Apr 25 2012

The Activist Beat on Protests Against Cuts to Medicaid

Activist BeatThe Activist Beat with Rose Aguilar, host of Your Call on KALW in San Francisco is a weekly roundup of progressive activism that the mainstream media ignores, undercovers, or misrepresents.

I’m Rose Aguilar, host of Your Call on KALW in San Francisco with this week’s Activist Beat for Uprising. Each week I’ll bring you a weekly roundup of progressive activism that the mainstream media ignores, undercovers, or misrepresents.

People in wheelchairs are getting arrested in Washington DC for demanding an end to the attacks on Medicaid. Monday’s action is getting national attention because a celebrity was arrested. Former ER star Noah Wyle was handcuffed with 77 members of the group ADAPT, a grassroots disability rights group that organizes nonviolent direct actions to assure people with disabilities have the right to live in freedom.

Noah Wyle’s name is in almost every headline about the arrest. Entertainment TV shows even covered it. Whatever it takes, I guess. At least people tuning in for infotainment now know that Medicaid is under attack.

Bob Kafka, ADAPT organizer who traveled to DC from Austin, TX, said it’s a sad state of affairs when people getting arrested in wheelchairs need a celebrity to get media coverage, but that’s the reality we’re living in.
“The public presence of advocates for Medicare and Social Security is extremely visible, but the voice of people with disabilities who need Medicaid services has been often overshadowed at the federal level,” he said. “We are here to make it plain to Congress and the administration that we want action, not just words.”

When ADAPT activists go to DC, they barely sleep. On Tuesday, they shut down the Health and Human Services building. Many blocked the front doors with their wheelchairs. They were there demanding the release of Community First Choice regulations that would allow people to leave nursing homes and live independently.

Video: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/22093522

They’re also packing the halls of the House and Senate. Kafka says only one politician has met with activists. Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa is one of the few politicians who consistently fights for people with disabilities.

We should all be outraged over how people with disabilities are treated in a country with so much wealth. Over 500 people from all 50 states traveled to DC to simply say, Medicaid matters. We matter. We’re not going to sit by and watch you shred our social safety net.

For many of these activists, just leaving the house is a chore. But if they don’t speak out and raise awareness, who will? They could lose their in-home services; they could lose the right to stay in their homes. And that’s why, year after year, they make the trek to the country’s capitol, knowing they will be arrested and won’t get much media attention.

But they have no choice. Denise McMullin-Powell of Deleware told CNN that “it’s worth getting arrested, it’s worth dying for, but they’re gonna kill us first because of the cuts. If we can’t stay in our home, if we can’t get the things we need through Medicaid, we will die in the streets.”

Today is the last day of ADAPT’s three-day series of actions highlighting the failure of the federal government to protect community based services for very low-income people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget, which has been endorsed by Mitt Romney, calls for $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid over 10 years.

Do what you can to spread the word about these actions and give these activists the exposure they deserve. Politicians need to be shamed for giving tax breaks to the wealthy while people in wheelchairs march in the rain so they can simply live independently.

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