Disabled join protests

Marta Russell ap888 at SPAMlafn.org
Mon Aug 14 11:03:14 MDT 2000

For immediate release:      August 13, 2000
Page one of three


Members of the disability community join with other groups in protests at
the Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles to demand a fair and just
economy.  We will join the mass march “PUT PEOPLE BEFORE PROFITS” on August
14 at 4:00 p.m. starting at Pershing Square and we will join “Wages for
Workers” march on Tuesday, August 15 at 9:30 also starting in Pershing

The “new” economy has not delivered for the vast majority of Americans.

A few facts:
• Census Bureau data show the poverty rate for people with no disability to
be 13.5 percent compared to a poverty rate of 20.2 percent for those with
disabilities.  The 1998 National Organization on Disability (NOD)/Louis
Harris Survey, found that fully a third (34 percent) of adults with
disabilities live in a household with an annual income of less than $15,000
compared to one in eight (12 percent) of those without disabilities - a 22
point gap.  Poverty deepens for those on disability benefits.
• Workers with disabilities holding part time jobs (disabled persons are
more likely to work part time) earned on average only 72.4 percent of the
amount nondisabled workers earned annually.  Such wage differentials were
observed for disabled persons working full time.  Median monthly income for
people with work disabilities averaged about $1,511 and $1880 in 1995 - as
much as 20 percent less than the $1,737 to $2,356 earned by their
counterparts without disabilities.
• Disabled persons are chronically unemployed.  The 1998 NOD/Harris Survey
found that among working age adults with disabilities (18 to 64), three out
of ten (29 percent) work full or part-time compared to eight of ten (79
percent) of those without disabilities, a gap of fifty percentage points.
• The unemployment rate for disabled people remains much higher than for
the population as a whole, with only one-quarter of persons with severe
disabilities working.  The overall combined (severe and nonsevere) disabled
unemployment rate is 65-71 percent.  Among disabled people who are not
employed, 79 percent of working age disabled persons report that they would
prefer to work.  Disabled persons are less likely to have a job than people
with no disability.  For those ages 21 to 64 with no disability the
likelihood of having a job is 82.1 percent.  For people between ages 21 and
64 with a non-severe disability, the rate is 76.9 percent; the rate drops
to 26.1 percent for those with a significant disability.

People on SSI are paying almost 40 percent of their income for housing due
to the new HUD voucher program which has allowed landlords to take more
from our checks.  Less public housing is available and many complexes are
being turned into for-profit ventures.
 David Howell: I can’t find an accessible place to live in LA. The minute I
say I have a disability, landlords don’t want to rent to me.  The Balanced
Budget Agreement of 1997 included a clause which said senior public housing
no longer has to be made available to young disabled adults. Many of us are
ending up homeless or in substandard housing.”

As with the prison industrial complex, there is money to be made
segregating disabled persons from the community and incarcerating them in
institutions.  Disabled people are worth more to the Gross Domestic Product
when we occupy a “bed” in an institution, instead of a home.  Public policy
is biased towards profiteering nursing homes.  We must reverse this state
of affairs by making the passage of MiCASSA a priority in the congress.
 Audrey Harthorn says “Inherent in a democratic society must be the freedom
to choose where to live.  Institutional care is driven by profit not
dignity of quality of life.”

Ruthanne Shpiner says  “In 1990, the ADA mandated inclusion of disabled
persons.  In Y2000 our jobs and livelihood remain jeopardized by
inaccessible public transportation due to the failure of government to
enforce transportation regulations.”

The U.S. remains the richest, most influential country in the world but has
the greatest wealth and poverty polarization of any “first world” nation.
Disparities between Americans of different means remain wider today than at
any time since the end of World War II.  The income gap is greater than at
any time since the Great Depression,  U.S. income distribution has become
increasingly more unequal for almost thirty uninterrupted years, and wealth
inequality has grown greater in the 1990s. During the economic recovery
(between 1989 and 1997), the share of wealth held by the top 1 percent of
U.S. households grew from 37.4 percent of the national total to 39.1
percent.  Over the same period, the share of all wealth held by families in
the middle fifth of the population fell from 4.8 percent to 4.4 percent.
 Uncritical glowing reports of the strong new economy conceal the fact that
between 20 and 30 million Americans suffer from hunger, that hunger has
increased by 50 percent since 1985,  and that over 40 percent of those
being served in soup kitchens are working poor or those who work but do not
earn enough to pay for food.  Such rhetoric eclipses the U.S. Census
Bureau’s findings that in 1995, about 49 million people, one in five, lived
in a household whose members had difficulty satisfying basic needs. These
households didn't make mortgage or rent payments, failed to pay utility
bills and/or had service shut off, didn't get enough to eat, needed to see
a doctor or dentist but didn't or otherwise could not meet essential
 The strong new economy has delivered for capital, which has grown by leaps
and bounds. Corporations and investors are making record profits. The stock
market rose, for example, by a staggering 60 percent in 1995 and 1996
alone. But the contrast between the advances of capital and the material
reality of most working Americans is striking. Over the past twenty years,
real wages have fallen for 60 percent of the work force. Seven years into
the recovery, the inflation-adjusted earnings of the median worker in 1997
were 3.1 percent lower than in 1989. Over the same “recovery” period, real
hourly wages stagnated or fell for the bottom 60 percent of workers, except
for low-wage workers, whose wages rose 1.4 percent during that time the
worst performance since the Great Depression. The typical family now works
six weeks more per year to keep pace, yet the median American family income
was only slightly higher ($285) than it was at the peak of the last
business cycle in 1989. Meanwhile, CEOs have seen their incomes skyrocket.
In 1965, the average CEO made 20 times more than the average production
worker; by 1989, the ratio had almost tripled to 56. By 1997, CEO pay had
more than doubled again to 116 times the pay of the average worker.
Salary, bonus and returns from stock plans of the average CEO grew 100
percent between 1989 and 1997.

Marta Russell says  “Neither the Republicans nor the neoliberals in control
of the Democratic Party are addressing the root causes of inequality and
poverty, rather they are covering up reality with all this rhetoric about a
“new” economy.   The “new” economy may have delivered for the top five
percent of the population but it is busy ousting the poorest of the poor.
There is little wealth sharing going on.  During a record breaking economic
expansion, the disabled unemployment rate remains stuck at about 70 percent
and the disabled poverty rate hasn’t diminished.  We still don’t have
universal health care.  People in most countries would call it obscene that
in the richest nation in the world over 41 million go without health
insurance.  Government has cut major public programs,  People have lost
their entitlement to a semblance of economic security.  Looks like the same
old capitalism with both political parties dancing to the same tune. ”

MARTA RUSSELL  818 784-5315 OR 818 907-9154  AP888 at LAFN.ORG
AUDREY HARTHORN 818 901-9537
DAVID HOWELL 818 894-9261 ROOM 122

Marta Russell
Los Angeles, CA
Beyond Ramps: Disability at the End of the Social Contract

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