Why? Because the bill has to be ineffective for it to pass through congress. It has to have built in safeguards for politicians so that it will be approved, else it will quietly die in committee, if it ever makes it there.
What are the safeguards, you ask? It has to be cheap, it cannot offend the sensibilities of the opponents or those whom the politician is beholden to, and it has to be beneficial to either the middle class or the rich at the expense of the poor.
Take the ABLE Act, for example, which just passed both houses. The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act is a bill that was supposed to help people with disabilities, but in reality it harms us. It was intended to allow people with disabilities to save money, tax free, for future expenses for independent living. However, recent amendments to the bill has made it unacceptable because it steals services from poor people with disabilities to give to the rich and it imposes age restrictions.
Simply put, it caps eligibility by age. Only people who have acquired their disability before age 27 would be eligible. It also includes budget cuts to vital services for people with disabilities. One group of people with disabilities should not have to sacrifice such services in order for another group of people with disabilities to have what they need to survive.
If disability-related bills aren't pitting us against each other, they are protecting those special interests who don't want us around or who see us as liabilities. This is partially what happened with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to say nothing of the absurdities that gave better protections to people who aren't even disabled, than to people with certain disabilities!
Another tactic is to have the legislation on paper, but fail to implement it, or do so ineffectively or put in provisions that prevent or impede someone from seeking recourse if there are violations of the law.
Then, there are the libertarians who don't want to be told what to do, so they oppose a bill like the Community Choice Act, or it's successor, the Community Integration Act, because of the mandate on home and community-based services and supports, not realizing or caring that there is an institutional bias in long-term care because nursing homes and other institutions are mandated.
Further, they tend to put a price on our freedom and our rights. Usually, the first question out of a politician's mouth is "how much will this cost?" Look, I understand fiscal responsibility, but if your first worry is how much it will cost to assure my rights and freedom, you've spoken volumes to me without knowing it!
What makes this so infuriating is that politicians who actually care about our community know that they have no choice but to go along with that or their bill won't get through. Senator Harkin, who recently retired understood this, as did Vice-President Joe Biden, when he was in the Senate. For politicians who care only about their record looking good, this is a boon to them. They can put in weakening amendments and riders, then, say that they voted for disability rights legislation. In one fell swoop, they've satisfied their constituents, obeyed their masters and they look good on paper. Meanwhile, our community is suffering because what looked good on its face is actually hurting us.
There are many folks, even disability advocates and activists who say, "well, this is a good start." Why? Why should we settle for a good start? To me, it doesn't make sense, financially or otherwise, to work to improve a flawed bill that should never have been passed. Unfortunately, as long as politicians have to satisfy people, entities and groups that are far more powerful than the disability community, this is how it's going to be. Disability legislation has to be flawed and ineffective to be passed because it isn't really supposed to benefit us.
All I want is for all involved to be honest and upfront about this, because the act of passing ineffective legislation that is supposed to benefit people with disabilities is in itself, discriminatory. If we want this to change, we have to rise up and fight this. We have to explore creative, nonviolent ways to show those in power that though the vast majority of us are poor and unemployed, we are a force to be reckoned with. Sure, voting is very important, but it means nothing if the very culture and system on which this is based isn't dismantled and replaced with something more equitable and just. Otherwise, by accepting the "good start" rhetoric, we are complicit in our own harm.