Congressional tax cut plan is a tax on disability
Activists in support of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. | Tom Olin / Disability Rights Center

Very few politicians will flat out say they hate disabled people. So why would anyone target people with disabilities for increased taxes, especially when we are among those who can least afford it?

There are no ifs, ands, or buts. The tax plans in both the House and the Senate raise taxes on the people who can least afford it, in order to give tax breaks to a very wealthy few. The plans also cut Medicare by $500 billion and slash Medicaid by $1 trillion. These cuts will trigger devastation for the vast majority of people with disabilities, who are already struggling with years of Illinois state budget cuts.

The costs of a long-term disability can be quite surprising to non-disabled people. Customized power chairs can easily reach over $50,000 per chair. Digital hearing aids can cost between $1,500 and $3,500—per ear. Thousands of people have medications that reach, well, thousands of dollars per month. And that’s not even counting the costs of therapy, respite services, or personal care.

That’s what the congressional tax plans do: people with disabilities will be taxed, over and over again. First, we will suffer taxes in the loss of key deductions that afford equality and protect against bankruptcy. And then, when there is less money in federal coffers to support disability programs, we will be “taxed” again through budget cuts to vital programs we need.

The House wants to eliminate the medical expense deduction, which is particularly essential for the economic well-being of families. One catastrophic incident or the annual cost of medication for an AIDS or cancer patient, for example, can be enough to force families on the financial edge into bankruptcy. The medical expense deduction helps prevent poverty, thus to eliminate it…that’s a tax on disability.

Access Living has been advocating for the right of people with disabilities to live fully-engaged and self-directed lives since 1980. Pictured here are the staff of the organization during that first year. The author, Marca Bristo, is on the far left. | Access Living

Both the House and Senate plans eliminate the disabled access tax credit and the work opportunity tax credit. The former provides a deduction to small businesses for modifications to make their business more accessible. The latter provides an incentive to employers for hiring people with disabilities. Access to work in and shop at places of business in our local communities is essential to leveling the social playing field. Not only will elimination of these credits also eliminate opportunity for disabled people, they’re “taxes” on disability.

Reducing taxes will create a general reduction in federal coffers, which means less money to fund programs across the states. As we saw this year, Medicaid became the number one target of federal budget cuts through block grant proposals. Again, the tax plan’s most devastating impact is cutting that $1 trillion out of Medicaid and allowing the $500 billion cut to Medicare, in order to give big tax breaks to wealthy people. That is not a tax but a death sentence.

Real tax reform should benefit everyone, improving society and stimulating our economy. But the tax plans in Congress now are neither bipartisan nor balanced: they are squarely attacks on people with disabilities and our families.

Marca Bristo is president and CEO of Access Living.

This article was originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times. It appears here with the author’s permission.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marca Bristo
Marca Bristo

Marca Bristo is a pioneer of Chicago’s disability rights movement. A former patient of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Bristo helped launch Access Living. She is is an international advocate for the rights of disabled individuals. For her dedication and perseverance, Bristo received the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States and the Americans with Disabilities Act Award for her role in the creation and passage of the law.

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