Tax deal hurts elderly and disabled

The biggest losers in the deals over tax cuts and stimulus payments are people with disabilities and older Americans who rely on Social Security.

While Republicans were passionately defending the super wealthy and Democrats were passionately defending the middle class, legislation providing a one-time $250 payment to about 54 million Social Security recipients failed to advance, mostly because nearly every Republican in the House and Senate voted against it.

To add insult to injury, the deal struck between President Obama and Republicans calls for a one-year Social Security payroll tax holiday, which further threatens the future solvency of the system.

About 70 percent of people with disabilities rely on Social Security for half or more of their income. The economic crisis has hit them especially hard. Social Security recipients will not receive a cost of living raise in 2011 for the second consecutive year. The $250 payment, proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), was intended to keep them from falling further behind as their expenses continue to rise.

Republicans went to the wall to ensure that the wealthiest receive breaks on their income and estate taxes.

President Obama went to the wall to ensure that the middle class receives tax breaks and that the unemployed get their payments extended.

But none of this will help people who can’t live without their monthly Social Security checks. The $250 would have been their economic stimulus.

President Obama said he supported the idea, but he didn’t fight for it with anywhere near the conviction he fought for the assistance to the middle class and the unemployed. He should have insisted that the $250 payment be a part of any compromise, no matter how intransigent the Republicans appeared.

The President and Congress are neglecting the needs of elderly Americans and those of us with disabilities.

We were cut out of the deal. And that’s a disgrace.

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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