Among the deepest and most cruel cuts of Washington's ongoing "sequestration" process are those to disabled children. Funds for special education – like Head Start, senior nutrition and other programs serving the most vulnerable in our society – are being slashed not for any defensible purpose but to satisfy criminal bond rating agencies.
As detailed by Sen. Tom Harkin, special education grants for young learners alone were cut this year by nearly $1 billion. Affecting critically-important early intervention, preschool and elementary education, these cuts not only put a greater burden on families and local taxpayers, but represent a further erosion of the right to public education, achieved only in the late 1970s, for students with special needs.
Disability advocates are forecasting a further $2 billion in cuts to these and similar programs, a prospect rejected by the National Education Association as "devastating".
The ugly history of austerity targeting the disabled
Long before anyone heard of the Holocaust, the Hitler regime conducted an open, documented program of genocide – the little-remembered "Action T4" program – against roughly 275,000 Germans with disabilities. Beginning with the severely disabled and deformed, the judgement "unworthy of life" soon spread to children with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and eventually to such offenses as juvenile delinquency and even bed-wetting.
While it may seem an outrageous comparison, the motivations of the Nazi regime and today's austerity ghouls – specifically Wall Street-funded members of the US Congress and Senate – are the same. For one thing, Hitler's brutal austerity policies were justified both by an ongoing economic depression and the commitment to paying Germany's unjust reparations to the victors of World War I (effectively the same international banks who today demand both open-ended taxpayer bailouts and brutal austerity). For another, this was an opportunity to carry out what elite circles have long referred to as "racial hygiene," the removal of unwanted human stock from society and the gene pool.
Today, racial hygiene largely takes place at the abortion clinic, where an estimated 90% of babies with Down Syndrome (not to mention shockingly disproportionate numbers of black and Latino babies) are aborted, which suggests to some anti-abortion advocates a hidden agenda behind the well-funded lobby for "choice". We should also not overlook the interests of Wall Street to deny expensive interventions to those with special needs, which come at the expense of insurance profits. As for those who do survive, well-bred elites have a longstanding commitment to ensure no social surplus makes its way to help them or their families achieve their potential
Unlike the 1930s, we know today that disability is not a death sentence. Just a few generations ago, doctors routinely assured parents that their disabled children had no hope of speaking, let alone independence, consigning them to lives of institutionalization and neglect.
With the hard-won rights achieved by disability advocates and self-advocates in recent decades, people with intellectual disabilities now routinely graduate high school, attend college, live independently or semi-independently, get married, have fulfilling, productive jobs, volunteer in their communities, and are a source of joy and inspiration to their families.
"The least of these"
Whether society has a duty to care for the vulnerable is a crucial question for any culture, and one which Western culture has generally affirmed. The book of Matthew (25:37-40) reads:
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
The Christian ethic of protecting the vulnerable is an affront to the Ayn Rand cult members calling themselves "Republicans," not to mention many hypocritical Wall Street-sponsored Democrats, who seem to care neither for the living nor the unborn. We accept this "survival of the fittest" mentality at our own peril. Who knows when it will be us or our family members who are hungry, sick, disabled or otherwise in need? The very purpose of a nation is mutual protection and elevation. Our ability and willingness to create equal protection, safety and opportunity for all people is the first measure of our humanity, and accepting the limited mindset of austerity debases our species.
A program to protect all Americans
We must demand not only a stop to the cuts, but fundamental reform of the economy. To support those who need our support requires adequate social surplus. In short, we need to produce real value in the physical production of commodities, manufactured goods, infrastructure and essential services, the excess of which can be shared with all people.
1. A 1% Wall Street Sales Tax
We must not forget who caused this economic depression, and we must demand to Make Wall Street Pay! Wall Street speculators saddled America with free trade, deregulation and a tsunami of worthless financial instruments that have nearly destroyed the economy. An estimated 5 quadrillion (thousand trillion) dollars in sales of financial instruments (stocks, bonds and derivatives) goes untaxed each year. A 1% tax on these transactions (the volume of which will be greatly reduced by the floodwall effect of a tax) will solve the budget crisis at all levels. Similar taxes are now effective in Italy, Hungary, France, and are being contemplated elsewhere.
2. Public financing for public needs
The private Federal Reserve – supposedly America's central bank – has open lines of credit for Wall Street and nothing for the real economy. We demand trillions in long-term, interest free credit for public infrastructure, student loans (Elizabeth Warren's "Bank On Students Loan Fairness Act"), industry, agriculture, science drivers and distressed mortgages. What is more creditworthy – an education or a credit default swap? Trillions of dollars in credit can be made available at no cost to taxpayers or the economy. What we lack is a political mobilization to bend the Fed to our will.
3. Medicare for All
Disabled people and their families are keenly aware of the cost and difficulty of obtaining medical insurance. While Obamacare purports to provide access to insurance, that insurance comes with no guarantee of affordability. With this new law as a foothold, we must fight for what President Obama didn't – Medicare for All. By eliminating the costs of corporate profit, underwriting, advertising and other expenses of the for-profit health insurance industry, we can dramatically cut the cost of insurance and guarantee affordable, universal access.
Join the United Front Against Austerity
Are you concerned about someone you love who will be effected by cuts to special education budgets? Don't count on the Democrats (and certainly not the Republicans) to come to your rescue. Now is the time for all persons of good will to unite – not just behind a vocal objection to austerity, but behind a New Deal for the American economy. By winning the fight to restore industry, family farms, public credit and other American traditions, we will have created the bounty we need to provide the services and opportunities our loved ones deserve, and the character our humanity demands of us. Please join us at http://againstausterity.org and http://facebook.com/unitedfrontagainstausterity.