Michael Berube: The Value and the Virtue of Raising a Child with Down Syndrome

December 05, 2016

Michael Berube is the Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University where he teaches American literature, disabilities studies, and cultural studies. His newest book is Life as Jamie Knows it: An Exceptional Child Grows Up. The book follows Berube’s son Jamie as he grows into adulthood, eagerly navigating the world as a young adult with Down syndrome.

Berube tackles the misconceptions about intellectual disability from the perspectives of both a scholar of disabilities and that of a father. He challenges the misconception that intellectual disability detracts from the value of a life, as exemplified by his son Jamie, who Berube describes as witty, inquisitive, and full of a love for life. Berube asserts that like most children, when given ample amounts of love and attention, kids with Down syndrome have the best fighting chance at meeting their full potential and living a successful, happy life. Berube calls upon bioethicists, politicians, philosophers, and all of us to rethink how we approach disability, and advocates for changes that will move us towards a more inclusive society.

This is point of inquiry. 

Welcome to Board of Inquiry. A production of the Center for Inquiry. I’m your host, Lindsay Beyerstein. And my guest today is Michael Barbet. Michael is a distinguished professor of the humanities and an old friend of mine from the heyday of the blogosphere. 

He’s the author of the new book Life as Jamie Knows It, A Coming of Age Story about his son, Jamie, who has Down syndrome. It’s also a meditation about the nature of disability, inclusion and family. To give you an idea of how compelling this book is. I’ve been adamant since I was 10 years old that I did not want to have kids. And this is the first book that made me think this parenting thing might be a good idea after all. Michael, welcome to the program. 

Lindsay, thanks so much for having me. 

Why do you start by introducing us to Jamie? 

Jamie? Well, Jamie is 25 right now. He’s working at a sheltered workshop and State College P.A. He works for Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. He has shifts from Buddy, 30 to 30. He also does volunteer work at a local children’s science museum. And on Friday mornings, he works at Penn State Press. On Sunday mornings, he works at the animal rescue shelter in town. Besides that, he is an endlessly inquisitive, witty, delightful companion who loves traveling, loves the natural world, especially marine life, especially sharks, and is a really eclectic fan of music ranging from contemporary country and western to classic rock. 

And this book is a sequel to an earlier book that you wrote when Jamie was born. Can you tell us about the earlier book that led into this one? 

Well, the earlier book called Life As We Know It actually got it. It was a I started writing it in. I wrote an essay. I wrote an essay in 1994, and I was going to be for an academic collection called Confessions of the Critics. And I wrote a partly because I had been asked to write another essay for a similar collection who was Virginia was born, and I didn’t know how to inquire. He was still in the intensive care unit for about three weeks, and I didn’t even know what to think about him or what his prospects were or anything. So I promised myself, the next time I have an assignment like this are devoted entirely to Jamie and will help what he’s meant to our lives. Then by 1994, I had some good idea. He was on almost three years old and he had gotten through a very difficult first year medically and he was starting to take on the personality he has now is fun loving, delightful, just you’re very, very alert, although developmentally delayed. He didn’t walk or he was too knee, a very low muscle tone. So he knew that a lot of occupational therapy and that essay appeared in the fall of 1994, has a cover essay in Harper’s magazine, and it got a lot of attention. And the result, publishers sort of came knocking at the door. And in 1995, the second half of the year, I wrote the bulk of the manuscript. Again, the book came out 20 years ago, almost exactly in the fall of 1996 called Life as We Know It. And by that point, of course, Jimmy hadn’t gone to school yet. So there was it was much more about early the early years of a child with Down syndrome. And I got to say that in the 20 years since, that has become a sort of mini genre unto itself. Your parents, usually the mothers, sometimes on a couple occasions, or fathers meditating on what page their child with Down syndrome has meant and how this child has changed their lives. 

It almost always had an effect of changing what you think about human expectation and the equity and interspecies variation. So this is a different thing because now he’s an adult. 

Do you think that there’s a whole genre sort of around this particular condition? You think that there’s something unique about Down’s syndrome itself that inspires this creative outpouring? Or is it more of the experience in having a child who is different? 

Generally, I think I think the child is different generally. I mean, Down syndrome, though, was so indelible, right? I mean, unlike autism, no one knows what autism is. No one knows what its causes are. No one knows what it means neurologically or biochemically. The spectrum disorder, Down syndrome is an extra chromosome. And I think it’s indelible not only for that, but because, you know, the history. 

There is a specific history for people with Down’s syndrome and that history includes, you know, really horrible mistreatment and institutionalization. And if you go back 50 or 60 years ago, still within living memory, the common wisdom was, of course, these children cannot ever have meaningful lives. Best to institutionalize them as quickly as possible and in many cases now institutionalized them, but really disavow them altogether. Do you not consider them members of the family? So these narratives. I think. 

On sort of the coloration of history, now, we have, you know, really, I think a good body of eloquent testimony to the value and the virtue of having children in Down syndrome, reading them in the house and realizing realizing as a result that their potential exceeds that anything that we would have imagined 30 years ago. 

And that that, in turn, speaks to the fact that speaks very powerfully to the perennial nature nurture debate that even in the case where you’ve got a really marketed chromosomal anomaly, trisomy 21, an extra 21st chromosome, the difference in what it means for the actual expression of the gene expression in the actual person makes all the difference in the world, whether they’re given love and attention and raised among their families. 

Surely Trisomy 21 has always been with us. What do we know about that? Even earlier history of Down’s syndrome. The way that people were treated before this, you know, 50, 60 years ago, boom and institutionalization. 

That is a fascinating question. In fact, I was just talking to a paleontologist about it because there is a dispute in the area of intellectual life pretty far from where I work in the arts and humanities. About a recent discovery in which we discover years of these, about 100 bones insists that it isn’t, in fact, a new species homo florens. And I’m talking with a colleague here who believes that this is not a new species. This is, in fact, a variant of an existing species, subspecies of homo that has Down syndrome. And there are really two questions to speak here. One, you know, most of what we do in the humanities doesn’t go back to prehistoric times. We as I told my colleague, we pretty much kick in when writing was invented. Before that, we we don’t know what to do. And so there’s two arguments. One, in premodern societies before say eighteen hundred, thereabouts. There is no evidence that people with mild intellectual disability is in. A lot of societies were discriminated against, especially the intellectual disabilities were mild with my class. The classic example, literally classic the Greeks who didn’t really have to make white much about mild intellectual disability, but who were totally freaked out about congenital malformation, which also makes the point that, you know what different societies considered disabled has varied enormously over over time. 

But for a lot of people with mild intellectual disabilities, you know, in an agrarian society, they’re really not burdensome at all. They can be carriers of water and bales of hay just like anybody else in three historic societies. We’re totally guessing the argument about the species from the people who think it is the new species is the starts from the assumption that no person with Down syndrome, no person with a disability like that could ever have thrived in prehistoric society. But there’s no actual evidence for that belief. It’s really all speculation. We do know the trust me, 21 runs throughout all the species of the genus Homo. And it’s been with us for millions of years. And, you know, it’s never we don’t have any evidence of that, people with Down syndrome to participate fully in their societies before modern times. I think what we’re seeing in the last 40, 50 years is unusual and unprecedented in that respect. But there’s also no evidence that before the 19th century, they were singled out for discrimination and institutionalization the way they were from about 1850 to 1950. 

What does this tell us about the idea of disability relative to the way that society is set up? We tend to think about it as a kind of absolute threshold that either you’re above or below the curve and that’s it. But it seems like it has a lot to do with the way society is set up to accommodate people in their differences. 

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, now they go and Down syndrome is especially interesting for this because, I mean, it also points to the limits of the kind of social constructionist argument you’re gesturing out here, because the biochemical fact, the actual chromosomal non disjunction and what it means for the the behavior of the body at a molecular level. That’s been the same. Right. Nothing has changed about trisomy 21. Throughout history, what has changed is the way we accommodate and treat and come up with expert social expectations for people with trisomy 21. And, you know, that’s a that’s one of the reasons I wrote the original book back in 1996. I was actually at the time I was immersed in the work of Stephen Jay Gould. And part of my argument, the reason I called of life as we know it, is that I was arguing not only about little Jaimie’s life when he was two or three, but I’ve got this had really profound implications for how we think of life in general and evolution. And the immediate point to be made is that to go back to something I said a moment ago, different societies have carved up into a species difference in any number of ways. And for something you think of the deaf community in Martha’s Vineyard for some reason. Over the last couple centuries, there’s a very high percentage of deaf people in Martha’s Vineyard and they developed a separate culture that involved the rudiments of sign language. And in fact, if you go to death, Capital D, deaf communities now where everyone signs you and I are in the linguistic minority, they’re doing just fine because they can communicate in their own linguistic medium. And so in some context, it is no disability at all to be deaf. Some context. Again, if you go back to the analogy of ancient Greece, but medieval Christian Times, we joke sticker has this book called The History of Disability, in which, as I mentioned in my current work, it’s almost as if, you know, eleven hundred S.E was the good old days. So he’s almost there. But the idea is that the infirm, the feeble minded, the poor, the lepers, you know, we’re all basically considered as one mass of humanity for whom Christian charity was appropriate. They didn’t distinguish as much between insanity and disability as we try to. And yeah, I think that that, again, makes the case that interspecies difference can take any number of forms and be carved up into any number of categories, some of which at some point in history are considered disabilities. 

Just in the book, you express skepticism about whether a cure for Down’s syndrome would even make sense. 

I just yeah, I. First of all, I have this line about an allergy to the discourse of the cure. I the people are working on this and they tend to be the neuro people and it’s all about enhanced cognitive function. And I reply in that chapter, not entirely facetiously, that what we’ve been trying to do to enhance Jamie’s cognitive functions is travel with him or expose him to the history of art and music, which he loves. And a lot of the ideas that a lot of the places we’ve gone, a lot of the museums and cultural events we’ve attended have been his idea. He was the guy who dragged us to mostly mostly Mozart and Lincoln Center a couple of years ago. And, you know, that to me seems much. They’re not talking about cure at all. 

We’re talking about education and mitigation. Let’s make the most of Jamie’s strengths. He’s got an incredible memory. He’s remarkably observant. He is just you know, he does not miss a trick either about, you know, conversations or about new forms of art or things he’s never heard or seen before. And, you know, when you’re faced with that, the idea of the sort of magic pill that makes Down’s syndrome disappear looks really very much like snake oil. And I’m just saying that the researchers who are working on this are snake oil salesmen. I am saying that there’s a very long and sorry history of snake oil sales when it comes to intellectual disability. And I’m making the more I’m making the broader case with some kids, some forms of human variation. You know, I really want to think between disability and disease. We think it’s everything in terms of cure. We think of autism. A lot of people think of autism in terms of a cure. 

And I once said to the class in disability studies, class was actually taking place. It was a seminar. And as the class was taking place, there’s a five K run here to go overseas for the cure. And one of my students called my attention to it. I just sort of hung my head and said, well, I guess they have a race for the cure because race for the reasonable social accommodation can fit on a T-shirt. 

And I think actually with some sort of disabilities, which you should be thinking about is reasonable social accommodation, curb cuts, kneeling busses, job coaches, whatever, instead of always thinking about things in terms of a cure. Because sometimes, as I say in the book, I had a conversation with The New York Times reporter about this, who is thinking of Down syndrome, the way he thinks about diabetes. And you know that sometimes. And all you’ve got there is an insulin hammer. Everything looks like diabetes now. And I don’t think Down syndrome is like that at all. 

It does seem kind of interesting because it’s a spectrum of things that run from from difference to to disease, like heart defects and stuff like that. So you’re not opposed to working on cures for the same kind of things you would cure. And anybody else like a heart murmur? 

Exactly. Well, in fact, he was point Jamie was born with a patent ductus arterials, this little hole in the heart. We’ve all had it, but most of it, most of us close it up on our way down the birth canal. And so he was a candidate for open heart surgery for the first couple weeks. He was he was around and in life, as we know it over. I mentioned the day I came into the NICU, the neonatal intensive care unit, and saw that they had scrubbed off the number of the emergency helicopter that I would have to fly him to Peoria for for open heart surgery. And the reason he was no longer a candidate for open heart surgery is that they’ve given them a drug I.V. that helped that hole close on its own. I’m not I’m not against that any more than I am against insulin or penicillin or antibiotics in general, things that are actually are diseases that have disease. Etiologies originate viruses or bacteria or whatever. That’s one thing. But things like autism and Down syndrome seem to me to be categorically a different thing. 

I’m sort of fussy about where you draw the line. Things like people with Down syndrome are at increased risk of early onset dementia. Is dementia a disease or is it just part of the progression of difference? 

Well, you know, there really is no fine firm and clear line. There’s no bright red water where disability and disease are on one side or the other because, I mean, some diseases are disabling. Right. And some disabilities carry with them heightened chances for certain kinds of disease. And you mentioned heart trouble for people with Down syndrome. And now we’re discovering that there may be a very intimate link between Alzheimer’s and the 21st chromosome. So it’s not absolutely certain that 100 percent of people with Down’s syndrome will develop Alzheimer’s, but it’s looking it’s looking pretty grim. And you know something on your face? No, it’s not uppermost in my mind at all times. But it’s not something that I can ever escape from either. And I mentioned in the book. Look, I don’t think there is a cure for Alzheimer’s. I’ve talked to people, people like Peter Whitehouse, who once thought there was a cure for Alzheimer’s and now thinks, again, that’s the wrong way to think about this sort of thing. 

Why does he think that? Why does he even want to change his mind? 

Why did he change his mind? He was so who he was that there could be a cure. And now he you know, he’s of the opinion that that that’s impossible. 

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, he’s still a minority in the field of the person. I think of a conference here about 10 years ago on the history of Alzheimer’s, which was a kind of almost tongue in cheek thing. Alzheimer’s, 100 years since since Alzheimer himself made it in, I believe, 1960, 1987. But, of course, it is a very interesting history of science kind of history. It disappeared for a while and only in the 70s and 80s. It had become something sort of headline. And this kind of sensationalist way, like now dementia is the third leading killer. I mean, you could say like age is the third leading killer of Americans. But I think what White House is arguing is that these specific plaques and tangles that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s as opposed to just dementia in general, are things that can’t be undone by means of therapies, by means of by means of treatment, just because the protein folding is so complicated that we can’t reverse it. 

I think that’s part of it again. Again, I’m a little out of my depth on this one because I don’t research Alzheimer’s, although I did call this conference because partly to learn more about it. 

The argument, though, was that we might one of my arguments is in my book that if a magic pill was found for Alzheimer’s. 

I would take it. 

Not only did it not only myself, but I would. The question is what kind of human conditions are the kinds of conditions whose eradication would constitute a universal species wide good. And this came from a wide ranging discussion I had on one of my seminars because one of my students totally resisted the idea that Down syndrome was analogous to HIV. And I agreed with him and I said, okay, what else should. What else? If you could get rid of things like cholera, diphtheria, meningitis and smallpox, polio. And a lot of, you know, thinking about human variation takes the form and thinking the form over the last year of trying to defeat those things. Ebola, for that matter, Zika. And all I’m arguing is that not every form of human variation adaptable to that kind of framework. And if Alzheimer’s were proven to be curable, I actually think it would be in that category. I think it would be in the category of things like cholera and the thing that serves no useful species wide function. And, you know, of course, we also mean that a cloud would be lifted from Jamie said and friend from Mars. But if it’s not that, if it’s not susceptible to that kind of intervention, then what you need to be thinking about with Alzheimer’s is various kinds of social accommodations and coping strategies for Alzheimer’s patients themselves and for their families that the decision might be what the person themselves would want gone. 

Because it seems like in the book, this is a very rich psychological portrait of somebody, Jamie, who is very content and happy with who he is in the vast majority of respects and wouldn’t view certain things as improvements. But maybe the dividing line is what he himself would like to change. 

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I know there are a number of things ranging from what am I? Not sure I shouldn’t go into the hypothetical I should go into. Very recent. He developed not because of Down’s syndrome, but because to Jack’s family, they have a city for a skin condition that leads to syphilis. And at one point last year, Jamie had a cyst on his neck that was like the size of a baby’s cyst. And as a result, who tried these various therapies? And now he’s on Accutane. Accutane is a mother of a drug. And you really have to go through all kinds of approvals to get this thing. And it has all kinds of dangerous side effects. And we’re watching this very carefully. This is like news from last week. So at the same time, you use various topical things. Yeah. I mean, no, it’s it’s it’s who will be. We’ll be very careful about this. But here’s a case where you have something that has a pretty clear track, shall we say, like an etiology. Here’s where here’s why you have Cecile’s and here’s what can be done about them. And I know perfectly well not only has he acceded to the Accutane, we’ve explained to him that this is this is a serious drug. This is a watchlist. And now we also have to watch as we head into winter, various ways of making sure that your skin is treated well. I’m sure he’ll be happy to do without that. You know, it could give him a checklist that he could check off. No cysts. I’m pretty sure he would do that. But again, you know, this is one of the things ones from my book is this sort of meta discussion about when Jamie became old enough to understand some of the medical interventions that he may or may not want to undergo. And going back to when he was 13 and he was briefly hospitalized for pneumonia and really had no understanding of what was going on until I explained the pulse oximeter to him device also he knew he had when he was an infant. And I explained. But, you know, he knew by that point that your blood carries oxygen to very to the body’s various regions and that those numbers really had to be up at 97, 98 before he can be released. And two things happened. One, he the minute he turned 97, he said, OK, I can go home. 

And he’s very literal about these things. 

There is an air. It’s a deal. 

Now. Again, like I say, very observant. And the other thing was, we were just horsing around, not physically, but we were just joking around these things in this hospital bed. And I did. This is something that cracked him up and he just lost it would help us. Laughter And this whole that plunged into the 80s. And he looked over a thing. The machine starts beeping and we can see a light bulb go off. He got it. He understood now why he needs to be monitored to make sure that his own SATs are OK now that he’s 25. You know, he’s much more aware of what these various options mean. And he’s well past the period when I mentioned one of the stories in the book as a teenager, he had and he got a flu like thing. And we gave him some medicine and they stomped up the stairs five minutes later complaining that he was still sick. 

Now he knows better, you know, but I think especially for you, for children and young adults who are women with intellectual disabilities, who are not as self-aware as Jamie is. It’s really an excruciating question as to what they would want done, right? Yeah. If they had their druthers. And that’s that that’s really that’s really a conundrum. 

It’s it’s really interesting. There’s a discussion in the book about plastic surgery to remove the visible signs. 

And I didn’t know this was a thing except just to explain to our listeners plastic surgery to to remove the visible signs associated with Down syndrome like eye shape and stuff like that. I remember I had this really visceral negative reaction, but then I also sort of thought, well, you know, there’s also this part in the book where Jamie talks about how he would like to have a girlfriend who doesn’t have Down’s syndrome and Howard does not have a disability right now. How do you square those two things if having plastic surgery would help him in the dating market? Define the person he wants to be. 

You the plastic surgery. And the reason you haven’t known about that, this has been irking me now for almost 15 years. My wife, Janice, wrote this great paper on the history of facial surgery, not only with regard to Down syndrome. I mean, again, here with this one, it’s cleft lip and palate. That’s a different story. Medical intervention there, surgical intervention there is lifesaving. As Janet performer Orien would say, it is indicated with Down’s syndrome, you’re talking totally cosmetic surgery that may help to mask the fact that the person has Down syndrome. 

I actually don’t mind, Jimmy, having markers that let people know he’s a young man with Down’s syndrome. And, you know, the question of whether, you know, one is better off with mild intellectual disability, if one has a mark, is visibly Mylie intellectually disabled or not visibly. Jamie’s cousin, Trevor Kompass. 

He has a very mild intellectual disability. This is the kid who took him to Yankee Stadium a couple of years ago, then put him on a suit, hopped on a subway, and they took Metro North to New Haven. And then last last month, they just went on their own Megabus to Boston. 

So Trevor can get around pretty well. You have to talk him for quite some time before you see anything even slightly awry. Whereas with Cheney and with people with Down’s syndrome, it’s pretty. It’s indelibly. You know, it’s obvious literally on the face of things. And I think that actually stands him in better stead for the dating question. 

You know, the feeling he’s just going to have to thrash out by himself. 

He does have social relationships with with girls in his group, both with Down’s syndrome and with other sort of forms of disability. But, you know, he has had so much interaction with mentors and paraprofessionals and he could just have so much immersion in non nondisabled peers, and especially in high school, where he was a susceptible to crushes as anybody else. And, you know, I’ve talked to him, as I made clear in the book, I’ve talked to him at some length about this. And I’ve also explained to him how unlikely it is people with and without intellectual disabilities would be romantic partners. And if it does happen, you know, I would think mainly it would happen with people on the high end of the autism spectrum, you know. 

So he’s aware of this, even though it took a lot of asking why. But I don’t think that, you know, cosmetic surgery is the answer. But I do wish Jenna had published that paper. It was a fascinating paper from about surgical interventions from the late 19th century forward, some of which were motivated not only by the desire to sort of cure the appearance of people with disabilities, but also by parents fears that their children look more like each other, whatever the syndrome was then like the parents themselves. It was fascinating stuff. 

Yeah, it really is interesting. It sort of reminded me of parallels in terms of Jewish people getting nose jobs. Yeah, my mom, her parents made her get a nose job for her high school graduation photographs. 

And finally the way with it. But I’m kind of horrified. 

Yeah. Yeah. No, that’s right. To both of that parallel, it’s much more close to hand. 

And I still have the bump on my nose. 

So I think this is the moment when someone says, that’s funny, you don’t look Jewish. Okay. 

No, I, I don’t otherwise look Jewish, but that’s kind of my one visual look. Why do you think it is that Jamie is particular interested in having a partner that doesn’t have a disability because he’s. 

I pick my distance from this phrase in the book, but he is a pretty high functioning himself. And again, he’s got a wide range of interests. And he would really like a partner who would also go with him to Motley, mostly Mozart, but also to, you know, professional wrestling and hockey game and the zoo and the aquarium. So that’s one or the other. The other answer, as I mentioned in the chapter about his relation to his brother, Nick, is that his brother Nick wound up meeting a really wonderful woman to whom he is now married. And Jamie did not really love the idea of a girlfriend and a girlfriend without disability, did not really take hold for Jamie until Nick met Rachel. 

And that’s you know, it took some digging for me to get at that. But I mentioned this in the book, and I thought at one point Jamie was being really cold and standoffish with his brother when Nick was a junior and senior in college and where he’d always yearned for Nick to come home from college. 

You’d see such a tight bond with Nick. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And finally I said to him, You know what I think it is because what you remember. Listen to Burle this rehearsal anyway. I said, you know, I think you’ve gotten used to having us to yourselves, to yourself. You know, that you like having your mom and dad in you in the house. And now you’re a little bit annoyed when that comes. And, you know, he’s part of the family, too. And Jamie says that’s not it. I said, oh, OK. That’s not it. That means it is something. What is it then? Is it Rachel? 

Yes. Okay. 

Yeah. So I think that too. I think he modeled so much on his brother as he always has. And why wouldn’t he? I mean, Nick was his always is his who. His big brother. And he’s long wanted to be like Nick. So I think that’s part of it. And it’s very you know, it’s very painful. You know, he is really enormously affectionate and compassionate young man. 

And this is something that really weighs on him as we’re staring down a Trump presidency where all kinds of people who are different are feeling threatened. Do you think that that extends to people with mental and physical disabilities? 

I’ve been wondering a lot about that in the last week, as you might imagine. On the one hand, I’m going to say no, because the only things that are by. Partizan any longer. I mean, I think it was, you know, over the last couple years, you know, Obama could have introduced a bill fighting gum disease and all of a sudden we would find a bunch of pro gingivitis Republicans. I mean, it didn’t matter what it is. Right. But even in that environment, in 2014, they passed the Workplace Opportunity and Innovation Act, where in 2015 they passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act able. And both of these things are targeted at people with disabilities specifically and especially people with intellectual disabilities. So Willia is an attempt to close the sheltered workshops and integrate people with disabilities into the general workforce. I think that is a really highly fraught enterprise. And I can’t imagine for a moment that this brand of Republican who would have any interest in providing the funding for the social supports necessary for that, you know, to provide all kinds of incentives for employers and all kinds of funding for job coaches. 

So nevertheless, it’s very rare. You know, you might just conceivably be a presidential candidate who would mock people with physical disabilities. But a lot of people don’t go that far with intellectual disabilities. It’s still relatively safe territory where the social consensus is strong enough that these are people obviously deserving of our compassion and our support. 

That’s the positive side on the negative side. 

I’ve told Jamie already he may lose his Supplemental Security income. It’s one of the things I know. Paul Ryan, when when Paul Ryan has wet dreams, that’s one of them getting rid of that branch of Social Security. The serious people with disabilities, Supplemental Security Income. And I’m told, Jamie, if he loses that money, he knows he knows what it is. He knows how to spend it. He has his own bank card. He knows his Social Security thing. And, of course, if you lose that, we will always, always support you. You don’t have to worry about, you know, having money for lunch. And there’s an argument, of course, that that program should be means tested, that, you know, the people who can support their adult children with disabilities don’t like this organ myself. I can see a responsible Republican making it. But at the same time, you know, Dan, you know, Jamie is a taxpayer, just like everybody else. Cheney votes just like everybody else. Jamie is a citizen. 

And, you know, this is, I think, one of the things that, you know, should be one of the entitlements and expectations of citizenship. So, yeah, I think he does a very good chance, even though I’ve said that, you know, they won’t target people with intellectual disabilities because of that, I think would be a bridge too far. 

The may just go after the programs that serve people with disabilities, physical and intellectual. And most of that had to do with health care. If Paul Ryan gets Medicare and give the never mind the people going to lose the coverage from Obamacare, every person with a disability probably has a preexisting condition. 

So they’re especially vulnerable like all that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you so much for coming on the program. 

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you. A point of inquiry is a production at the Center for Inquiry. 

Become a member and support the advancement of science and reason by going to center for inquiry dot org slash membership. 

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The NationMs. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.