Monday, July 12, 2010

Franklin Roosevelt's "Second Bill of Rights"; The Job Remains Unfinished

Yesterday I woke up bright and near the crack of dawn, so early there was nothing but infomercials and bad movies on the tube, so I decided to check out the ON DEMAND movies. I had about two hours until it would be time for breakfast so I checked out Michael Moore's Capitalism;A Love Story. I highly recommend it to all. If you're a Moore fan (like me), you'll be laughing and crying at the same time at the mess we find ourselves in because of the shell game played with people's lives by Wall Street, the banks, insurance companies, Big Oil, and the Fortune 500....not to mention by those elected officials who are supposed to be looking out for us on the local, state, and national levels.

And before any of you on The Right say, "Yeah, just some additional Democrat propaganda".....not so fast. More than a few Dems are taken to the woodshed, members of the Senate, House, and members of President Obama's economic team.

The bottomline is the September 2008 collapse was a joint effort by many components; there's plenty of blame to go around.

One of the topics covered in the film was one that I have heard mentioned before, but never looked into. Rare film footage was shown of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's State of the Union address from January 11, 1944. FDR gave the address from the White House instead before the joint houses of Congress; his health was starting to fail, and he had the flu. The first part of the address was given to a radio audience, but second portion of the speech was recorded on film, though it was assumed lost for years.

In the filmed part of the address, FDR proposed the establishment of a Second Bill of Rights, one that would guarantee economic opportunity for all and thus insure the growth and sustenance of our democracy. This would not be a change to the Constitution, only a bill that would level the playing field and free all in our pursuit of happiness.

Below, an excerpt from the address.

"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.”[2] 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.

For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world."

FDR was a true visionary. He saw the Constitution not as a static document, but one that was expansive, and one that was subject to change as fitting the times.

In today's political atmosphere...and the growth of the Tea Party movement and New Libertarianism, some would think Roosevelt's idea anathema and a blow to the true intent of the Founding Fathers in the adoption of the Constitution and The (first) Bill of Rights.

But would that really be the case?

As long ago as the birth of The Republic, the more progressive Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, saw that economic inequality was the enemy of a free state, and that to allow poverty to exist was an abomination.

A quote from Thomas Jefferson.

"Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on."

FDR never lived to see the any application and adoption of this New Bill of Rights in the United States. It is a great irony that the defeated fascist nations of Germany, Italy, and Japan adopted most of these same principles after their destruction by the United States and her allies. And The United Kingdom and France, and other Western European nations that were occupied by the Nazis, rebuilt from the rubble using the outline given by FDR on that January night in 1944.

But America lagged behind in adoption of the Second Bill of Rights; the world's most successful democracy went ahead into an era of prosperity for many in the 1950'and 1960's, and on to the present day, but left many behind economically in the wake of this Great Abundance.

The great question remains....why?

For further reading and some possible answers, please check out FDR's Second Bill of Rights- and Why We Need It Now from Democraticunderground,com.


Anonymous said...

Senator Reid went to a local GM dealer in Washington, D.C. to buy a
brand new vehicle from Government Motors. Harry looked around and found one he likes.

After going back and forth with the salesman, Harry settles on a price of $45,000.

Harry and the salesman go back to the office to complete the paperwork. Harry works out a 4 year payment plan, and signs on the bottom line.

The salesman shakes the Senator's hand and says, "Thanks Senator Reid, the car will be ready for pickup in 4 years."

Harry says, "What are you talking about? Where are the keys to my new car?"

The salesman replies, "No, you don't understand Senator. You make payments for 4 years...THEN we give you the car. You know, just like your health plan"!

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

Anon....your longwinded (and irrelevant to the discussion and not very funny) comment has proved something to me.

My removal of the WORD VERIFICATION tool was a mistake.

But I'll leave your comment just the same; don't forget your tri-cornered hat and tea kettle.

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