THE ADMINISTRATION says that Wednesday night's CBS documentary, "People Like Us," wasn't accurate in relating administration policies to the four hardship cases depicted.
Three of the cases, however, were right on point. Precisely because of changes in welfare law sought and obtained by the administration last year, for example, a working-poor mother in New Jersey was obliged to quit her midnight shift job and go back on welfare to get Medicaid coverage for her child's serious operation.
Then there was the case of Larry Ham, a cerebral palsy victim in Ohio who, despite his steadily deteriorating condition, was dropped from the Social Security disability rolls last December without even a physical reexamination. Mr. Ham has been assisted by a lawyer from Legal Aid--a program that President Reagan sought unsuccessfully to abolish last year--who says he tried repeatedly to apply for reconsideration of the case but that the state's disability review office had mislaid the records.
So many cases like Mr. Ham's--many far worse --have come to light in recent months that Social Security has revised some of its rules and the House Ways and Means Committee has prepared legislation to curb further abuses. The administration notes that the needed review of disability cases that affected Mr. Ham was ordered by Congress in 1980. But the Reagan administration stepped up the planned start of that review by nine months before adequate staff and procedures could be developed in order to get quick budget savings. It also sought unsuccessfully to get Congress to tighten the disability rules so that many of these people would never have their benefits restored as most finally will.
Nor is there any question that the swelling of food-handout lines in inner-city churches, another of the phenomena shown, is associated with the very high unemployment and the food-stamp cutbacks that are certainly traceable to administration policies.
No blame can be placed on the administration, however, for the fourth of Mr. Moyers' illustrative examples, the sad plight of the mother in Wisconsin who has had to move her 12-year-old daughter-- who is in a coma--to a nursing home. The mother feared that further Medicaid cutbacks sought by the administration next year would mean she would be unable to afford the visiting nurse service that had allowed her to care for the child at home. But even had the payment requirements sought by the administration become law next year, they could easily have been met from the monthly disability payment the family received for the child.
The White House, of course, is not in the best possible position to complain about other people's choice of cases. Only last week, White House Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes defended the president's recounting of an apocryphal tale about British gun laws by saying, "It made the point, didn't it?" That's not a good enough standard for public discourse. CBS was wrong in one case and it should concede as much. It's the other three cases that make the point: billions cut from the social budget have done more than limit fraud and abuse--they have also hurt many defenseless people.