Disabled activist explains why he confronted Sen. Jeff Flake on airplane

“Republican politicians need to hear those voices. They need to take the blinders off and recognize what this bill will really do to people like me.”


Diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Ady Barkan was arrested earlier this month for protesting against the GOP’s tax bill outside the office of Rep. Darrell Issa. Two days later, Barkan confronted Sen. Jeff Flake during an airplane flight in an attempt to stop Republican legislators from raising the deficit and eventually cutting programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

“I never thought I’d be in this position. A year ago, I was healthy, taking morning runs on the California coast and looking forward to a new life with my newborn son, Carl,” Barkan wrote in a CNN op-ed on Friday. “Then I developed ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It’s a terrible brain disease with no cure and no good treatment. Every week, it’s making me a little more paralyzed. Today, I walk with a cane. I have trouble breathing. And I can’t pick up Carl to kiss him.

“In the next few years, unless a miracle strikes, I will die, because I won’t be able to breathe. Or I’ll continue to live, hooked up to a machine that breathes for me.”

Due to the fact that the GOP tax bill is expected to raise the deficit by more than $1 trillion dollars, Barkan and many other disabled people who rely on government benefits are locked in a battle for survival against Republican leaders with intentions to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and Social Security. Barkan and many others suspect the increased deficit will finally give GOP legislators an excuse for cutting many of these programs.

“Republican politicians need to hear those voices. They need to take the blinders off and recognize what this bill will really do to people like me,” Barkan continued. “It will do none of what Flake or other Republicans say it will do. It raises taxes for tens of millions of Americans and, by nearly all independent estimates, explodes the deficit. It will widen inequality. And by stifling opportunities for people like me and my family, it will put the brakes on growth and progress for the whole country.”

During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Thursday night, Barkan asserted, “This really is an opportunity for folks to step up and reclaim our democracy. This building belongs to us. This Congress is ours. We have to renew our faith in our ability as a people to stand up for what we believe in and to change the course of this country. And we can’t allow Donald Trump and his lying, selfish sons to rip families apart, to steal our money, to take our health care away.”

In conclusion, Barkan asked the American people to “stand up with me on Monday. It’s my birthday. I don’t know how many birthdays I have left. Stand up with me. Go to www.StopGOPTaxScam.com. Come to Washington. Raise your voices. Be a part of the great American experiment in democracy. It’s up to us to make it work. If we don’t do it, K Street wins.”

On December 1, Sen. Flake issued a statement regarding the GOP tax bill: “From the outset of the current debate on tax reform, my goal has been to ensure that Congress passes a tax reform package that is both fiscally-responsible and promotes economic growth. During the debate over the current bill, I’ve focused on two specific objectives. The first was to eliminate the $85 billion expensing budget gimmick in the bill. The second was to obtain a firm commitment from the Senate Leadership and the administration to work with me on a growth-oriented legislative solution to enact fair and permanent protections for DACA recipients.

“Having secured both of those objectives, I am pleased to announce I will vote in support of the tax reform bill.”

“This tax bill is a moral and economic obscenity,” Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote in a statement on Friday. “It is a gift to wealthy Republican campaign contributors and an insult to the working families of our country. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality this bill would provide the majority of benefits to the top 1 percent and the largest corporations. Unbelievably, at the end of 10 years it would actually raise taxes on millions of middle-class families and, by creating a $1.4 trillion deficit, would pave the way for massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other important programs. No member of Congress should vote for this disastrous legislation.”


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