Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More Ways for Bush to Defend Disabled Rights

From American Progress....

President Bush said that he intervened in the Terri Schiavo case because he believes in "defending life for all Americans, including those with disabilities." Unfortunately, the president's words don't match his policies. As the Schiavo case is being considered by the federal courts, President Bush has an opportunity to show his commitment to "defending life" by reconsidering his record on assisting the vulnerable.

Eliminating health care for the poor. President Bush and right-wing congressional leaders recently sought to significantly cut funding for Medicaid and the related State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Bush's 2006 budget slashes funding for the programs – which provide vital health coverage to 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 4 children – by more than $20 billion over five years.

Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) said of Bush's proposed Medicaid cuts: "[P]eople need to remember that to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don't pull feeding tubes from people. You don't pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy."

Leaving the disabled on the street. President Bush's statement about the intervention in the Schiavo case implies that he is somehow a champion for the well-being of the disabled. Not quite. The president's recent budget proposes "to stop financing the construction of new housing for the mentally ill and physically handicapped," according to the New York Times. The program has existed for three decades.

Exposing children to toxic mercury. Mercury is known to directly harm the nervous systems of children causing birth defects and other maladies. Currently, 600,000 babies born in the U.S. every year may be exposed to excessive levels of mercury. Yet, the Bush administration recently issued rules which would allow some power plants to "increase [mercury] pollution, while others turn a profit selling unused pollution allowances," according to AP.

The new "cap-and-trade" policy rolls back a plan created by the EPA in 2000 which "would have mandated curtailing emissions at every plant by the maximum amount possible, which proponents said could bring a 90% reduction in three years using existing technology," according to the LA Times.

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