I have been a candidate for office, so I guess you could call me a recovering politician. These are my thoughts, right or wrong, they are mine!
As the Second World War started to draw to a close, the leadership of the Allies started to look at what allowed men like Hitler and Mussolini to take power. More than hate of ethnic or religious groups. Much more than a quest for power and domination by a nation or a people, it was people who were destitute. People that were in the midst of extreme poverty. That was the breeding ground of would-be tyrants.
If one looks at it, when the masses live in extreme poverty and a voice comes along telling them that their plight is not their fault, is the fault of some other group of people. That all you needed was to elect them and they will make the nation “great again.” That they will make the other guy who profited unfairly while they suffered, the masses rally around that person. That is the breeding ground for Hitler’s, Hussein’s, Putin’s and all sorts of vile despots.
Roosevelt and Churchill understood this. That is why in January 1944, Roosevelt pushed his Second Bill of Rights. 73 years later, we need it more now than ever.
The Speech That Started it All
When you think about it, the speech, was bold and visionary. It was January 1944, Allied troops were still pushing their way up the Italian Penisula. D-Day on the Normandy Beaches were months away and we were still slugging it out with the Japanese in the Pacific. The war was nowhere near won. The victory was not certain.
But yet, FDR wanted to lay out his strategy for a lasting peace. A United Nations to allow nations to negotiate their grievances at the bargaining table instead of the battlefield. And at home, he had a bold vision of the American people free to pursue their dreams.
In an America still segregated, he saw equity. In an America with millions still suffering extreme poverty, he saw the opportunity they could achieve.
Here is the text of the 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 renumerative 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 all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
The Argument For the Second Bill of Rights
In modern America, we see that currently, 80% of Americans are one paycheck away from poverty. The 2008 recession showed us that the economy is not as sound as we would like to believe. It stands to reason, that we can no longer rely on business leaders of conglomerates that are “too big to fail” to put their business needs ahead of stock options and salaries. From Wells Fargo to Bank of America, we have seen corporate profits privatized while corporate losses are socialized.
The nation is greatest when we create the mechanics for the individual entrepreneur to strike out on his own. If it were left to IBM in the 80s, computer technology would be nowhere near it is today. But Bill Gates and Steve Jobs created wealth and a new world.
Small business must be protected.
The working family must be protected as well. Today we see Mega Giants like WalMart make its profits by paying below industry standards. Their workers survive on government welfare. In other words, you and I are paying taxes to subsidize the Walton family and their wealth.
I contend that anyone in this country that is willing to work hard should be paid equitably for his or her hard work. If you can only be a business success by shortchanging your workers, you are not a business success.
Our nation was built on the premise of freedom and equality.
The Madison and Jefferson Argument
This is usually the part where I tie it all together and argue the common sense of it all.
However, I know that by now, some are pushing to the end to comment that the Founding Fathers never intended for America to provide such things. That the Welfare state is not freedom.
My first response would be, that the Second Bill of Rights is aimed at people willing to work and be productive. Or those that have not reached the age to work, or physically or mentally able, or have passed the age to work. It is not a welfare bill.
Second, I would point out the Constitution’s preamble…
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of the United States of America…
It specifically mentions promoting the general welfare of the nation. But should that not be enough, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, stated this on what was important to preserve democracy in America…
… By withholding unnecessary opportunities from a few, to increase the inequality of property, by an immoderate, and especially an unmerited accumulation of riches; by the silent operation of laws, which, without violating the laws of property, reduce extreme wealth to a state of mediocrity, and raise indigence toward a state of comfort.
Then there is Thomas Jefferson, the man that wrote the ultimate break up letter in the Declaration of Independence, who added this…
The consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislatures cannot invest too many devices for subdividing property… Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. 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.
Both men were unquestionably patriots. Both me understood that Democracy is weakened when a large amount of the citizenry are left for want. I will close this with a quote for JFK…
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
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