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A Cruel Attack on the Disabled

You might have missed it amid the impeachment coverage, but the Trump administration has recently rolled out plans for draconian cuts to everything from Medicaid to school lunches.

Latest on the chopping block? Social Security disability payments.

Cuts to the social safety net are often justified for budgetary reasons, but I find that hard to swallow while Amazon is still paying $0 in federal taxes. If the budget is the problem, then the wealthiest corporations should pay their taxes.

If the administration won’t see to that, then it’s not about the budget at all — it’s about cruelty.

If anything, disability programs aren’t generous enough.

I’ve lived my entire adult life with a disability. I had a migraine every day for 23 years. Yet I’m not eligible for either federal disability program — Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Even though I was in severe chronic pain and struggling financially, I was not entirely incapable of work — although holding down a 9-5 job exacerbated my pain. The thing is, there’s no provision for partial disability; if you apply for disability, it is because you cannot work at all.

Second, the process for getting disability benefits is notoriously long and grueling. Disabled friends who have done it say you can expect to be denied your first time, and you might go through years of appeals.

Third, being on disability means living in poverty. The payments are small. There’s no thrill of free money. If you can work, you’re better off working.

The people I know who are on disability all tried and tried and tried to work first. In some cases it was a matter of personal pride and self-worth. It does not feel good to admit to yourself that you cannot work and you need public assistance. By the time someone ends up on SSDI or SSI, they have no other choice.

These are the people Trump is targeting with his latest proposal, which stems from the false idea that disabled people are defrauding taxpayers by receiving benefits when they could actually just go get jobs.

Rehashing a Reagan-era disaster, Trump’s version will require some people with disabilities that won’t get better to re-qualify for benefits every two years based on another false assumption that their medical conditions are likely to improve.

Trump’s proposal won’t even save taxpayers any money — it’s expected to cost about as much to administer as it will save by denying benefits to the disabled. It is, expected, however, to cause thousands of people to lose benefits simply for not keeping up with the complicated paperwork.

Reagan’s version took benefits away from tens of thousands of disabled people who needed them. It was overwhelmingly overturned a few years later.

Do we expect this version to work out differently? And why are disabled people today getting stripped of benefits, for no net taxpayer savings at all, while Amazon still pays no taxes?

Our economic outlooks are tied to one another. When the poor have money in their pockets, they spend it. That creates jobs and profits businesses. Social safety net programs are also an economic stimulus, in addition to a moral imperative.

There are a number of reasons, both altruistic and selfish, to keep our social safety net in place — and none to dismantle it besides cruelty.

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