Health care reform debate illustrates class divide!

Spend-Down is a phrase of professional jargon that should not exist. It is legislated poverty imposed on the poorest and […]

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Spend-Down is a phrase of professional jargon that should not exist. It is legislated poverty imposed on the poorest and most vulnerable to allegedly help pay for the “services” which the disabled poor need to adapt to their disabilities. A Spend-Down means that the State of Minnesota takes a large percent of money from my Social Security Income, in my case it is around 35% of my $1010 monthly check. It is no03 Cartoon_scan0012t breaking news that you cannot survive on $1010 a month in this culture. Much less is it possible to survive on the six hundred and something dollars, which the state Legislature has demanded that I live on. Gandhi has called poverty the worst form of violence. For the Minnesota Legislature to impose this foot on the neck poverty on disabled and old people repeatedly session after session speaks to the way that people03 Cartoon_scan0012 with disabilities are fodder to keep “helping professions” working and the reality of how we do things in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The Health Care Bill that has America so sharply divided is really conflict between the rich and the poor. That class divide is played out in the Minnesota Spend-Down. To provide a safety net for health care and to guard against a painful level of poverty is fought against with the frightening word “Socialism.” It is much more American to allow certain few people to make millions of dollars and keep the mass of disabled people down and take from them in an economy of scale. Some people are forced into nursing homes because they cannot survive on the money the state allows them to have.

There is no unity of disabled and old people to fight together. The two groups do not identify with each other. There are more than enough people in those two groups to politically demand a life of dignity and equality. Nor do disabled people identify with each other except as idiosyncratic disabilities through organizations run by “professional helpers.” This division of disabilities keeps the “helpers” working since American manufacture and agriculture has been exported to other countries. People need to make a living and more than 60% of America today work in “service” jobs.

Caesar said, “Divide and conquer.” That division is good for the “professional helpers” who run the organizations but the separation keeps disabled people debilitated. There was a hint of unity around the time of the passage of the American’s With Disabilities Act [1990] in the 1980s. Little has changed—really—in the almost 30 years that I have been disabled. In fact I’d say it is slightly worse because I see no unity or belief that we can have lives. I live in unconscionable poverty partly because of the Minnesota State Legislature. My pal Larry Kegan, a quad and at an earlier time a disability leader, said about the ADA “So what’s different? Maybe you can ride the bus now.” We need to unite without able-bodied “professional helpers” to decide what we can say, or what issues we want to address, and to keep us divided. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Billy Golfus, Minneapolis

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Mental Wellness