Des Moines, Nov. 25 – Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said people with disabilities could “look at his record” and be comforted.
“I’ve been very supportive of the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) in my own state,” the former governor of Arkansas said following the Presidential Family Forum Friday night. “When we did renovations to the governor’s mansion, we made it accessible to the disabled. We did the same thing in the state capitol.”
In March 2000, Huckabee was one of four governors who wrote U.S. Senate leaders urging Congress to fully fund 40 percent of Part B services as authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA.) The letter noted the federal government’s contribution then amounted to only 13 percent, and “although Governors strongly support providing the necessary services and support to help all students succeed, the costs associated with implementing IDEA are placing an increased burden on states.”
Huckabee was governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007. According to the Annual Disability Compendium, only 31.7 percent of Arkansans with disabilities were employed in 2007, below the national average at the time of 36.2 percent, and far below the 74.3 percent of Arkansans without disabilities who were employed in 2007. This gap has continued to widen as only 28.2 percent of Arkansans with disabilities are currently employed.
More than 50 percent of Americans report having a family member or close friend with a disability. Fifty-two percent of Democrats report that they or a loved one have a disability, and for Republicans, a smaller number of 44 percent report they have a disability. Surprisingly, Independents have the largest number of voters who say they have a disability, with 58 percent saying yes. This shows that swing voters with disabilities and their families are up for grabs.
Huckabee has said if we found cures for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s, then we would save Medicare for those who need it.
“You want to fix Medicare?” he said during the CNBC debate in October. “Focus on the diseases that are costing us the trillions of dollars. Alzheimers, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Eradicate those and you fix Medicare and you’ve fixed America, its economy and you’ve made people’s lives a heck of a lot better.”
The former governor is a big supporter of Social Security disability benefits in order for a social safety net to exist for people who need it. Of preserving Social Security, Huckabee said, “This is a matter not of math, this is a matter of morality.”
Concerns over the solvency Social Security trust fund are vital to the one in five Americans who have a disability. The depletion of the Disability Insurance Trust Fund has the potential to impact the lives of millions in 2016. Absent Congressional action, beneficiaries may face a significant cut next year in their benefits. This situation is so critical that in July, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX), and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) put out a public call for the disability community to step up and offer ideas on what to do in order to address the SSDI trust fund issue.