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Fw: Implications of Bush Budget for People with Disabilities

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  • alwein@juno.com
    Justice For All jfa@jfanow.org Implications of Bush Budget for People with Disabilities Young and Fay write: Last night, President Bush delivered a well-spoken
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2001
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      Justice For All


      Implications of Bush Budget for People with Disabilities

      Young and Fay write:

      Last night, President Bush delivered a well-spoken and comprehensive
      State of the Union Address. It was good to hear him recognize the
      needs of people with disabilities as he said: "My New Freedom
      Initiative for Americans with disabilities funds new technologies,
      expands opportunities to work and makes our society more welcoming.
      For the more than 50 million Americans with disabilities, we must
      continue to break down barriers to equality."

      But people with disabilities, like all Americans, should examine the
      details of the President's address and ask some tough questions.
      First and foremost, the disability community has a vested interest
      in questioning the President's math. A New York Times editorial,
      reprinted below, makes some important observations. "In his poised,
      focused and warmly received address to Congress last night," says
      the Times, "President Bush presented a vision of government as
      'active but limited, engaged but not overbearing.' It was a polished
      debut, with some eloquent flourishes that showcased Mr. Bush's
      likability, self-confidence and, above all, his determination to
      move beyond the Republicans' reflexive anti-government ideology."
      But, the editorial continues, "this balanced tone could not disguise
      the tale told by Mr. Bush's numbers. The budget that he is proposing
      is distorted by his insistence on financing a bigger tax cut than is
      needed, fair or prudent."

      Some issues and questions to think about and raise across the

      TAX CUTS

      President Bush proposes a tax cut of $1.6 Trillion, which most
      experts agree will really cost approximately $2.6 Trillion when
      hidden costs are taken into account. Although the President is
      saying that this is the amount "left over" after the government's
      expenses are fully attended to, his budget proposes cuts throughout
      federal programs to make money available for his tax cut. He does
      not dedicate as much money to paying down the debt as many Members
      of Congress would like, and in the end the Surplus may not

      The reason the debate over tax cuts is so important is the impact
      that such cuts can have for decades. In the early 1980s, President
      Reagan pursued a vigorous tax cutting agenda in part because it
      would help apply pressure to reduce government spending. In other
      words, if Congress wouldn't elect to reduce spending on its own,
      making less money available for government programs would force
      painful cuts. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Members of Congress
      from both parties were unable or unwilling to make many budget cuts
      that would have adverse consequences for the American people,
      resulting in soaring budget deficits.

      President Bush claims to be taking a different approach by first
      taking care of government programs, but this belies the reality that
      his budget depends upon holding federal agency budgets to rates that
      do not even keep policies and programs in pace with the rate of
      inflation. If Congress passes this tax cut and then, as would be
      likely, is unable to make program cuts to realize unrealistic budget
      projections (on which the surplus estimate is based), then we run
      the risk of returning to an era of budget deficits and mounting
      national debt. Once taxes are cut, as we all know, it's hard to
      ever re-instate them. And under the balanced budget framework, new
      spending cannot be approved without raising revenue or cutting other
      programs to pay for it. That leaves little room for well-deserved
      disability community priorities.

      President Bush talks about how everyone who pays income tax will get
      relief under his plan. But if financing that tax plan means
      restricting or ending programs that aid people of low or no income,
      how does the Bush administration intend to truly address the needs
      of people with disabilities, who have consistently been shown to be
      of considerably lower income and assets than the general population?


      Will the Bush Administration's emphasis on local control in public
      schools undermine the rights of students with disabilities?

      Will the prioritization on education as the single-greatest area of
      budget increase include substantial increases for special education?

      Will the promotion of standardized testing have an adverse impact on
      students with disabilities? Will reasonable accommodations be
      adequately provided?

      President Bush said in his State of the Union Address: "As standards
      rise, local schools will need more flexibility to meet them. So we
      must streamline the dozens of federal education programs into five
      and let states spend money in those categories as they see fit."
      What will happen to special education programs in this
      streamlining? Will States have more flexibility NOT to provide
      special education services, which are already inadequate?


      The President said: "My budget dedicates $238 billion to Medicare
      next year alone, enough to fund all current programs and to begin a
      new prescription drug benefit for low-income seniors."

      In recent years, Members of Congress have tried to weaken or reduce
      the levels of benefits under Medicare and Medicaid, but these
      efforts were resisted and successfully pushed back by the Clinton-
      Gore Administration. Will President Bush continue to oppose these
      weakening efforts?

      Will he also ensure that Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities
      have access to prescription drugs?

      Will a focus on prescription drugs for low-income beneficiaries
      create a NEW work disincentive by encouraging people to reduce or
      hold their income in order to remain available for a drug benefit
      linked to amount of income?

      As the President pursues privatization of Social Security, will his
      pledge to maintain the disability insurance and survivors insurance
      components be borne out? If the Social Security systems is already
      inadequate to pay current claims, how will reducing the total
      revenue going into the Social Security system be able to sustain
      benefits for people with disabilities, who are less likely to be
      able to set aside their own savings?

      As the President talks about reducing their marriage penalty, is
      there any discussion of reducing the penalty against people with
      disabilities receiving Social Security benefits?


      President Bush proposes offering tax credits so that people can
      purchase their own health insurance and be reimbursed through the
      tax code.

      How can this help people with disabilities who are unable to qualify
      for private health insurance because of pre-existing conditions or
      other circumstances?

      How can this help people with disabilities who cannot afford the
      costly private insurance premiums, especially given that the federal
      benefit will not be computed until tax time each year?

      What does this mean for people with disabilities who don't even earn
      enough income to benefit at all from tax credits?


      President Bush said: "And my budget adopts a hopeful new approach to
      help the poor and the disadvantaged. We must encourage and support
      the work of charities and faith-based and community groups that
      offer help and love one person at a time."

      Will an emphasis on charity promote "goodwill" at the expense of
      "civil rights"?

      What impact will faith-based groups -- some of which have fostered
      negative attitudes towards people with disabilities -- have on
      promoting the empowerment and independence of people with

      What about enforcement levels for civil rights, including the ADA,
      IDEA, and other disability rights laws?

      Will President Bush hold the defensive line against Congressional
      attempts to weaken ADA and IDEA (e.g. ADA Notification & Discipline


      What about the Family Opportunity Act?

      What about the MiCASSA grants?

      What about accessible housing?

      What about technology opportunities?

      What about _________________ ?

      President Bush and his Administration deserve credit for
      acknowledging people with disabilities. President Bush presented a
      well-crafted speech that said many of the right things and appeared
      to chart a bipartisan course. But people with disabilities should
      read between the lines and evaluate the Bush Administration's
      numbers. Are we about to head down a path like the one in the 1980s
      that sought to drastically reduce government spending, push people
      with disabilities off of Social Security entirely, and turn back
      civil rights protections? Write letters and editorials for your
      newspapers. Join local talk radio shows. Be "citizen
      participants," as President Bush said in his Inaugural Address, not
      "subjects." Advocate.

      The full text of the New York Times editorial follows.


      "Mr. Bush's Budget Strategy"
      The New York Times, February 28, 2001
      In his poised, focused and warmly received address to Congress last
      night, President Bush presented a vision of government as "active
      but limited, engaged but not overbearing." It was a polished debut,
      with some eloquent flourishes that showcased Mr. Bush's likability,
      self-confidence and, above all, his determination to move beyond the
      Republicans' reflexive anti-government ideology. Especially
      noteworthy was Mr. Bush's call for an end to racial profiling by the
      police. He also spoke fervently of schools that reach "every child
      in America," another of his many gestures to Democrats, minorities
      and others still skeptical of his mandate. He outlined a creative
      path between "those who want more government regardless of the cost"
      and "those who want less government, regardless of the need."
      But this balanced tone could not disguise the tale told by Mr.
      Bush's numbers. The budget that he is proposing is distorted by his
      insistence on financing a bigger tax cut than is needed, fair or
      prudent. The nation saw an amiable presentation of the most
      ideologically driven budget since Ronald Reagan's supply-side
      offering in 1981. In order to finance his tax cut, Mr. Bush would
      gamble with fiscal discipline and sacrifice flexibility on spending.
      Indeed, the polls say that Americans recognize that his tax cut is
      weighted toward the rich and that it jeopardizes the ability to pay
      down the debt, fend off deficits and finance education, retirement
      and health.
      Last night Mr. Bush did not change his tax cut proposal, but he did
      change the spin. He made it sound as if he and his budget aides had
      spent the last few weeks trying to set aside large chunks of money
      to do all the things that Americans want, and that after that
      exercise, there was "still money left over," as he said repeatedly,
      for the tax cut of the precise size he called for last year.
      But as even nonpartisan experts recognize, his $1.6 trillion cut is
      actually closer to $2.6 trillion once allowances are made for its
      retroactivity, lost debt- service savings and Congress's
      determination to change other tax laws to make Mr. Bush's package
      fully effective. That means that the $1 trillion "contingency fund"
      that Mr. Bush said he wanted to set aside for the next 10 years will
      be almost all eaten up. Mr. Bush boasted that he would use $2
      trillion for paying down the debt over 10 years. But that is far
      less than the $2.9 trillion generated by the Social Security and
      Medicare trust funds that most members of Congress want to use for
      that purpose. The underlying danger is that the president's plan
      will siphon revenues from these two big retirement trust funds to
      finance the tax cut and other selected budget items.
      Mr. Bush was right to say that continuing the big spending increases
      of the last few years could become a "dangerous road to deficits."
      But he left out the fact that the same can be said for unrestrained
      tax cuts. The Bush tax plan, coupled with big increases in
      education, defense, science research and a few other areas, in the
      context of an overall 4 percent growth rate, translates into
      significant cuts in many programs. Mr. Bush did not mention that
      last night, because to do so would have underlined the distorting
      effect of the tax cut. The tax cut has also forced him to introduce
      the dubious theory that only two-thirds of the national debt is
      "available" to be retired and the rest can be ignored for now.
      In the end, it was a stylistically impressive but substantively
      frustrating performance on a historic night when, for the first time
      since 1954, Americans saw only Republicans on the House rostrum. The
      economy is sputtering some after the longest expansion in American
      history, but the government still has significant resources. Mr.
      Bush's many declarations that government must play a role in
      improving schools, promoting a patients' bill of rights and many
      other challenges may lower the temperature of Washington's
      destructive ideological wars. Mr. Bush was right to remind
      legislators that "bipartisanship is more than minding our manners,
      it is doing our duty." In that spirit, Congress should push Mr. Bush
      toward a better-proportioned budget that would allow for prudent tax
      relief for middle-income Americans, paying down the debt,
      modernizing the military, shoring up Social Security and Medicare
      and financing schools and prescription drug benefits. Working
      together toward that goal, he and Congress could then reach the
      truly "reasonable and responsible" approach to budgeting that he
      spoke of last night.


      Jonathan Young

      Fred Fay

      Justice For All

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