Recent events in Egypt have instigated much discussion about the

causes of the January 25 revolution and the ongoing demonstrations and

labor unrest. Both within Egypt and around the world, commentators have

noted the deep connection between the uprisings and deteriorating

socioeconomic conditions. Moreover, as images of tear gas canisters

marked "Made in the U.S.A." that were thrown at peaceful protestors in

Tahrir Square made their way around the world, commentators and experts

have also directed greater scrutiny at U.S. foreign policy and, in particular,

at the United States foreign aid program in Egypt and its failure to

contribute to poverty alleviation in Egypt.

Against the backdrop of these discussions, our Comment provides a

brief overview of three interrelated problems: U.S. foreign aid, labor and

workers' rights in Egypt, and disparities in the Egyptian education system.

Each of these factors helped entrench poverty in Egypt. Each contributed to

the consolidation of power in, and was used as an instrument by, a regime

that failed to respect or to promote Egyptians' right to be free from

poverty. The recent events provide an opportunity to bring into focus the

consequences of egregious violations of individuals' economic rights - the

rights to an adequate standard of living, to work, to education, and to

economic opportunities - and the centrality of those rights to the creation

and maintenance of a healthy society. The remarkable and moving

revolutions that have brought Egyptians this far in their struggle for

liberation will ultimately be successful only if the root causes of systematic

marginalization - poverty, lack of access to economic opportunity, and

political meddling that entrenches inequality - are addressed alongside

other political and civil reforms.

At this pivotal moment in Egyptian history, it is imperative that

systemic problems entrenching social and economic inequality are

addressed, in addition to abuses of civil and political rights by the Mubarak

regime that served to stagnate politics, instill fear in the population, and

deter resistance. American foreign aid policy provided political cover and

financial support for internal labor and education policies that consolidated

economic disparity, upon which the coercive police state relied. This

Comment aims to briefly assess how irresponsibly allocated foreign aid,

inequalities in education, and misguided labor and economic policies

entrenched the regime's power by increasing economic disparity in Egypt

over the course of thirty years. Our brief comments are intended to serve as

a platform for further discussion of how foreign policy, education policy,

and labor policy can be formulated going forward. Part I discusses the

legal and political mechanisms in the U.S. that allowed for the provision of

foreign aid to a regime that systematically abused its citizens' civil,

political, economic, and social rights. Part II discusses the labor activism

that was initiated as a response to the regime's self-serving economic policy

and challenged the legitimacy of state control of public worker

organizations. Part III discusses the ways in which the education system

exacerbated the problems created by foreign aid and poor labor conditions,

in part by leaving students unprepared for the demands of the labor

market. Moreover, severe disparities in the education system helped

entrench existing poverty and inequality and contributed to the

unsustainable economic conditions that existed in Egypt.