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So Now the UN Is Attacking Welfare Reform?

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

In the fall of 1997, activists marched on the UN in order to draw attention to the way in which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was being violated by the implementation of welfare reform measures in the United States. It seems now that the protestors' efforts have borne fruit. Sympathetic ears at the UN have heard and dutifully obeyed their patrons on the left.

Members of the self-proclaimed "welfare union" asserted that the welfare reform bill, which was signed into law in 1996, violated international human rights codes because it no longer guaranteed the "rights" of welfare recipients to receive wages, food, housing, and medical care. To bolster their argument, activists cited Articles 25 and 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Article 25 of the UDHR declares that "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special protection."

The welfare rights advocates maintain that enforcement of time limits, restriction on food stamps and prohibition of the participation of immigrants constitute a breach of Article 25. Proceeding with their elaborate thinking, these social engineers argue that the placement of restraints on welfare benefits merely because an individual was not born in this country, or is unable to find work, is a human rights abuse.

Article 26 states that "everyone has the right to education."

In further application of their unique brand of logic, these activists contend that the U.S. is breaking international law by forcing student welfare recipients to find work rather than being allowed to freely pursue their education.

This week, the UN will be conducting a full-fledged investigation of the state of Idaho's "crimes against humanity." Officials will listen to testimony from "victims" of welfare reform. The all-important question that these compassionate global guardians will be considering is whether Idaho is violating international human rights by requiring welfare recipients to get a job.

If UN officials thought that it were necessary to explore possible human rights transgressions, the American system of social services does not seem to be the most compelling place in which to begin. After all, recent actions on the part of the UN itself have involved examples of blatant human rights abuses, including harassment, torture and even murder. Furthermore, several officials within this venerable institution have been personally involved in illicit criminal activities.

But prudence and equity have never been the UN's strong suit. Rather, it prioritizes according to its own peculiar philosophical bent. And at present, in order to protect the world, the UN believes it must focus its energy and resources on the atrocities of Idaho's welfare policy. Yes, Idaho is guilty of using that severest of approaches - the one that requires recipients of benefits to spend 20 hours a week either looking for or actually engaging in work. Beneficiaries must also abide by a lifetime limit of two years of receipt of free taxpayers' money.

When the welfare reform opponents failed to muster sufficient support to accomplish their agenda, they sought the abrogation of the welfare reform laws from the international level, safely removed from the restrictions of representative government. But when the UN goes along with such notions, it only serves to underscore the politicized, anachronistic agenda of this organization and, in the long run, hampers its ability to ever be an effective arbiter of human rights.

Rather than being motivated by the desire to protect universal human rights, UN authorities have focused their energies on furthering a narrow political agenda and blocking warranted examination of their own human rights shortcomings.

In America, we have a comprehensive list of rights. It's called the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. Now the UN is suggesting that the Founders carelessly overlooked the "right" to unlimited welfare.

Americans should ignore the rantings of a questionable international organization - one that is simply following the dictates of its ideological masters.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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