In anticipation of a Senate vote on a United Nations treaty that seeks to promote equal rights for people with disabilities, conservative media have revived the debunked myth that the treaty threatens U.S. sovereignty.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets global standards for the treatment of people with disabilities, asking signatories to "ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability." More than 120 nations have ratified the treaty, and though the United States signed it in 2009 and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved it, the Senate has been unable to obtain the required number of votes to push it through. A Senate vote is scheduled to take place today.
Conservative media claim that signing the treaty would require the United States to alter its laws to meet these standards. Writing at National Review Online, the National Review Institute's Betsy Woodruff claimed that the treaty "could potentially undermine American sovereignty" and said it would be "self-abasing" for the U.S. "to comply with the treaty." Similarly, at the Daily Caller, Walter Olson of the Cato Institute equated signing the treaty with "sign[ing] away our national sovereignty on questions of how best to accommodate the disabled."
However, these claims are baseless, as U.S. law already meets the standards the treaty requests. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) "prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications." If a law, policy, or program is found to be discriminatory, the government has the power, through the Department of Justice, to enforce the ADA on both a private and public level. Thus signing the treaty would merely reaffirm the U.S. commitment to equal rights.
Both the Washington Post and The New York Times threw cold water on this fearmongering. The Post noted that the treaty "would not require the United States to change its laws." The Times further reported:
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved [the treaty] last July in a bipartisan vote, 13-6, while also passing a resolution to clarify, in case anybody was worried, that the United States would surrender none of its sovereign authority by joining the convention. The treaty would have no power to alter or overrule United States law, and any recommendations that emerge from it would not be binding on state or federal governments or in any state or federal court.
The baseless argument that the treaty threatens U.S. sovereignty is not new. In September, The Washington Times published an editorial warning that the "United States could soon find itself taking orders from international bureaucrats on how to treat people with disabilities."
Right-wing media figures are urging Republicans to refuse to compromise on budget and taxes, action that would induce automatic government budget cuts and broad tax increases and herald another recession. But economists agree that a budget deal needs to include some tax increases, which would significantly raise revenue, and that more revenue must be part of a balanced solution to lowering the deficit.
As part of its ongoing effort to fight tax increases on the wealthy, Fox News figures have suggested that ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy wouldn't affect the deficit because that money would only run the government for eight and a half days. But economists agree that ending these tax cuts would raise a significant amount of revenue and that more tax revenue must be part of balanced approach to reducing the deficit.
Fox attacked unions over the liquidation of Hostess Brands after negotiations with its bakers union failed, but Fox ignored the fact that the company faced myriad financial problems. Similarly, Fox attacked Wal-Mart employees for striking, but failed to acknowledge the workers' concerns. Fox has run a long-standing campaign against unions.
Fox hosted serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey to push false and misleading claims about health care reform, following announcements from some Republican governors that they have decided not to create state-run health insurance exchanges.
Fox News tried to undermine President Obama's tax plan by pushing six debunked tax myths in advance of negotiations on how to avoid a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts. In reality, Obama's proposal to let tax cuts for wealthy Americans expire will grow the economy and is supported by a majority of Americans.
Fox News is distorting Sen. John Kerry's record in an attempt to discredit his possible nomination as Defense secretary. But Fox's criticism is based on the misleading and false claims of a disgraced 2004 Swift Boat campaign against Kerry and on the misrepresentation of past Kerry remarks.
Fox's Bret Baier misleadingly cited recent polling to falsely imply Americans are evenly split on whether income taxes should be raised for the wealthy. In fact, 60 percent of voters support some form of increase in income taxes.
During a report on Friday previewing President Obama's speech on the economy and his administration's plan to work with Congress on solving the fiscal crisis, Baier suggested Obama would argue that the election "sent a message" that Americans "are for this balanced approach, to have the wealthy pay their fair share."
Baier then cited election-night polls that he said did not show "a definitive answer" as to how voters feel about raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 -- which is part of Obama's solution to the economic crisis. Baier stated: "On the question of -- on income tax rates, you have 47 percent wanting an increase for only those above $250,000, 35 percent no increase, on tax increases, and 13 percent for increase for all." He concluded: "So basically, 47 percent want 250,000, or above and 48 percent don't raise them at all or raise them for everyone."
He concluded: "So, you know, if you look at the exit polls, there's not really a definitive answer."
Fox is criticizing the Obama administration's Hurricane Sandy relief efforts by comparing them to the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. In fact, there are few similarities between the responses, and the Obama administration's response to Sandy has been widely praised by members of both parties.
Fox News revealed its closing argument against President Obama, which consisted of a falsehood-laden attack on the president's record.