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The Bush Nine


Marta Russell

As

the word spreads about the many protests planned the week of the presidential

inauguration on Jan. 20, Y2000, ADAPTERs burned by W. in Texas will be amongst

the uninvited guests travelling to DC.

A

five day vigil will be held in support of the "Bush Nine," a group of

ADAPT “Campaign for Real Choice” protesters who will be incarcerated in the

Del Valle Jail in Texas from January 16-20. The nine were arrested for their

crime of civil disobedience in 1999 at W.’s residence, the Governor’s Mansion

in Austin. They were found guilty of protesting W.’s and the Texas Attorney

General’s support for states rights and opposition to the civil rights of

disabled persons in the Olmstead vs. L.C. & E.W. case brought before the

Supreme Court by the state of Georgia. Texas, siding with Georgia, took a

regressive position that would continue to force disabled persons into nursing

homes and other institutions — that is, to segregate the disabled population

rather than provide the option of community in-home services.

22

other Governors across the nation originally signed onto a brief asking the

court to find that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply to

services like long term care. When the Supremes granted certiori, however,

activists convinced a number of those states which had started out in support of

Georgia’s Olmstead position, to not take a states rights stance and support the

civil rights of disabled people.  Only seven states in the entire nation

refused to budge; the strongest among them was Texas under the leadership of

George W Bush. Like Gov. George Wallace in the 60s, W. does not believe that

federal 90s civil rights laws should be binding on the sovereign state of Texas.

Departing

from their states right ideology, the Rehnquist Supreme Court, ruled unnecessary

institutionalization *is* discrimination. The Olmstead decision, as it has come

to be called, is considered by many the Brown vs. Board of Education for the

millions of Americans who are unnecessarily segregated in institutions, nursing

homes and similar large congregate facilities.

Yet

despite Olmstead’s “most integrated setting rule” which stated that

disabled persons have a right to choose to receive support services at home

rather than be incarcerated in an institution over a year and a half later some

100,000 Texans are still stuck in nursing homes and other institutions due to

lack of state action. Many see the regressive Texas model as a precursor to what

W. has in store for the entire nation — and unlike Wallace, W. has not reversed

his position.

Instead,

W. totally refused to meet with any disability group during his run for the

presidency. 500 ADAPT activists filled and surrounded the Republican Party

National Headquarters in October in order to gain a meeting with the elusive W.

Dozens of wheelchair users blocked entrances to the Republican Party’s

headquarters for five hours. They forced the cancellation of a fund- raiser and

kept party employees from leaving the building, although some staffers climbed

out of first-floor windows.

ADAPT,

along with allies from other organizations who were in Washington for the

"March for Justice" rally and march to the Supreme Court, took on the

Republicans and W. for spouting disability policy and putting forth disability

agenda without having first consulted the disability community.

“We

want Bush and the Republican Party to know that we will not tolerate anyone’s

patronizing us by deciding in a vacuum what’s in our ‘best interest’“. Said

Marva Ways, ADAPT Organizer from Detroit, Michigan, "The bottom line is

‘Nothing About Us Without Us’!"

So

often social policy is done to us rather than for us. Activists insistance on

deinstitutionalization is a social movement about taking power from the

paternalistic professionals to direct disabled persons’ lives simply because

one needs assistance with the tasks of everyday living. It is about gaining

self-determination and self-preservation amidst a system that is mostly

unaccountable and too often abusive towards those under “care.” To often

policies are developed and done “to” us rather than with us.

The

same went for the Clinton administration which angered activists when it

supported $50 million for Section 4 of MiCASSA (the in home services bill

pending in congress) and a few hundred HUD vouchers for accessible housing but

came up with billions for the nursing home industry that has literally killed

people and squandered public money to make its profits.

It

is certain that the nursing home industry contributes huge amounts of money to

candidates on both sides of the aisle and in return, government long-term care

policy remains institutionally biased. Nursing home funding rises while

attendant care service budgets see little or no increase. But the drive for

profit contributes to this form of oppression of disabled persons as well.

Under

what I call the Money Model of disability, for instance, the disabled human

being is a commodity around which social policies are created or rejected based

on their market value. The corporate solution to

disablement-institutionalization in a nursing home-evolved from the cold

realization that disabled people could be commodified; we could be made to serve

profit because federal financing (Medicaid funds 60%, Medicare 15%, private

insurance 25%) guarantees an endless source of entrepreneurial revenue. Disabled

people are worth more to the Gross Domestic Product when we occupy a

"bed" instead of a home.  When we individually generate $30,000 -

$82,000 in annual revenues the electronic brokers on Wall Street count us as

assets and we contribute to companies’ net worth. Corporate dominion over

disability policy-measures a person’s "worth" by its dollar value to

the economy. That is the real crime here.

There

is no doubt that the nursing home industry is a hotbed of corruption. Horrific

stories detailing negligent “caregiving” have been exposed all over the

nation. The question, it seems, is whether in home services can be developed to

replace institutionalization without similarly commodifying disabled persons

bodies and perpetuating the same problems?

Why

worry, some might say — after all people will be in their own homes — they

will not be forced to live in an institution.

It

is most likely that what will occur is that corporations will take over the in

home services business, indeed promote in home services model as they build

their empires, and the value of the disabled body will continue to reside in

corporate hands. “Consumers” will likely be as powerless to direct their own

attendants in the reformed in home services scenario as they are today in

segregated institutions. There are several reasons for this. Home care

corporations will have the same profiteering drive as institutions. Well-paid

workers are key to quality services but these businesses will likely to pay in

home workers low salaries and offer few benefits (as they do now) to satisfy

their bottom lines. What’s more they are likely to medicalize in home services

under a corporate model. Will the disabled person truly be able to direct their

attendant services under a social model where the disabled individual determines

when what who and where? Will one be free to decide who is their attendant, who

will work out for them? Attendant services are a very personal matter for both a

disabled person and a worker.  Will one be able to decide when and how

tasks are completed? These are not "efficient" terms under which

businesses usually operate.

It

is even possible that the crafty dishonest companies may cut hours but still

find ways to make money doing that. Columbia HCA, for instance, recently made a

multi-million dollar settlement with the government over charges that HCA had

billed Medicare for home care services it never provided. Seems this happened in

so many instances to varying degrees that the Clinton administration’s

reaction was to cut back on Medicare home care funding to dissuade fraud.

In

home services under a corporate model will likely mean that disabled persons

will see their “choices” and “freedom” overpowered by an industry that

is looking at the value of its stocks on Wall Street and investor dividends. We

must take a critical view of market driven policies no matter if they do contain

language like “choice” and develop a better delivery model for services.

The

broader Pro-Democracy inaugural demonstrations provide direction. Without

democratic controls that force accountability, W., the nursing homes and the

developing in home services industry’s interests will run rough shod over the

peoples’ interests. Only an organized democratic movement composed of all the

social movements can offer any hope of turning the tide of corporate dominion

over our lives. Are we listening to one another?

 The

schedule for the ADAPT vigils:

Tuesday,

January 16th at noon 11th and Congress Streets in front of the State Capitol

Press Conference announcing the vigil and its purpose,

Wednesday,

January 17th at noon 11th and Congress Legislators will speak out on the need to

focus on the Supreme Courts Olmstead decision, and what this means for Texas,

Thursday,

January 18th at noon 11th and Congress Speak Out from members of the public on

the need to prioritize community based support services, family members and

people using services will speak on the impact on their lives,

Friday,

January 19th at noon Start from 11th and Congress Canvass the City to get

signatures on petitions in support of community based services,

Saturday,

January 20th at noon 11th and Congress Celebration and announcement of the end

of the vigil.

 

 

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