A subject that is often widely debated in political news media is the recurrent issue of the US budget and subsequent budget cuts. In recent years, public assistance programs have continuously found themselves on the chopping block, despite exorbitant tax breaks offered to multi-billion dollar corporations. The problem with media coverage of welfare reform is less about what they are saying and more about what they are not saying. Discussions about welfare are often diluted to a two-dimensional problem: welfare queens and the working poor. What news media continually fails to cover is the 73% of entitlement benefits which are allotted to two of our most vulnerable populations: the elderly and people with disabilities. Even in articles which attempt to cover the ill effects of anti-poverty reform in the US seem to miss the mark in truly underscoring the populations which these programs serve. In this article from The Atlantic, there is only one mention of disability, and it is only a referral to the various types of payments the poorest American’s receive. Even this article from Salon which denounces the media created stereotype of the “welfare queen,” seems to simply repeat the stereotype (in case anyone missed the coverage before, they surely have it in their head now), and then fails to inform the reader about exactly who is receiving benefits and why these programs are in integral part of survival of people with disabilities and other financially vulnerable populations. This article from NBC News appears to criticize an NPR report on the number of non-disabled people receiving Social Security disability. Yet like the Salon article, not only does it simply restates the stereotype created by the NPR report without providing any context about Social Security Disability, it does not refute the information with any statistical evidence regarding the needs of the disability community and how urgent this coverage is for so many Americans.
Fortunately, there is some glimmer of hope on the horizon. The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently feature two articles outlining the effects of cuts to people with disabilities. The article, though fairly brief, attempts to provide context to the wide net of needs of the disability community, and how cuts can affect not only necessary programs like SNAP, but also programs which provide a better, more inclusive quality of life for people with disabilities. Debates in the news media about entitlement programs are not where this problem ends. The media consistently fails to cover the effects of budget cuts in education, health services, housing programs, legal services, technology, transportation, and more. It is time for news media to cover issues of disability with context, statistics, and accurate representations of the individuals most affected by these issues.