Blog Action Day: FDR’s “second Bill of Rights”

Blog action day

Although I strive to stay away from the political, the events of recent weeks, the presidential election and the focus of this year’s Blog Action Day force me to a brief diversion. Recently, I am almost daily reminded of what many call Franklin Roosevelt’s proposal for a “second Bill of Rights.” I think it fits in well with Blog Action Day’s Poverty theme, even though these should be nonpolitical issues.

The proposal came near the end of FDR’s 1944 State of the Union address. He said that although the nation was still at war, it had to plan for the future. No no matter how high our standard of living, he said, the nation could not be content “if some fraction of our people — it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth — is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure.” FDR believed “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”

As a result, FDR suggested we strive to guarantee the following to all Americans, “regardless of station, race, or creed”:

  • 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.

Here we are nearly 65 years later and not only are we far from achieving most of these, we have moved in the opposite direction on some. Many of these principles continue to be political footballs. Recognizing that they are essential to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is the first step in truly helping the all too many fellow citizens who experience being poor.

[Steps off soapbox]

Our fighting men abroad – and their families at home – expect such a program and have the right to insist upon it. It is to their demands that this Government should pay heed rather than to the whining demands of selfish pressure groups who seek to feather their nests while young Americans are dying.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944 State of the Union address

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