In Pittsburgh on Friday, Palin dotted her speech with references to her six-month old son, Trig, who has Down syndrome. Oftentimes, these are the most powerful moments in her speeches, where mothers of special-needs children come to her rallies desperate for a remedy to the educational and health-care failures that have plagued them over and over again. Special-needs children are “especially close to my heart,” she tells the crowds.
But Palin isn’t the answer. I repeat, she ain’t the quick fixin’ we’re all needin’ in the disability space.
Many months ago, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama published on his website a detailed plan to support disabled Americans. The four-point plan is designed to improve educational opportunities, end discrimination, increase employment rates, and support independent living for Americans with disabilities, plus any soldiers who might be disabled upon their return home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
GOP presidential candiate John McCain never published such a plan. Through his personal anecdotes, however, we know that he has a soft spot for veterans and that his running mate understands special needs. So what will McCain-Palin do for the 54 million Americans with disabilities?
- Palin said Friday she’d fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Obama has already pledged to do this.
- Palin would boost funding for special-needs children from birth to age three, marking a split from McCain’s pledge to freeze spending for most educational programs. So will they or won't they? Obama wants $18 billion in new funds each year to revamp education, including $10 billion directed towards kids zero to five years old.
- Palin pledged more funding to help parents identify a child’s disability earlier. Obama seeks universal screening for newborns and wants to set a national goal for re-screening two-year olds.
- Palin promised funds to find cures for disorders such as autism. Obama’s got that covered in his plan, too, and has a track record for doing so -- unlike Palin.
Here’s where Palin switches to politics. “Our opponent has an ideological commitment to higher taxes,” she says, adding that an Obama plan would tax special-needs trusts that families have set up to cover medical and other costs. There’s no mention of all the ways in which Obama would help the American disabled population thrive.
I understand how the GOP's lower taxes proposition can promote growth by spurring spending and job creation. But a huge benefit of helping the disabled is that it lifts most of disadvantaged America, too, through improved education more affordable college, expanded health care, and reducing the national workforce shortage.
I have a hunch that, under different circumstances, Palin would have made a fine appointee to the National Commission on People with Disabilities, Employment and Social Security. What's that? Oh, it's in Obama's plan. Check it out.