Update: Tax Returns Could Trump Trump’s Philanthropy Claims

Donald Trump often speaks of all the donations he makes to various charities.  In January, Trump held a fundraiser for at least 40 veterans-focused nonprofits, which raised $4.5, $5.5, $5.6 or $6 million, depended on which member of his staff you ask and when you ask them.  Some of this money was donated by Trump himself, with the majority of the money coming from fundraiser attendees.  The Bob Woodruff Foundation received a check for $75,000, which Woodruff said, “We can put it to very good use to help our vets and their families.” Also, in May, “[Trump] gave $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families.”

Recently, The Wall Street Journal looked into the history of donations from the self-proclaimed philanthropist to all charities throughout the years.  The title of the article that followed this investigation is “Trump promised millions to charity.  We found less than $10,000 over 7 years.”  (I think the title of this story explains the findings of the Journal, although it can neither be proven nor repudiated without Trump’s tax returns.)

Update: In March 2017, head of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, Pascrell, 163 Bipartisan Colleagues [Called] on Congress to Request Trump Tax Returns.  In actuality, the call for tax returns was only requested by two Republicans, Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Walter B. Jones (R-NC).  However, the request must be approved by the Senate Finance Committee and the Ways and Mean Committee, who are chaired by Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Kevin Brady (R-TX), respectively, to submit a formal request to the Secretary of the Treasury.

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Wait and See

Based on his statements and actions, a Trump presidency with a Republican-controlled Congress may seem to be the worst election outcome possible for disabled Americans.  In a poll cited by CNN, for example, people agree that mocking a reporter with the joint condition arthrogryposi was the most egregious error that Trump made during his campaign.

However, those worries may not entirely be warranted.  Trump is a businessman and a television personality.  He says what will get him a deal, acts in a way to give him an audience and, in the case of the election, promises what will get him votes.  For example, one of the hallmarks of Trump’s campaign was his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  Since winning the election, though, “Trump [has] said he would [at least] like to keep the portions of the law requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions and children living at home under the age of 26.”  From what I can determine, Trump simply wants his name tied to a major legislation.  (He wants to keep some of the principles of Obamacare, but replace the wording with some synonyms, so that people will call it Trumpcare?)

As for the Republican-controlled Congress, it is good to remember that most people, including Senators and Representatives, are related to or have some association with a disabled person.  During the Obama Administration, almost half of the brain injury-related legislation that became law were sponsored by Republicans, specifically 8 of 20.  As I noted in the past, Republicans do care.  While Hillary Clinton may have won the popular vote, it is best not to presume that a Trump presidency will negatively impact those with a brain injury or all of those with a disability.

Tomorrow is Election Day…

In August, I posted an article entitled “The Deciding Vote”, which discussed how gaining the vote of the disabled could effect the results of the tight 2016 Presidential race.  What I did not consider, though, is that some of those with mental disabilities have lost their legal right to vote.  “[It is] believed [that]… more than 30,000 Californians — and an unknown number of others in the U.S. — [have] lost their voting rights under state guardianship laws.”  (“A guardian is a person, institution, or agency appointed by a court to manage the affairs of another individual.”)  Given that the current polls show that this election is within the margin of error, these tens of thousands of votes per state could be of great import.

What constitutes a mental disability varies in each state.  For example, ALA [Alabama] CODE § 38-9C-4(7) states, “Persons with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injury have the right to vote and participate in the political process, subject to applicable laws.”  About 30 other states, however, restrict the voting rights of those with traumatic brain injury and other neurological disabilities, such as autism and cerebral palsy.  For example, in California, “Five years ago, a judge ruled that a traumatic brain injury disqualified [a man, David Rector, from voting].”  (This year, after a trial in the San Diego Superior Court, David Rector regained his legal right to vote.)

To all those who have a disability that may be restrictive to others with the same disability, but who are legally allowed to vote themselves, I believe it is imperative to do so.  Show that your vote matters!

Click to view a full list of states that have laws related to voting for the neurologically disabled and a description of these laws.

“Concussion. Oh, oh!” says Trump

Beyond commenting on the “softening” of the NFL, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President has essentially ignored those with brain injury during his campaign.  Last week in Florida, though, Donald Trump spoke of brain injury at a rally in Florida when, “a woman who had fainted [during a Trump rally]… returned to the crowd.”  Commenting on her return, Trump said, “That woman was out cold, and now she’s coming back.”  While there is nothing wrong with that statement, he then returned to a topic he spoke of earlier in his campaign: namely, he spoke of the “softening” of the NFL, with its new post-concussion regulations.

Through continual blows to the head, NFL players are prone to CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).  Harry Carson, a former Hall of Fame linebacker for the New York Giants who developed CTE, said in response to Trump’s views, “Once the brain is injured, you [can] never recover… So to make light of it, there’s a certain amount of ignorance that’s there.”  Carson also noted that many children look up to and try to imitate the actions of NFL players, which may lead to concussions and other brain injuries in them.

Political commentators always note when a candidate changes his or her views on a topic.  Trump, however, has stayed consistently pro-neurological disorder on this subject.  This opinion, though, expresses a disregard for Americans, merely for his entertainment.

Republicans Do Care: John Kasich

John Kasich does not have any known personal experience with disabilities, but as Governor of Ohio he has shown support to the disabled population.  One of the goals of Ohio’s current budget is “Better Support For Ohioans With Disablities”.  To that end, “the budget makes historic new investments to ensure that every Ohioan with a developmental disability who wants to live and work in the community can do so. [His] budget invests $286 million over two years to increase home- and community-based services, support community work opportunities and create new options for individuals who want to leave institutions.” 

In 2012, Kasich signed Executive Order 2012-05K, which launched Ohio’s Employment First program.  (Watch video where Kasich expresses his support for the program.)  The program, a cooperation between seven state government departments, explains well its purpose through its subtitle, “Every Person.  Every Talent.  Every Opportunity.”  Specifically, Employment First helps, “young people with developmental disabilities [learn] about employment options and planning during their school years. Adults with developmental disabilities… have support teams that assist in learning more about how abilities and interests can match opportunities in the workplace.”  Kasich continues to support those with disabilities, as in June, he signed a law that legalized medical marijuana in the state for certain medical conditions, including traumatic brain injury.

Republicans Do Care: Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, often addressed and championed special needs children during her presidential campaign, as she has personal experience with it.  Her son, Trig, was born with the neurological disorder, Down syndrome.  Through parenting and advocacy she says, “what’s been confirmed in me is every [person] has something to contribute to the world, if we give them that chance.”  As Governor of Alaska, “[she] succeeded in securing additional funding and assistance for students with special needs.”

In 2010, she publicly chastised Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane for an episode in which, “Chris Griffin, the show’s awkward teenager, goes on a date with Ellen, a girl with Down syndrome… [whose] mom is the former governor of Alaska.”  (A scene that features Stewie singing a song about “Down Syndrome girl,” as he continually calls her, is particularly offensive.)  Obviously, and by MacFarlane’s own admission, the governor Ellen is referring to is Palin.  The actress who provided the voiceover, who has Down Syndrome herself, said Palin should have a sense of humor.  In response, Palin said “The world is full of cruel, cold-hearted people who would do such a thing.”  (My view is that someone with a neurological disorder can make fun of themselves, but if someone else makes fun of that person, it’s a completely different story.)

Republicans Do Care

I have made a point to note Hillary Clinton’s positive actions directed toward American’s ever-increasing disabled population.  However, by doing so, I am not intending to be partisan, as the disabled vote is, “represented fairly equally in both parties.”  Donald Trump seems ignorant of the large disabled voting bloc with his only noted discussion on this topic coming when he mocked the disabled reporter, Serge F. Kovaleski.  As a whole though, Republicans do care about the disabled demographic, both politically and personally.  Today, I will note two of these individuals and what they have done for the disabled.

Clinton Focuses on the “Invisible, Overlooked and Undervalued”

Before the media turned their attention to the presidential debates, Clinton did what fellow presidential nominees have yet to do: namely, on September 21, 2016 in Orlando, FL, Clinton gave a 30 minutes speech that focused on the “invisible, overlooked and undervalued”. Specifically, Clinton spoke about the disabled.

According to the CDC, more than 56 million Americans, or 19% of the population, are living with some form of disability.  “Whether they can participate in our economy and lead rich, full lives that are as healthy and productive as possible is a reflection on us as a country,” Clinton stated.  During her speech in Orlando, Clinton outlined her plan to make an “inclusive economy” for all Americans.  She promised to “focus on improving [disabled Americans] job opportunities.”  (This is an excellent goal, but it does not appear to be enforceable.  I continue to believe that educating the general public, from a young age, is key, thereby providing a better understanding of the capabilities of the disabled.)  She plans to eliminate employers’ ability to pay less than minimum wage to disabled workers and she plans to encourage new partnerships with businesses to improve hiring practices for those who have a disability.

Clinton says she will give the disabled a voice in the White House.   In fact, as Secretary of State, she appointed the first ever Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, Judith E. Heumann.  She has proposed “Autism Works”, a program to increase the job and housing opportunities for adults with autism.   Also, Clinton has released a campaign ad to highlight her commitment to help Americans with disabilities.  This ad, featuring Nyle Dimarco, a 27-year-old model who is deaf, begins, “by explaining that there isn’t any sound and that viewers should feel free to scroll past it because ‘we’re used to being ignored’.

Clinton’s notable speech withstanding, I see the disabled voting bloc as being largely ignored.  Clinton’s speech, for example, was the first speech during her campaign to put disabled Americans at the forefront.  However, Jennifer Mizrahi, the president of RespectAbility, an advocacy organization for people with disabilities, says the election has focused attention on issues affecting disabled voters as never before.

(On his website, Donald Trump makes a point to note that, on September 21, his campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio was attended by more than 2,000, while Clinton’s speech in Orlando, the same day, only had about 300 attendees.  But, in my view, substance is more important than pomp and, ummm, circus.)

Transcription of Hillary’s speech: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/briefing/updates/2016/09/21/in-orlando-clinton-vows-to-protect-the-rights-of-people-with-disabilities/

The Deciding Vote?

I have only posted twice in this month for a simple reason – politicians, including political candidates, largely ignore the disabled vote while speaking and/or campaigning.  A blog entry on the Huffington Post site explains it well, and though this article is from last year, the statements stay true and relevant.  The number of disabled Americans is unfortunately large and continues to increase. Clinton’s lead in the polls is small.  True, “[in the 2012 President election}, the voter turnout rate of people with disabilities was 5.7 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities.”  However, that means that 15.6% of disabled Americans did vote.  This year, the number of disabled voters will likely vastly increase, just as it will for the generally population.  Ultimately, the disabled vote could make the difference in who becomes the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States.

Gun-owning, Disabled Democrat Speaks Out for Clinton

(Note: This article was previously entitled, “She Walks, She Talks AND She Has Opinions”.  I now understand that this title could be seen as offensive to disabled people.  However, I did not intend it to be offensive.)

Last week, Americans, including all TBI survivors, saw something remarkable from former Arizona Congresswoman and TBI survivor Gabby Giffords.  Specifically, the women who had to relearn how to walk and talk just a few years ago walked herself to the podium and spoke to the country at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA.  During her speech, Giffords spoke of her support for Hillary Clinton and her proposed gun laws.  Beyond her speech though, Giffords said something that I think is an important, but often overlooked positive effect of something as horrific as a brain injury: “I have a passion for helping people [now]”.  (These words demonstrate her choice to favor action versus pity.  Given that, it would be nice if the press focused on her speech and her ideas, not the fact that she walked alone.)