A Treaty Lost

Paul Evans

After listening to the opposition on this matter I actually became dumber. Such gross overgeneralization and fallacious arguments are not worthy of a junior high debate, much less the upper chamber of the most important deliberative body on the planet.

Sometimes reality is demonstrably stranger than fiction. The US Senate today defeated the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” Needing 67 in the affirmative column supporters could only rally 61 (including John McCain).

This treaty was drafted on the principles passed into law in the US by President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990. Big League former Republican notables lobbied for it including former US Attorney General (and Pennsylvania Governor) Dick Thornburgh and Senator Bob Dole (disabled during his combat service in Italy in World War II).

Claiming concerns for a loss of sovereignty (notably absent in trade treaties), dissenters told the body that they would not sanction a greater role for the United Nations in such matters.

After listening to the opposition on this matter I actually became dumber. Such gross overgeneralization and fallacious arguments are not worthy of a junior high debate, much less the upper chamber of the most important deliberative body on the planet.

There is no “there” there in the logic. None, not even a smidgen.

Senators voting against the treaty beat the drum of sovereignty – fervently asserting the US should never, under any circumstances, ever – sign formal agreements that require mandatory action/s.

It was ironic to hear such impassioned language from members that have spent an entire lifetime in advocacy of increasingly more restraining global trade agreements.

For some reason it appears to be an acceptable amount of interference when trade requirements force scuttling needed social programs for the poor within developing economies (read: cheap labor region), but not so acceptable when seeking to ensure a safe, disabled-friendly, work-environment.

It is a loss of sovereignty when a pact asserts a global expectation of workplace safety and worker security, but a necessary thing to allow for secret panels in Geneva to determine the merits of unfair trade practices among WTO members.

A cynical person might suspect that a few well-healed multinational corporations rightly interpreted the language of the treaty as the beginning of a “leveling of the field” in terms of workplace practices.

Such a person might construe the defeat of this piece of legislation as proof of a global paradigm favoring a particular economic philosophy.

What we know is this: there are few controls in place governing workplace health and safety – at least within “developing regions.”

This lack of global consistency, at least according to some, secures cheaper wages and larger profits for corporations prepared to take advantage of such conditions.

It is a philosophy that assumes hidden costs (those accumulating during development), can be ignored until it is time for relocation to another developing region.

This “profit-now-damn-the-future” attitude is responsible for our current straits.
I suspect the reason the treaty failed today has little to do with our relationship with the UN (an organization that we helped establish) or real concerns about a loss of sovereignty. It was about corporate greed and a corrupt, corporate irresponsibility that is systemic.

A good treaty failed today because the US Senate could not find the courage to stand up for those that cannot stand up for themselves. It is a dark, sad day in the history of the body.

Not that long ago, America set the pace on concern for our disabled citizens. And now, when the world seeks to join us in the journey for a better workplace, the modern Republican Party has again – turned its back.

The modern GOP is not the party of Lincoln – nor in fact even the party of Bush – the Elder.

This treaty is a small but important symbolic act. If we refuse to stand up for the rights of disabled persons at home and abroad, what moral authority do we have to stand up for any group of persons, anywhere?

We can do better and we must. America is supposed to be the place where ideals govern our policies - we are supposed to be a people that stand for those in need.

Today we were not that place, or people.

We can reclaim our spirit and soul, but it will require each, every one of us.

Together we really can change the world, and we need to redouble our efforts or become comfortable with such deplorable actions - as a treaty to help disabled persons.

Today's story on this treaty can be viewed at: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/04/despite-dole-appearance-senate-fails-to-ratify-disabilities-treaty/

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