the oath of office as his wife Melania (L) and daughter Tiffany watch during inauguration ceremonies swearing in Trump as the 45th president of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S., January 20, 2017. Jim Bourg: "This photo was shot with one of two remote cameras. The cameras were monitored and triggered remotely and the pictures were transmitted to clients worldwide within minutes of being taken." REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. Carlos Barria: "On July 7, I witnessed one of the most important meetings of President Trump's first year in office. Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Germany. The world's eyes were on these two leaders after speculation about Russian interference during the 2016 US elections. We entered the room for less than two minutes, where I took dozens of pictures. But there was this very interesting moment when Trump extended his hand to Putin for a handshake. Putin paused for a second and looked at Trump's hand. That was the picture that I was looking for, a little moment that seemed to say a lot." REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump (L-R), is joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, as he speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "Very early in the Trump administration, weekends were as busy as weekdays. On Trump's second Saturday the official schedule said he would be making private phone calls to a number of world leaders including Russia's Vladimir Putin. I arrived early and, before sitting down at my desk walked up to Press Secretary Sean Spicer's office. He, too, was just taking his coat off. I gingerly made the suggestion that previous administrations had sometimes allowed photos of such phone calls through the Oval Office windows on the colonnade. To my mild shock, he didn't even think about it twice. "We'll do it!" he said. In truth, I really only expected the Putin call, but we were outside the windows multiple times throughout the day as the calls went on." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wait the arrival of French President Emmanuel Macron (unseen) before a lunch ahead of a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "One of the best parts of travelling overseas for White House coverage is the chance to see the U.S. president in different environments and (literally) a different light. Here, Trump and his wife came out of the shadows to greet France's President Macron." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2017. Carlos Barria: "A day before President Trump's hundred days in office I was part of the team that interviewed the commander-in-chief in the Oval Office. I was only allowed to photograph Trump during the last five minutes of the interview. The time was very tight so I had to move fast as I had pictures in mind that I wanted to shoot. I walked into the Oval Office and saw that the President had printed maps of the country showing areas in red where he won. I raised my hands holding my camera as high as possible to get the best view of the scene using a 16mm wide angle lens." REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump greets Director of the FBI James Comey as Director of the Secret Service Joseph Clancy (L), watches during the Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Reception in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2017. Joshua Roberts: "I have covered the White House for 16 years and normally either the President or the pool is in position when an event starts. In this case the President was not where anyone expected him to be. In fact, he was almost blocking the door when the pool came in. We had to scramble to find a position without bumping him or the furniture as he greeted and thanked members of law enforcement for their security efforts during the inauguration. Luckily, he greeted FBI Director James Comey a few seconds after the pool had made its way into the room." REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A combination of photos taken at the National Mall shows the crowds attending the inauguration ceremonies to swear in U.S. President Donald Trump at 12:01pm (L) on January 20, 2017 and President Barack Obama sometime between 12:07pm and 12:26pm on January 20, 2009, Washington, U.S. Lucas Jackson: "The assignment was simply to shoot the inauguration from the Washington Monument. To avoid confusion I made sure to transmit crowd pictures while Trump was onstage with the crowd at its peak. Twitter quickly erupted with claims that my images were taken early in the morning or photoshopped to remove attendees. At his first briefing, the President's new press secretary, Sean Spicer, said: "Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall. This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past." This was not true. It was a new experience to have the validity of such a straightforward image questioned. After that press conference the picture was everywhere. Later, CNN released an image it took from the portico of the U.S. Capitol as Trump was sworn in. That vantage point is several hundred feet lower than the Washington Monument so the crowd looks bigger than in my picture. A second wave of 'liar' inundated me on Twitter. I ignored the noise but posted a copy of my image on Instagram with the caption: "Perspective; it matters." Later people noticed that the clock on the Smithsonian building in my picture shows the time at 1:15. Social media tried to claim my images were taken over an hour after the inauguration once the crowd had thinned. But the Smithsonian said its clock was broken and was stuck on that time." REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (L), Stelios Varias SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (L) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus watch as U.S. President Donald Trump presents the U.S. Air Force Academy football team with the Commander-in-Chief trophy in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 2, 2017. Joshua Roberts: "Covering the White House does not just mean covering the President. White House staffers are an important part of the story and their relationship with the President and each other is an indicator of how things are going in the West Wing. The tendency is to focus exclusively on the President once an event starts but I always try to look around to see how people are reacting as things unfold." REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo SEARCH "POY TRUMP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
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"SHAMEFUL STATISTICS"

Citing "shameful statistics" linked to entrenched racial discrimination, Alston said that African Americans are 2.5 times more likely than whites to live in poverty and their unemployment rate is more than double. Women, Hispanics, immigrants, and indigenous people also suffer high rates.

At least 550,000 people are homeless in America, he said.

"The tax reform will worsen this situation and ensure that the United States remains the most unequal society in the developed world," Alston said. "The planned dramatic cuts in welfare will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes."

The tax overhaul, which sailed through the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress in December, permanently cut the top corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. Tax cuts for individuals, however, are temporary and expire after 2025.

Trump has said they will lead to more take-home pay for workers and have touted bonuses some workers received from their employers as evidence the law is working.

Alston dismissed allegations of widespread fraud in the welfare system and criticized the U.S. criminal justice system. It sets large bail bonds for a defendant seeking to go free pending trial, meaning wealthy suspects can afford bail while the poor remain in custody, often losing their jobs, he said.

"There is no magic recipe for eliminating extreme poverty and each level of government must make its own good-faith decisions. At the end of the day, however, particularly in a rich country like the United States, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power," he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by David Stamp)

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