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The Impending Fiscal Cliff and People with Disabilities

  • Synopsis: Published: 2012-12-05 - The consequences of the fiscal cliff in relation to People with Disabilities can grow to be rather complicated - Disabled World.
Fiscal Cliff
Fiscal Cliff - defines "Fiscal Cliff" as a combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board government spending cuts scheduled to become effective Dec. 31, 2012. The idea behind the fiscal cliff was that if the federal government allowed these two events to proceed as planned, they would have a detrimental effect on an already shaky economy, perhaps sending it back into an official recession as it cut household incomes, increased unemployment rates and undermined consumer and investor confidence. At the same time, it was predicted that going over the fiscal cliff would significantly reduce the federal budget deficit.

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Explaining all of the consequences of the, 'fiscal cliff,' in relation to People with Disabilities can grow to be rather complicated. Basically, the fiscal cliff is a losing scenario for everyone involved set up by Congress, which is unable to compromise on a federal budget. Taxes will increase for people from all income groups while Medicare, the Department of Defense, and around a thousand other government programs will experience a reduction in their budgets of more than 8% or more. People who prefer a smaller form of government, at least philosophically, many times refer to social programs such as Medicare and Social Security as, "entitlements."

The term, 'entitlements,' is one that carries rather negative implications for people who benefit from these programs. In a press release produced by The Arc concerning the White House and a gathering between them, it was recognized that Medicaid is essential for people who experience forms of disabilities in America. Medicaid is a lifeline that keeps people with disabilities from truly horrible alternatives such as institutionalization and loss of independence. The program preserves what everyone in America has worked for as a nation over the last six decades - to bring people with disabilities into society at large.

Media sources in the nation have been producing articles about the impact of the fiscal cliff and the resulting woes it would have on various communities, to include the Disability Community. Some have stated that children with disabilities will be affected the most when funding from the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) is cut from school budgets. The mandatory cuts in spending related to defense are viewed as an offset to reductions in social programs that will assist in bringing about a bipartisan compromise. The $55 billion decrease in the Pentagon's 2013 budget would primarily eliminate the exact projects that are most suited for people with disabilities, to include services contracted and provided through AbilityOne, which employs people with disabilities in operations and maintenance jobs at military bases throughout America.

CEO of The Arc, Peter Berns, participated in a meeting with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior economic advisers about the President's goal of stopping middle class tax increases while raising revenues to help with investing in America and reducing the deficit. The discussion revolved around the urgency of passing a plan to avoid raising taxes on the middle class and raising revenues to finance the federal government without the need for drastic cuts to programs for people who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities and other groups who rely on housing, education, and employment supports. The cuts are scheduled to take place on the first of the year, along with the expiration of a number of tax provisions. Lacking a deal this year, The Arc is highly concerned about the future of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, as well as Social Security and Medicare. Berns stated:

"I think everyone agrees that raising taxes on the middle class will hurt families, and that it would be particularly troubling to those that have a loved one with I/DD (intellectual or developmental disabilities). These families report that they already don't have the money they need for the care and support their loved ones need to live a decent life in the community. What will they do if they suddenly have a bigger tax bill come January 1st" Berns said.

Berns also said he welcomes the President's framework for the generation of revenues and the protection of families that are low income. Berns believes programs including Medicaid, Medicare, SSI and Social Security as a whole - which are lifetime programs for people who experience forms of disabilities, should not be at risk in budget negotiations. The approach from President Obama would help to keep America's commitment to People with Disabilities as a population.

The Arc has been on the front lines of recent budget battles. The organization's goal is to protect Medicaid, SSI, Social Security, and Medicare from budget cuts. While America is facing a January 1st, 2013 deadline referred to as the, 'fiscal cliff,' The Arc has been urging Congress to restore cuts that are scheduled in non-defense discretionary programs and find other ways, particularly though increasing revenues included in President Obama's plan, to move America forward financially. The effort is crucial where protecting people who rely on Medicaid, SSI, Social Security, and Medicare and the crucial services and supports these programs provide are concerned.

Berns went on to state, "We can't afford to not protect Medicaid. Medicaid is the lifeline keeping people with disabilities from unfathomable alternatives - like being institutionalized and losing their independence - and preserving all that we have worked for as a nation over the last 60 years to bring people with disabilities out of the shadows and into society." Berns was joined at the White House by:

  • Barry Rand - AARP
  • Ben Jealous - NAACP
  • Rev. Jim Wallis - Sojourners
  • Aaron Smith - Young Invincibles
  • Marc Morial - National Urban League
  • Sister Simone Campbell - NETWORK
  • Chad Griffin - Human Rights Campaign
  • Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner -
  • Janet Murguia - National Council of La Raza
  • Rev. Al Sharpton - National Action Network
  • Deepa Iyer - National Council of Asian Pacific Americans
  • Wade Henderson - Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to include autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, and additional forms of disabilities. The Arc has a network of greater than 700 chapters across America that promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports the full participation and inclusion of this population throughout their lifetimes and without regard to their particular form of diagnosis.

Fiscal Cliff

Washington is headed immediately into the fiscal showdown, with fierce pressure to use the so-called "fiscal cliff," which would automatically trigger massive spending cuts and tax increases on January 1, 2013, to force a grand bargain.

When Voter Suppression Actually Works To Get Out The Vote

An exit poll commissioned by the AFL-CIO shows that by a margin of 64% to 17%, voters want to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and want the deficit lowered by increasing taxes on the rich rather than by cutting entitlements.

Over the Fiscal Cliff for "Those People"

...decades ago, Congress decided that anyone who worked for ten years, and his or her spouse, deserved a basic level of health insurance." But that's not quite true!

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