Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Second Bill of Rights, Big Picture Stuff

With a need to get our focus back to where it should be I want everybody to look at something. In FDR's 1944 State of the Union Message to Congress, he laid out an economic or a Second Bill of Rights:
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.
There may be one or two that need updating but how is that for a platform? Do you think Democrats would be successful running on that? It is a message that says if we are the ideal for the world to aspire to we must set an example. It is a message of hope, equality and justice.

If there is anyone reading this that lived through or has a story from a relative about how life was for the elderly before Social Security I would love to have it so I could post it here. I believe one of the main reasons Social Security privatization/phase-out is even being discussed is because of the success of the program keeping the elderly out of abject poverty. All my grandparents are now dead and they were deeply scarred by the depression. Most people left alive have no idea what that time was like. Without that experience it makes it easier for succeeding generations to think if everyone would just invest all their Social Security money in a 401(k) we could all move to the Virgin Islands and retire in style. I believe that if more people in our generation heard these stories it would provide perspective and context to the program that is currently missing.

To get up-to-date on the President's latest bamboozle on Social Security, read these two editorials:

A Gut Punch to the Middle

Time to Leave the Table

and this analysis of the President's, ahem, press conference last Thursday:



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