Special by Michael L. Supey, Correspondent
Today, is the Presidential Primary in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Rhode Island. Over the past week, PA Disability News covered the Presidential Primary candidates campaigning in Northeast Pennsylvania with one specific focus;
Would there be any mention of improving the quality of life for people with disabilities in America?
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D) of Vermont, spoke to a capacity crowd on Thursday, April 21st at the Scranton Cultural Center. Campaign media representatives were quick to issue a press pass to this reporter, though PA Disability News is an independent news source. When asked whether Sanders typically includes remarks in his stump speech about disability rights, the media representative replied that generally he does not specifically mention disabilities but it is something he is very passionate about.
However, about forty minutes into his hour long speech, Sanders offered the following:
“A great nation is not judged by the amount of millionaires and billionaires that it has, or by the number of nuclear weapons that it has, or the number of wars that it gets into. A great nation is judged morally by how it treats the weakest and most vulnerable.”
“This is an issue that is not talked about very often. And there are reasons why, but let’s talk about it right here in Pennsylvania, in my state (Vermont), around this country, you’ve got millions of senior citizens and disabled veterans and people with disabilities trying to make it on ten- eleven- twelve thousand dollars a year social security. Think about it for a second. Again just do the arithmetic. Pay for your mortgage, pay for your rent, pay for your heating, pay for your food, pay for your medicine. You know what, you can’t make it on ten- eleven- twelve thousand dollars a year. And that is why I strongly disagree with Republicans who actually want to cut social security benefits. That is really quite incredible. And I happen to believe that not only will we not cut social security benefits, we are going to expand social security benefits.”
Sanders went on to say, “Very simple. Right now we have a Social Security tax system in which someone who makes five million a year contributes the same amount into the Social Security Trust Fund as someone who makes one hundred and eighteen thousand. You lift that cap starting at two hundred and fifty thousand and above so that someone who makes a million a year contributes the same percentage of his income into Social Security as somebody making fifty thousand. We’re able to expand Medicare by thirteen hundred dollars a year for people making less than sixteen thousand, and extend Social Security for fifty eight years. Now I have been campaigning. I have introduced legislation to do this. I asked Secretary Clinton to come on board this legislation. I hope that she will, as of today she has not.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas, spoke at the Radisson Lackawanna station Hotel, Scranton, on April 22. Upon request for a press pass, a member of Cruz’s Press Team said they do not allow non-accredited members of the media in the Press Pool due to “bad apples spoiling the bunch in the past.” She expressed regret for shutting us out, but did so nonetheless. This reporter did gain entrance with the general public.
Cruz did not mention individuals with disabilities in his speech or comments.
Former Secretary Hillary Clinton spoke to a capacity crowd at the Dunmore High School Gymnasium, Friday evening of April 22. PA Disability News was cleared for a press pass from the campaign media team. About twenty minutes into her thirty minute speech, Clinton offered the following,
“...We need more treatment for mental health problems.”
“People want to tell you what’s on their minds because they’re hoping that you or somebody can help. And the two things I hear the most about, yes of course economics- knocking down those barriers- but mental health and addiction. And so when I shake a hand of a mother or father or sister or brother or a child and they say ‘please do something about mental health’ I know it’s personal. Maybe it affects them, maybe it affects somebody they know or they are related to. “And I cannot tell you how many of those conversations have led to somebody saying ‘please do something about the heroin or opioid epidemic.”
“We are losing thousand and thousands of Americans of all age, but particularly young Americans, under 40. And we have got to address this so I will do everything I can within our healthcare system to remove the stigma on mental health and to tackle the heroin and opioid epidemic.”
The evening of April 25, Donald Trump spoke to a reported ten thousand people in the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, the only presidential candidate this election cycle to come to Luzerne County for his stump speech. There was no difficulty gaining a press pass to the event from the Trump media team..
In his near one hour speech, Trump did not mention individuals with disabilities.
In January of this year, RespectAbility issued the #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaire to candidates. Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi, President, confirmed today that Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and John Kasich returned a completed questionnaire. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have not.
Candidates with positions on disability rights:
Senator Bernie Sanders
Secretary Hillary Clinton
Governor John Kasich
Candidates without positions on disability rights:
Senator Ted Cruz