Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 14 – Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is working on a plan to help the 70 percent of people with disabilities who are not employed obtain jobs.
“We are working on a strategy to eliminate the barriers to work,” the former governor of Florida said Tuesday at Brownells firearm manufacturing plant in Grinnell, Iowa. “I truly believe that everybody should have a chance to rise up. A country that works is one where the barriers for everybody is lifted.”
“We will have a policy as it relates to going about doing this,” Bush promised.
As governor, Bush said he traveled throughout the state talking to businesses “about the virtues of people with disabilities, how they add value to the workplace.”
“This is not charity,” he continued. “This is a simple fact that they do add value … for the morale of the workforce and for customers.”
Bush highlighted Publix, a family-owned business, that “made it their priority to hire people with disabilities, and they rise up into management, and the access is the first step. But it goes way beyond that. They believe it’s a key element of their business strategy, and it’s one of the most successful supermarket chains in the United States.”
He also discussed the problematic nature of Social Security Disability Insurance – that there’s no partial disability for those who want to work but still need some assistance.
“We should have a culture of work. Every chance that we have, our society should be encouraging work rather than discouraging it,” he said. “People with disabilities should have the same access to work as well.”
The presidential hopeful also said that fellow contender Donald Trump’s mocking of a reporter with a disability – which Trump denies doing – hurts people with disabilities who face discrimination and stigma.
“No other candidate would say what he did, mocking someone that had a severe physical disability,” Bush said. “He is a jerk if he disparages POWs like John McCain, saying he’s not a hero because he got caught. He is a jerk when he disparages women the way he does. And he is a jerk when he disparages people with disabilities.”
“Why would you disparage people with disabilities and the struggles of families?” Bush continued. “People are drawn toward my cause because I believe the exact opposite. I believe everybody has the right to rise up, that everybody has the ability to make a contribution. … I, for one, will take a stand for the people that are deserving of respect, and I hope you respect that.”
This is not the first time Bush has teared into Trump about this. Bush first called him a “jerk” in December after being asked a similar question by a man with Asperger’s in New Hampshire.
When asked to address the fact that people with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be victims of violence than people without disabilities, Bush, like several other Republicans who answered this question, said it’s in the hands of local law enforcement.
“My first impulse is to suggest that most of the law enforcement issues are really local,” Bush continued. “The federal government ought to focus on federal criminal justice issues and not try to usurp the power of local communities.”
“I’m a little cautious about saying I’ve got a plan to deal with this issue, but clearly when there is a group targeted for race or for disability, that’s a violation of federal law and there should be targeted efforts by the federal law enforcement agencies to deal with it if it’s a systemic challenge. I wasn’t aware of those statistics. Those are deeply troubling to me. There are ways to target this in a way that makes sense rather than to kind of have a blanket approach to dealing with the issue.”
Bush has talked about disability issues often on the campaign trail, talking about Autism in his announcement video and developmental disabilities in an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He was the first Republican candidate to include captions on his web-based campaign ads, citing the importance of ensuring that all people are able to access his message.