“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.” FDR, January 11, 1944, State of the Union Address
Now more than ever, there is a fear of what the future will bring. Americans of all walks of life are struggling to make ends meet. It has become abundantly clear that “trickle-down” economics bore little fruit. The millennial generation, my generation, is looking for leadership and solutions to guide them through these difficult economic times.
FDR’s Unfinished “Second Bill of Rights” and Why We Need It Now by Democratic Underground, December 2, 2006
Franklin Delano Roosevelt first began speaking about our country’s need for economic and social rights to complement the political rights granted to us in our original Bill of Rights during his first campaign for President, in 1932. Through his whole twelve year Presidency and four presidential campaigns centered largely on advocating for and implementing those rights, it wasn’t until his January 11th, 1944, State of the Union address to Congress that he fully enumerated his conception of those rights in what he referred to as a “Second Bill of Rights”. The elements of that conception fall into two major categories – opportunity and security. Here is a partial introduction to and list of FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, as enumerated in his January 11, 1944 Message to Congress:
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…
The right to a good education.
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies…
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
The right of every family to a decent home.
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.
[Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins hailed the recent passage of the Social Security Act in a speech which she gave in early September 1935.]
People who work for a living…can join with all other good citizens…in satisfaction that the Congress has passed the Social Security Act. This act establishes unemployment insurance as a substitute for haphazard methods of assistance in periods when men and women willing and able to work are without jobs. It provides for old age pensions which mark great progress over the measures upon which we have hitherto depended in caring for those who have been unable to provide for the years when they no longer can work. It also provides security for de-pendent and crippled children, mothers, the indigent disabled, and the blind.
In a national radio address on February 23, 1934, Huey Long unveiled his “Share Our Wealth” plan, a program designed to provide a decent standard of living to all Americans by spreading the nation’s wealth among the people.
Long proposed capping personal fortunes at $50 million each (roughly $600 million in today’s dollars) through a restructured, progressive federal tax code and sharing the resulting revenue with the public through government benefits and public works. In subsequent speeches and writings, he revised his graduated tax levy on wealth over $1 million to cap fortunes at $5 – $8 million (or $60 – $96 million today).
The full text of this speech, as printed in Long’s official Share Our Wealth pamphlet, can be seen here.