President Obama’s decision to create a commission on how to cut so-called entitlement programs is ominous news for millions of people with disabilities.

In January, the Senate rejected legislation endorsed by Obama that would have created such a commission.

So in his State of the Union address, the president said he would create a similar “bipartisan fiscal commission” by executive order. Obama stated that his commission will be “modeled” on the one rejected by the Senate.

If his commission is anything like the one that was in the Senate bill, it would pose a serious threat to people with disabilities, seniors and others who rely on programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Here’s how the Senate bill would have worked: If 14 of the 18 members appointed to the commission agreed on recommendations, those recommendations would have been submitted to Congress after the Nov. 2 midterm elections. The bill would have required Congress to rush through the legislative process and vote by Dec. 23 on whether or not to make all the recommended changes law. What’s worse, no amendments would have been allowed. (Both the Senate and the House would have had to pass the bill by a three-fifths majority.)

I have no doubt the commission’s recommendations would have included some harsh cuts in many vital support programs. Already, the House and Senate health care bills have proposed large Medicare spending cuts. And Republicans are clamoring for more cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Reducing the federal deficit is not as important as providing for the basic necessities for retired people or poor people with disabilities. Plus, there are other places to cut, such as the Pentagon and corporate welfare.

But the president seems bent on extracting more sacrifices from the elderly and the poorest disabled Americans.

The president spent a lot of time in his State of the Union speech telling middle class Americans how much he understands the pain being inflicted upon them by this dreadful economy. But people on fixed incomes are hurting, too. And they will hurt a lot more if the president uses his commission to justify slashing programs that are lifelines for millions of Americans.

Mike Ervin is a Chicago-based writer and a disability-rights activist with ADAPT ( He can be reached at

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

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