More presidential autism politics II

30 Oct

I’ve been watching (happily) the recent emergence of autism as a topic of the U.S. presidential race. Actually, it is the emergence of autism as a topic for the republicans, as Senator Obama has had a clear policy statement on autism and on disabilities in general.

Recently, I noted that the McCain/Palin ticket’s statements were not strong commitments, but more general statements of support. Since that time, Governor Palin has come out with some stronger statements so it is worth revisiting the subject.

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review notes that in a recent speech:

Palin proposed “fully funding” the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which the campaign later said would cost $45 billion over the next five years. Palin proposed gradually increasing the $11 billion spent annually on such programs to $26 billion — the amount experts say the programs actually cost.

(as an aside $26B is only the 40% share the Federal government is supposed to be paying.)

But, back to the main theme–this is really good to hear. Whatever happens next Tuesday, Sara Palin, John McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will be people of importance. The more of them that make commitments to support people with disabilities the better.

So, for that I thank Ms. Palin. I am pleased to see commitments firming up–they were very soft in the beginning.

I’d still like to see more. First, I’d like to see Mr. McCain pick up this theme. Yes, I know that they are trying to use this to help define Gov. Palin, but I’d like to hear Senator McCain commit to fully funding IDEA (as a part of a bigger disability platform). I’d love to hear him say that even if he remains a senator in a week, he’ll support fully funding IDEA.

But, let’s look again at the speech: here’s a paragraph from the Washington Post on this same speech:

In her speech, Palin said the federal government could finance the new investment by taking some of $18 billion it spends each year on earmarks, specific projects that are designated by members of Congress.

Let’s take a look at what the above means:

The President and the Vice President don’t have the power to pull earmarks out of bills. If fully funding IDEA is tied to reducing earmarks, it isn’t a commitment that she or Mr. McCain would have the power to enforce.

I don’t want to hear in a couple of years, “Well, we’d fund IDEA if congress would stop putting earmarks into bills.” I want to hear, “We increased the level of funding for IDEA in the budget we sent to congress. Further, we are going to fight them if they cut it.”

As election day nears, the pressure on the candidates gets greater. The McCain-Palin ticket has already responded by making their statements more firm. But, this isn’t the time to accept a weak commitment–we need to push them to do more.

Let Governor Palin and Senator McCain know: thank you very much. Sincerely, we thank you. But, please, take the time in this last week to make a firm commitment to funding IDEA. Also, IDEA is a great first step but, please, expand your disabilities policy to include more (like supports for adults, or whatever issues are big for you).

The McCain-Palin ticket has a contact form right on their website. So does Obama-Biden.

6 Responses to “More presidential autism politics II”

  1. CS October 30, 2008 at 11:46 #

    Excellent blog post. I hope you get more comments from the regular readers of this blog, at least as much enthusiasm as the Kirby post received (if judged by the number of comments).

  2. Another Voice October 31, 2008 at 18:43 #

    As we get closer to Election Day the promises come faster than ever, I don’t even track them any longer. I would be surprised if the candidates remember most of what is promised. I think both men are sincere and well meaning but the length of the campaign trail has exhausted both of them. I will be happy to see it end as well.

    After the election groups that want attention will need to send messages to the Hill and the Whitehouse every day. I think that parents and people with disabilities need to band together and just flood Washington with a set of demands.

    Unfortunately, this coming together will be difficult for the autism community because fighting over vaccines has fragmented us. But we have to find a way to get over that; as a small minority group we need to leverage every voice in support of specific goals.

  3. Regan October 31, 2008 at 19:25 #

    Personally, I would also keep an eye on what is happening in that other branch of the government–the one that drafts proposed statute–the Congress.

    It is easy to track federal bills–go to http://www.thomas.gov

    Use “autism” as the search term. Last time I checked there were 46 bills that were under that keyword. There was even one on changing ERISA rules for health insurance this session–I was kind of surprised not to see much discussion about that.

    So I’m glad that autism and disabilities was more in the forefront of the candidate’s campaigns, but a swallow does not make a summer and a campaign does not make an administration. As a constituency we need to keep the issues to the forefront.

  4. Regan October 31, 2008 at 19:32 #

    ‘Sorry about the grammatical errors.
    “were” and “candidates'”

    :-/.

  5. Sullivan October 31, 2008 at 20:12 #

    Use “autism” as the search term. Last time I checked there were 46 bills that were under that keyword. There was even one on changing ERISA rules for health insurance this session—I was kind of surprised not to see much discussion about that.

    That bill was made into the “bailout” bill, believe it or not! Yep, the bailout is a rider on the Mental Health Parity Act.

    You could be the first to comment on our blog post:

    https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=1467

  6. CS October 31, 2008 at 22:19 #

    “Unfortunately, this coming together will be difficult for the autism community because fighting over vaccines has fragmented us. But we have to find a way to get over that; as a small minority group we need to leverage every voice in support of specific goals.”

    Thank you for saying that. I agree.

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