Aug 1 2013

Letters to the Editor August 2013

Always Getting Disability Facts Wrong

Big thanks to both Neil de Mause (“Disabled Are New Targets for Charges of Cheating,” 6/13; CounterSpin, 6/7/13) and Janine Jackson (“Media Offer Limited Roles for People With Disabilities: ‘Inspiration’ or Invisible,” 11/12). I had not read Kristof’s piece, so thank you, Neil. The media gets disability facts wrong ALL THE TIME!!! I know from working for a law firm (the Hawkins Center in Richmond, Calif.) that aids people both in securing Social Security benefits and challenging denials that it is not easy to qualify for Social Security disability.

As deMause points out, the media consistently gets the basic facts wrong. In addition to this incorrect recitation of facts, the discussion of facts is selective.  When discussing Social Security benefits and the myth that Social Security is going bankrupt, accurate information cites beneficiaries as not only retirees and seniors (the Social Security Act of 1935—SSA) but also includes disabled individuals, who were added in the 1956 Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI). When analyzing whether Social Security is going broke (it is not),  all media—mainstream as well as alternative (FAIR, Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Columbia Journalism Review)—refer only to individuals over 65 as beneficiaries, those receiving benefits under the original SSA.

President Obama created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform on Feb 18, 2010, with chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. When members of Oakland California’s California Alliance of Retired Americans protested the commission report’s proposed cuts to Social Security, Alan Simpson described the group as being “a wretched group of seniors and greedy geezers” for including faces of young people on its fliers in his letter responding to the protest.

When it serves their agenda, mainstream media (as Neil pointed out) are all too quick to remember to include the disabled as beneficiaries, and to accuse them of attempting to scam the system. Disabled are invisible in the general discussion and definition of these benefit programs and who they cover, but the disabled are suddenly the focus of the discussion when NPR and the New York Times selectively decide to single them out for being cheats.

Thank you, Neil and Janine, for bringing up an important issue.

Ruthanne Shpiner

El Cerrito, Calif.


Who’s Behind Tank ‘Studies’?

Rick Carp’s expose on think tanks (7/13) was excellent and I hope the readers of your magazine will find out, like I did, that the millionaires/billionaires started their undue influence on the voters much before Citizens United became the law of the country.

It has been quite fashionable for political pundits to quote names of such think tanks whenever they can impress their audience. I, for one, will now be forever skeptical, and will ascertain (from the list by Mr. Carp) which individuals or groups are really behind their “study.” I will never accept the premise that such “studies” are scholarly, put together by experts in the field.

Take the case of the Heritage Foundation: As soon as they hired (absence of the word “appointed” is deliberate) ex-Senator Jim DeMint, I became suspicious. Is it because he said in a CPAC meeting, when he was a senator, that it is vital and urgent that America should reduce the size of her government as “large government diminishes the size of God”? Say what, Senator? Maybe the Heritage Foundation wanted a popular senator who would carry their message about reducing social entitlements, even if he does it by playing the God card.

Think tanks? No, it sounds more like a sophisticated message machine which churns out their agenda.

Thank you, Mr. Carp.

G.M. Chandu

Flushing, N.Y.


Bradley Manning, Patriot

Bradley Manning is being tried by our corrupt politicians for revealing “secret” information to the public. The truth is that Manning is a courageous patriot who believes in the American dream of a government of, by and for the people.

Our founders knew that freedom of information is an essential ingredient of democracy. Manning had the courage to reveal classified information that rightfully belongs in the public domain.

Shame on the greedy politicians who have been bought by special interests who profited from murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq, and the cowardly press for not having the courage and integrity to tell the truth and stand by his side. I am afraid that our children and grandchildren will pay the price.

Bob Fisher

Encinitas, Calif.

Extra! August 2013