ACTION ITEMS (EXECUTIVE):
• Please make calls NOW to oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos by calling and writing to Republicans in the Senate, especially those on the HELP Committee. [help.senate.gov] The Committee is being pressed to hear witnesses and question DeVos further. Here are their names and phone and fax numbers:
Talking points: We need a Secretary of Education who understands what is wrong and right with public education and wants to fix it. Betsy DeVos supports privatizing education with virtually no oversight. She does not understand the laws she would be required to enforce, and did not even know enough about them to prepare to answer questions for hearing. Please question her further, call witnesses, and vote ‘no’ on her nomination. Why? DeVos does not seem familiar with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and thinks that special education is best handled by states. [source] She supports a radical version of “school choice” — letting parents direct government money to public or private schools, including religious and for-profit schools and schools that are not designed for “troubled” students. She has opposed oversight and transparency measures for publicly funded privately run programs. She thinks it is a problem that public schools rather than “the church” have become the center of communities. The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates has written expressing concerns and seeking evidence that DeVos is committed to lawfully educating students with disabilities. [source] Following her confirmation hearing, the California Association for Parent-Child Advocacy wrote to oppose her nomination. Click here to download a pdf of our letter.
• Oppose nomination of US Representative Tom Price, MD as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price has long supported eliminating Medicaid and Medicare as insurance programs covering specified benefits for all eligible people. He has proposed privatizing schemes which would make states responsible for protecting their most vulnerable people — something many have made clear they will not do. Call Senate Republicans, especially members of the HELP and Finance Committees, and say something like this: “Please vote against confirming Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services. This job should not be held by someone who has devoted his career to cutting back on access to health care, while making money by trading stocks his colleagues tell him about. His answers to questions were evasive, but it is clear from his whole career that even if Trump wants to extend health care access, Price doesn’t. Please turn down this nomination and ask the president to nominate someone who wants to help him keep his promises to the American people.” Here are their names and phone and fax numbers:
• Call Republicans, especially members of the Environment and Public Works Committee [epw.senate.gov], and ask them to reject the nomination of Scott Pruitt for EPA Administrator. You can say something like this: “I am calling to ask you to oppose the nomination of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator. I am calling as a person who is concerned about disability rights who does not want our country to create unnecessary disabilities and aggravate health problems by making our air and water dirtier. Please stop this nomination. President Trump promised to drain the swamp: putting someone who cares about the most polluting companies in Oklahoma and doesn’t care about the people of Oklahoma should not move onto the national stage.”
Trump on Disability Concerns in His Own Words and Actions
Donald Trump’s campaign website said nothing specific about disability issues. The closest things were these: In the Education section, he claimed that Hillary Clinton was repeating the “union misinformation” that “Most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to- teach kids and don’t serve all students, unlike traditional public schools.” Unfortunately, this is not “union misinformation.” Whatever role public charter schools could or should play, it is an unfortunate fact that far too many of them have resisted stepping up to serve students with significant disabilities. [source] The Economy section on Trump’s campaign website said nothing specific about people with disabilities, but pledged to “embrace the truth that people flourish under a minimum government burden” to “tap into the incredible unrealized potential of our workers and their dreams.” His White House team took down the Obama Administration’s website material on disability programs and rights, without putting anything else in its place. “Burdens” like the Americans with Disabilities Act have opened economic opportunities for people with disabilities. Trump has repeatedly been sued for violating the ADA, and says the money his companies spend to make buildings accessible reflects his “love” for people with disabilities. [source] [source] [source] [source] The health section of Trump’s campaign website said nothing specific about people with disabilities, but called for “repeal[ing] and replac[ing] Obamacare with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).” That does not work for people who cannot save to meet extraordinarily costly medical needs: dealing with risks is what insurance is for. Donald Trump indicated that he would “put the job-killing regulation industry out of business,” rescinding air and water pollution regulations and increasing exposure to toxins which cause, among other things, illnesses and disabilities. donaldjtrump.com
Since being elected, Trump has requested confirmation as Secretary of Education of Betsy DeVos, who does not appear to know or care that federal law governs education of students with disabilities. For Health and Human Services, he has named a far-right Republican Congressman, Tom Price, who makes concrete promises to repeal Obamacare and suggested letting states take care of people with pre-existing conditions, including disabilities. For the Environmental Protection Agency, he has appointed Scott Pruitt, an attorney general from Oklahoma who has disregarded the impact of a barely regulated energy industry on the health of Oklahomans as well as the survival of humans on our planet.
When Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times reporter who has arthrogryposis which visibly limits flexibility in his arms, pointed out that his September 2001 reporting, and his memory, did not support Trump’s claim that Muslims in New Jersey partied on rooftops watching the collapse of the World Trade Center, Trump distorted what the reporter said, falsely claiming that he backtracked on his article. He said “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy” and then did an “impression” of his disability-related movements. [source]
After being criticized for mocking the Times reporter, Trump warned that he does not have time to be “politically correct” in matters of disability terminology. [source] Trump also demanded an apology from the New York Times, saying: “Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago – if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did. He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes.” [source]
Prominent Trump supporter Ann Coulter defended Trump, writing in In Trump We Trust that actually Trump was not imitating Mr. Kovaleski’s specific patterns, but “doing a standard retard, waving his arms and sounding stupid.” [source] Trump himself has used the word “retarded” as a slur, apparently on multiple occasions, including but not limited to interactions with The Celebrity Apprentice contestant Marlee Matlin, a deaf actress. [source] [source] [source]
Criticized by Charles Krauthammer, a conservative commentator who uses a wheelchair, Trump responded “I went out, I made a fortune, a big fortune, a tremendous fortune…bigger than people even understand...then I get called by a guy that...that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names? Give me a break.” [source] [source - relevant section starts at 10:30]
Attempts by Trump and a handful of others to explain his behavior have deservedly flopped. That Trump “mocks the handicapped” was the second in a long list of reasons another group of former Republican officeholders just announced their opposition to him on October 6. [source] A large number of evangelical Christians recently came out in opposition to Trump, in part based on his statements “ taking our weakening culture of civility to nearly unprecedented levels with continuing personal attacks on others, including…mocking a disabled reporter.” [source]
Trump’s treatment of people with disabilities has already begun spreading to his supporters. [source] Trump has brought hostile fringe voices on disability issues out into the open: one of his favorite interviewers is Michael Savage, who Trump joked about making Surgeon General, saying he would bring “common sense.”
Savage has claimed that autism is “a fraud, a racket...I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, ’Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’” Savage has slammed people suffering from PTSD and depression as “weak,” “narcissistic,” and “losers” and has said ”we’re being laughed at around the world. No wonder ISIS can defeat our military.” [source]
GENES VS. ENVIRONMENT
While Hillary Clinton frequently talked about enabling all children to reach their “God-given potential,” and wrote (and read) books on child development and policies affecting it, Trump reckons that for many people, human potential is very limited. Trump attributes success and failure to genes, rather to the environments we create for children and adults. Trump has repeatedly demonstrated an obsession with IQ and “genius.” [source] In 2006, promoting one of his books, he explained where he parts company with the Declaration of Independence: “You know they come with this statement ‘all men are created equal.’ Well, it sounds beautiful, and it was written by some very wonderful people and brilliant people, but it's not true because all people and all men [laughter] aren't created — now today they'd say all men and women, of course, they would have changed that statement that was made many years ago. But the fact is you have to be born and blessed with something up here [pointing to his head]. On the assumption you are, you can become very rich.” [source]
In a 1990 Playboy interview, Trump explained that when it comes to success, “I’m a strong believer in genes.” Years later, he told CNN: “I think I was born with a drive for success. I had a father who was successful. He was a builder in Brooklyn and Queens. And he was successful and, you know, I have a certain gene. I'm a gene believer. Hey, when you connect two racehorses, you usually end up with a fast horse. And I really was, you know, I had a good gene pool from the standpoint of that.” Campaigning in Biloxi, he again assured us: “I have great genes and all that stuff which I'm a believer in.” [source]
ACTION ITEMS (SENATE):
• Identify good Senate candidates.
• Identify vulnerable Senators in both parties and pressure them to support our positions.
Currently, there are 52 Republicans in the Senate, 46 Democrats, and two Independents who caucus with Democrats (Bernie Sanders and Angus King). It takes three Republicans (assuming Democrats stick together) to defect from the party position in order for Republicans to lose on an issue that requires a majority. Democrats can filibuster in some cases to block legislation, but there are many ways for Republicans to get around that.
2016 presented a favorable Senate map for Democrats — with more Republicans up for reelection than Democrats – but Democrats picked up only two seats. 2018 will be much harder as more seats are up for reelection or will be open (with no incumbent) that currently are held by Democrats.