Americans do exhibit one major disconnect in the area of human rights: we believe that an American's human rights and protections are, and should be, determined by one's income/ability to work. We accept nothing -- not job loss, family circumstances/crises, health (unless disability is confirmed by the SSA, a process that takes up to three years from the date of applying for aid), unemployability --- as a legitimate "excuse" for being unemployed. Most of us applauded the anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the mid-'90's, at the very same time that we applauded "welfare reform" (which violates this UN agreement on a number of points concerning the poor), ending the human right to basic aid. We do NOT protect, or even recognize, the fundamental rights of any American who falls into poverty -- not the right to basic humanitarian aid, to medical care, to legitimate legal aid, etc. The odd thing is, other nations can see how the US violates the human rights of its own people, but most Americans can't seem to grasp that concept.
As a direct result of the New Deal (including programs from the GI Bill to general assistance welfare), America truly became an economic leader. For a time (1970's) when benefits were raised up to slightly over the poverty line, and real education and job skills training were made available, over 80% of welfare recipients voluntarily quit welfare within 5 years, eventually moving into the once-vast middle class.Any other nation would regard this as a shining success! Our economic disparities shrank to historic lows, and our national productivity reached historic highs. This was all because, for a time, we adopted the concept of "the common good".
I realize that this is not the only area in which the US grievously disregards internationally -recognized fundamental human rights, but it's an area that we seem afraid to address. Stop being afraid of being called a "bleeding heart liberal", and start thinking about the common good. For the past 25 years, we've poured billions of taxpayer dollars into welfare for the rich, on the theory that it would "trickle down". Obviously, it didn't. We must start thinking about our own people as our greatest resource, and investing in those things that benefit the nation as a whole.
Dianka H. Fabian
Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin
Mar 31 2008 - 5:11pm