Despite all the attacks we have witnessed in recent months from the Trump administration, many felt blindsided by the latest advances in the GOP’s assault on health care. Despite countless setbacks, the GOP remained dead set on looting critical tax-funded programs to finance tax cuts for the wealthy.
The Trumpcare health care bill posed vicious attacks on working people, most notably through cuts to Medicaid funding which would only serve to line the pockets of the ruling class. Leading Democrats initially failed to take the bill seriously, breaking into song when it passed the House despite threats that 22 million people would lose crucial coverage. Cuts to Medicaid would have a devastating effect on adults with disabilities. In addition to covering one-fifth of the country and a third of all adults with disabilities, Medicaid funds the community-based supports that provide an alternative to the antiquated practice of housing the disabled in institutions.
Facing the wrath of these cuts, the disability rights community did not miss a beat in building a fightback against Trumpcare. The grassroots disability rights organization ADAPT played a key role in transforming the struggle against Trumpcare over the past few months. Their first major sit-in directly followed the announcement of the AHCA. In March, activists gathered in the Capitol Rotunda, demanding to be heard. In June, following the passage of the bill in the House, they made headlines by occupying Mitch McConnell’s office. Photos of Capitol police dragging protesters galvanized thousands of activists across the country to join on July 6 in a day of action with 36 events in 24 states. The momentum continued even after the defeat of Trumpcare! With the threat of an all out repeal of the Affordable Care Act with no replacement, ADAPT declared an indefinite sit-in inside the Hart atrium. Now with the failure of “skinny” repeal, we applaud their trailblazing activism.
ADAPT’s reputation for putting their bodies on the line did not begin with the current health care debate. Starting in 1978, ADAPT’s early demonstrations for accessible transportation involved activists blocking city buses with their wheelchairs. The 1990 “Capitol Crawl” was named for the protesters who abandoned their mobility devices and crawled up the Capitol steps to pressure the House to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. This summer marks another historical reminder of the power the disabled community wields to coordinate actions that focus public attention on the lives at stake.
One in five adults has a disability and millions are subjected to the inhumane wrath of capitalism. At the extreme end, this can take the form of sheltered workshops that pay subminimum wages – as low as 25¢ per hour – to institutions that deny basic freedoms and where the drive to cut costs results in abuse and neglect. Our poor communities and our prisons are full of disabled people who are denied basic rights by a system that devalues them. Even after reform movements are fought and won, the community remains locked in political struggle with threats against their lives.
As socialists, we say now is the time to urgently demand an expanded and improved Medicare for All and we must continue to fight alongside the disabled community for needed reforms. ADAPT has put forward their own legislation in Congress: in May, under pressure from ADAPT and their allies, Senator Schumer introduced the Disability Integration Act. This legislation attacks the institutional biases that plague the current system and invests in community-based solutions and personal care jobs. Going beyond reforms, we need to build a society that does not place value on human life according to what profits the capitalist class can squeeze out of them. We need a society that is truly democratic, organized on a socialist basis, in order to meet the needs of all of humanity, regardless of ability.