For immediate release: August 13, 2000 Page one of three
DISABLED AMERICANS FOR A FAIR AND JUST ECONOMY
Members of the disability community join with other groups in protests at the Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles to demand a fair and just economy. We will join the mass march PUT PEOPLE BEFORE PROFITS on August 14 at 4:00 p.m. starting at Pershing Square and we will joint Wages for Workers march on Tuesday, August 15 at 9:30 also starting in Pershing Square.
WHY PROTEST??? The new economy has not delivered for the vast majority of Americans. NEW ECONOMY SHAFT$ DISABLED
A few facts: Census Bureau data show the poverty rate for people with no disability to be 13.5 percent compared to a poverty rate of 20.2 percent for those with disabilities. The 1998 National Organization on Disability (NOD)/Louis Harris Survey, found that fully a third (34 percent) of adults with disabilities live in a household with an annual income of less than $15,000 compared to one in eight (12 percent) of those without disabilities - a 22 point gap. Poverty deepens for those on disability benefits. Workers with disabilities holding part time jobs (disabled persons are more likely to work part time) earned on average only 72.4 percent of the amount nondisabled workers earned annually. Such wage differentials were observed for disabled persons working full time. Median monthly income for people with work disabilities averaged about $1,511 and $1880 in 1995 - as much as 20 percent less than the $1,737 to $2,356 earned by their counterparts without disabilities. Disabled persons are chronically unemployed. The 1998 NOD/Harris Survey found that among working age adults with disabilities (18 to 64), three out of ten (29 percent) work full or part-time compared to eight of ten (79 percent) of those without disabilities, a gap of fifty percentage points. The unemployment rate for disabled people remains much higher than for the population as a whole, with only one-quarter of persons with severe disabilities working. The overall combined (severe and nonsevere) disabled unemployment rate is 65-71 percent. Among disabled people who are not employed, 79 percent of working age disabled persons report that they would prefer to work. Disabled persons are less likely to have a job than people with no disability. For those ages 21 to 64 with no disability the likelihood of having a job is 82.1 percent. For people between ages 21 and 64 with a non-severe disability, the rate is 76.9 percent; the rate drops to 26.1 percent for those with a significant disability.
LACK OF AFFORDABLE ACCESSIBLE HOUSING People on SSI are paying almost 40 percent of their income for housing due to the new HUD voucher program which has allowed landlords to take more from our checks. Less public housing is available and many complexes are being turned into for-profit ventures.
David Howell: I cant find an accessible place to live in LA. The minute I say I have a disability, landlords dont want to rent to me. The Balanced Budget Agreement of 1997 included a clause which said senior pubic housing no longer has to be made available to young disabled adults. Many of us are ending up homeless or in substandard housing.
NURSING HOME INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX STILL ENTRENCHED As with the prison industrial complex, there is money to be made segregating disabled persons from the community and incarcerating them in institutions. Disabled people are worth more to the Gross Domestic Product when we occupy a bed in an institution, instead of a home. Public policy is biased towards profiteering nursing homes. We must reverse this state of affairs by making the passage of MiCASSA a priority in the congress.
Audrey Harthorn says Inherent in a democratic society must be the freedom to choose where to live. Institutional care is driven by profit not dignity of quality of life.
CIVIL RIGHTS POORLY ENFORCED Ruthanne Shpiner says In 1990, the ADA mandated inclusion of disabled persons. In Y2000 our jobs and livelihood remain jeopardized by inaccessible public transportation due to the failure of government to enforce transportation regulations.
WHATS SO NEW ABOUT IT? The U.S. remains the richest, most influential country in the world but has the greatest wealth and poverty polarization of any first world nation. Disparities between Americans of different means remain wider today than at any time since the end of World War II. The income gap is greater than at any time since the Great Depression, U.S. income distribution has become increasingly more unequal for almost thirty uninterrupted years, and wealth inequality has grown greater in the 1990s. During the economic recovery (between 1989 and 1997), the share of wealth held by the top 1 percent of U.S. households grew from 37.4 percent of the national total to 39.1 percent. Over the same period, the share of all wealth held by families in the middle fifth of the population fell from 4.8 percent to 4.4 percent.
Uncritical glowing reports of the strong new economy conceal the fact that between 20 and 30 million Americans suffer from hunger, that hunger has increased by 50 percent since 1985, and that over 40 percent of those being served in soup kitchens are working poor or those who work but do not earn enough to pay for food. Such rhetoric eclipses the U.S. Census Bureaus findings that in 1995, about 49 million people, one in five, lived in a household whose members had difficulty satisfying basic needs. These households didn't make mortgage or rent payments, failed to pay utility bills and/or had service shut off, didn't get enough to eat, needed to see a doctor or dentist but didn't or otherwise could not meet essential expenses.
The strong new economy has delivered for capital, which has grown by leaps and bounds. Corporations and investors are making record profits. The stock market rose, for example, by a staggering 60 percent in 1995 and 1996 alone. But the contrast between the advances of capital and the material reality of most working Americans is striking. Over the past twenty years, real wages have fallen for 60 percent of the work force. Seven years into the recovery, the inflation-adjusted earnings of the median worker in 1997 were 3.1 percent lower than in 1989. Over the same recovery period, real hourly wages stagnated or fell for the bottom 60 percent of workers, except for low-wage workers, whose wages rose 1.4 percent during that time the worst performance since the Great Depression. The typical family now works six weeks more per year to keep pace, yet the median American family income was only slightly higher ($285) than it was at the peak of the last business cycle in 1989. Meanwhile, CEOs have seen their incomes skyrocket. In 1965, the average CEO made 20 times more than the average production worker; by 1989, the ratio had almost tripled to 56. By 1997, CEO pay had more than doubled again to 116 times the pay of the average worker. Salary, bonus and returns from stock plans of the average CEO grew 100 percent between 1989 and 1997.
Marta Russell says Neither the Republicans nor the neoliberals in control of the Democratic Party are addressing the root causes of inequality and poverty, rather they are covering up reality with all this rhetoric about a new economy. The new economy may have delivered for the top five percent of the population but it is busy ousting the poorest of the poor. There is little wealth sharing going on. During a record breaking economic expansion, the disabled unemployment rate remains stuck at about 70 percent and the disabled poverty rate hasnt diminished. We still dont have universal health care. People in most countries would call it obscene that in the richest nation in the world over 41 million go without health insurance. Government has cut major public programs, People have lost their entitlement to a semblance of economic security. Looks like the same old capitalism with both political parties dancing to the same tune.
CONTACTS: MARTA RUSSELL 818 784-5315 OR 818 907-9154 AP888 at LAFN.ORG AUDREY HARTHORN 818 901-9537 DAVID HOWELL 818 894-9261 ROOM 122
-- Marta Russell author Los Angeles, CA Beyond Ramps: Disability at the End of the Social Contract http://www.commoncouragepress.com/russell_ramps.html