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HOW HE SEES IT Bush ignores disabled



Published: Tue, February 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



By MIKE ERVIN

KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

In his discussions about the future of Social Security, President Bush has neglected to say how his plans will affect the nearly 6.2 million Social Security recipients with disabilities who are not of retirement age.

The White House Web site says, "President Bush will not change benefits for today's retirees or near-retirees." Those are carefully chosen words. The administration offers no assurance for younger disabled people who today rely on Social Security for income -- or on those who will rely on it tomorrow.

The President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, which Bush formed, has put forth two plans it says can make the system indefinitely solvent. Both of these models "would significantly reduce benefits for the disabled," according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Century Foundation. The cuts would "disproportionately affect minority and poor workers, since the proportion of workers who are disabled is significantly higher among African-Americans and the poor than among the rest of the population," the report says.

Revenue diversion

It's simple math. The personal savings accounts the president is pushing would divert revenue from the current system. Different revenues or cuts would have to be instituted to compensate.

As the Century Foundation and the center note, the commission report spells out specific percentages for disability benefits reductions in the coming decades. The first cuts would occur in just five years. A worker who becomes disabled in 2020 would see benefits reduced by as much as 10 percent. That figure escalates as time goes by, to as high as 47 percent.

With the Social Security Administration estimating that about three in 10 of today's 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67, these cuts are a major threat to future recipients.

No wonder the president and Republicans in Congress don't want to talk about their Social Security plan for people with disabilities. Their ideas are reckless.

X Mike Ervin is a disability-rights activist with ADAPT (www.adapt.org). The writer wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.




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