By Anonymous (not verified) on November 03, 2009

Hard economic times are even harder when you have a disability. But poverty and disability don’t have to be synonymous — if we design our policies well.

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (a Washington, D.C.-based think tank) entitled “Half in Ten” states that almost 50 percent of working-age adults who experience poverty for at least a 12-month period have one or more disabilities.

People with disabilities, the report says, account for a larger share of those experiencing poverty than people in all other minority, ethnic and racial groups combined and are even a larger group than single parents.

The extra costs associated with living with a disability — such as purchasing expensive equipment like wheelchairs and catheters or obtaining specialized medical attention — keep many disabled people and their families in poverty, the report notes.

The report also astutely observes that direct care workers who assist people with disabilities in their homes and communities are often themselves in poverty. The median income for the 3 million direct care workers in the United States is only $17,000 a year, the report says.

Fortunately, there are several steps we can take to ensure that disability doesn’t spell poverty.

The first step is universal health care. The report stresses “the fundamental importance of health care reform, especially the provision of universal coverage, to anti-poverty efforts.” The lack of good health insurance, the report says, “is one of the most significant drivers of income poverty and severe disadvantage.”

Another important step is for the United States to adopt “the kinds of paid-sick-day and paid-sick-leave policies that are already in place in all other similarly wealthy nations.” At least 40 percent of private sector workers in the United States have no paid sick days or leave, the report says.

Third, we should ease the ridiculously harsh restrictions on assets and earnings imposed on those receiving Social Security Disability Income. The current Social Security policy basically requires you to impoverish yourself before you can get disability aid from the government.

And, fourth, we should pay a decent wage to the health care providers who do such a superb job in tending to the needs of the disabled.

It’s clear that the current economic hardship is being made much worse for many people than it needs to be due to the disregard politicians and policymakers have for the well-being of Americans with disabilities and those who work in providing them with assistance.

It’s time for that to change.

Mike Ervin is a Chicago-based writer and a disability-rights activist with ADAPT (www.adapt.org). He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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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).

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