IV. On Economic, Social and Cultural rights
The deserved economic, social and cultural rights of American citizens have not been properly protected.
Poor population in the United States is constantly increasing. According to statistics released by the US Census Bureau in August 2007, the official poverty rate in 2006 was 12.3 percent. There were 36.5 million people, or 7.7 million families living in poverty in 2006. In another word, almost one out of eight American citizens lives in poverty. The poverty rate in Mississippi was as high as 21.1 percent (Poverty Drops as Nation's Income Hits 5-years High, USA Today, August 29, 2007). The poverty rate of major American cities was 16.1 percent. The rate was 15.2 percent in suburban areas and 13.8 percent in the South. The poverty rate in the Washington D.C. was 19.8 percent, which meant nearly one-fifths of its citizens were living in poverty (DC's "Two Economies" Headed in Different Directions, Report Finds, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, October 24, 2007).
The wealth of the richest group in the United States has rapidly expanded in recent year, widening the earning gap between the rich and the poor. The earnings of the highest one percent of the population accounted for 21.2 percent of American total national income in 2005, compared with 19 percent in 2004. The earnings of the lowest 50 percent of the population accounted for 12.8 percent of the total national income in 2005, down from 13.4 percent in 2004 (Reuters, October 12, 2007). The number of "ultra-high-net worth" US households, that is, those with a net worth of 5 million US Dollars or more, excluding the value of their primary homes, reached 1.14 million in 2006, a 23 percent rise from 930,000 in 2005 (Richest Households Pass 1 Million Mark, CNNmoney.com, April 17, 2007). The number of billionaires increased from 13 in 1985 to more than 1,000 in 2006 (The Observer, July 24, 2007). Top executives of major US businesses made an average of more than 10 million US Dollars in 2006, 364 times over that of ordinary workers. They earn as much money in one day of work as ordinary workers make over the entire year (AFP, January 4, 2008).
The past five years have witnessed relatively strong growth in the US economy, but the fortunes of millions of Americans just get worse. The ratio of American wage expenditure to gross domestic product (GDP) has dropped to the lowest since records began in 1947. The average income of households consisted of members at working age has seen a continuous decline in the past five years, and is 17 percent less than five years ago (US News & World Report, January 1, 2007). According to a national survey on the state of stress in America conducted in September 2007, money and work were the biggest stressors for almost three-quarters of Americans. Of the 1,848 adults polled, 51 percent worried about housing costs. Housing was a "very significant or somewhat significant" source of pressure for 61 percent of the residents in the West and 55 percent those in the East (USA Today, October 24, 2007). According to a latest report by the US government, suicide rate among Americans aged 45-54 rose by about 20 percent from 1999 to 2004, the highest since records began 25 years ago (The Associated Press, December 14, 2007).
Hungry and homeless people have increased significantly in American cities. The US Department of Agriculture said in a report released on November 14, 2007 that 35.52 million Americans, including 12.63 million children, went hungry in 2006, an increase of 390,000 from 2005. About 11 million people lived in "very low food security" (Over 30 Million Americans Faced Hunger in 2006, Reuters, November 15, 2007). Results of the 2007 Hunger and Homelessness Survey released by the US Conference of Mayors showed that 16 of the 23 polled cities reported increased requests for emergency food assistance. Among 15 cities that provided data, the average increase was 12 percent. Detroit reported an increase of 35 percent. In 13 survey cities, 15 percent of households with children were not receiving emergency food assistance they requested. In 20 survey cities, 193,183 people applied for emergency shelter or transitional housing. The number of residents applying for government rent subsidies surged by 30 percent in Baltimore County in 2007 (More Seeking US Rent Subsidy, The Baltimore Sun, December 17, 2007). It is estimated that 750,000 people are homeless on any given day in the United States (Care Critical for Homeless, The Washington Post, October 22, 2007). Los Angeles County has more than 73,000 homeless people (Dying Without Dignity: Homeless Deaths in Los Angeles County, Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, December 27, 2007). Phoenix has 7,000 to 10,000 homeless people and another 3,000 who were not sheltered by the government (Rebellion, Spain, January 2, 2008). New Orleans has 12,000 homeless people (Katrina's Wrath Lingers for New Orleans Poor, USA Today, December 13, 2007). California has about 50,000 veterans living in streets (Sing Tao Daily San Francisco Edition, November 8, 2007). Health conditions of the homeless are worrying. Research shows one-third to half of the homeless have a chronic illness. The life expectancy for a homeless person ranges between 42 and 52 years (Care Critical for Homeless, The Washington Post, October 22, 2007). Among sexual offenders in many American cities, the homeless account for a high proportion. In Boston, nearly two-thirds of 136 high-risk sex offenders lack permanent addresses. In New York City, more than 100 sex offenders are registered at two homeless shelters (Many Sex Offenders Are Often Homeless, USA Today, November 19, 2007).
People without health insurance have been increasing in the United States. A Reuters report on September 20, 2007 quoted the US Census Bureau as saying that 47 million people in the United States were not covered by health insurance. A US family organization said nearly 90 million people below the age of 65 were not covered by health insurance at one point or throughout the period from 2006 to 2007. The number accounted for 34.7 percent of the population falling in that age (Reuters, September 20, 2007). More than 10 million young people age 19-29 were not covered either (Reuters, August 8, 2007). In Texas, the rate of uninsured people is 23.8 percent. In Arizona it is 20.6 percent. Florida 19.7 percent and Georgia 19 percent (Ming Pao San Francisco Edition, June 26, 2007). In 2006, health insurance premiums rose 7.7 percent from a year ago, hitting 11,480 US dollars for a typical US family plan offered by employers. The percentage of people covered by job-based health insurance fell 0.3 percentage points to 59.7 percent (Census: Health Benefits Scarcer, USA Today, August 28, 2007). Meanwhile, the number of people whose household incomes were above the poverty line but were unable to afford medical services rose from 4.2 percent of the total population in 1998 to 5.8 percent in 2006 (Ming Pao San Francisco Edition, June 26, 2007).