Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

An Economic Bill of Rights

On January 11, 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his next to last State of the Union Message to the United States Congress.  In that Message, FDR proposed a Second American 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. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

FDR faced a World War.  The year was 1944.  Hitler was still in power in Germany.  The Allies had yet to invade Normandy.  Japan still controlled the Pacific.  But, Franklin Roosevelt was secure enough to speak of a Second American Bill of Rights.

The Rights of Every American to a good education, the right to adequate protection from economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment, the right to adequate medical care and good health, the right of every family to a decent home, the right of businessmen to be free from unfair competition, the right to useful remunerative compensation for workers and farmers.

Last night, Rachel Maddow presented a recent poll (NBC/Wall Street Journal–taken between Feb. 24-28) showing what Americans support:  81% support higher taxes on millionaires; 74% support reducing tax incentives to oil and gas companies.  Why not provide an option for Americans?

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March 3, 2011 - Posted by | economic justice

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