Franklin Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights
By Stephen Lendman
28 October, 2010
Ferdinand Lundberg's "Cracks in the Constitution" deconstructed what framers, in fact, created, men he equated with a Wall Street crowd, given their economic status and prominence as bankers, merchants, lawyers, politicians, judges, and overall wheeler-dealers. In 1787, they convened for their own interests, not the general welfare as most people believe.
As a result, they produced no "masterpiece of political architecture (falling far short of) one great apotheosis (bathed) in quasi-religious light," as Lundberg masterfully explained. His book, if not the Constitution, is an epic work, must reading about America's most important document, the Bill of Rights added belatedly in the first 10 Amendments, again not for reasons commonly believed.
They protected property owners, not ordinary people, who wanted:
-- free speech, press, religion, assembly and petition rights for their interests, not "The People;"
-- due process of law and speedy public trials for themselves if charged;
-- quartering troops in their homes or on their land prohibited;
-- protection from unreasonable searches and seizures;
-- the right to have state militias protect them;
-- the right to bear arms, but not the way the 2nd Amendment today is interpreted; and
-- and various other rights for them, privileged elites who, like today, lied, connived, misinterpreted, misrepresented, and pretty much operated as they wished for their own self-interest, law or no law.
Yet, the Constitution is hailed as the "supreme law of the land," including its 27 Amendments, the last one first proposed on September 25, 1789 (no typo), enacted over 200 years later on May 7, 1992, preventing congressional salaries from taking effect until the beginning of the next term.
Franklin Roosevelt's Proposed Economic Bill of Rights
On January 11, 1944, in his last State of the Union Address, Roosevelt proposed a second bill of rights, saying the initial one "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness." His solution: an "economic bill of rights," guaranteeing:
-- employment with a living wage;
-- freedom from unfair competition and monopolies;
-- medical care;
-- education; and
-- social security, overall what he provided inadequately in his first 11 years, except for measures like the 1935 Wagner Act letting workers, for the first time, bargain collectively on even terms with management, and the landmark Social Security Act, keeping millions of retirees, disabled, and qualified survivors from the ravages of poverty.
These benefits are fast eroding today, Obama administration neoliberal ideologues wanting social benefits slashed, and Social Security and Medicare privatized so Wall Street racketeers can pillage them for profit until nothing's left for the needy.
Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will recommend austerity measures during Congress' lame duck session. Legislation will likely follow, focusing heavily on Medicare and Social Security, gutting them over time, leaving millions high and dry. What Roosevelt proposed but couldn't implement, the entire Washington establishment plans to take away, cleverly so most people won't notice until it's too late to matter.
With WW II nearly won, Roosevelt stressed focusing the nation's energies and resources on finishing it, suggesting among other measures:
-- "A realistic tax law - which will tax all unreasonable profit," corporate and individual;
-- "A cost of food law" with floor and ceiling limits on prices; and
-- reenactment of the October 1942 stabilization statute, pertaining to prices, wages and salaries affecting the cost of living.
He continued saying:
"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 can be established for all - regardless of station, race, or creed." He then listed what he meant, covering:
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."
Though partly implemented at best, they were positive recommendations, mirror opposite of policies under both parties since the 1980s, and Obama's proposed austerity at a time stimulus is desperately needed.
For example, the 1944 Servicemen's Readjustment Act (the GI Bill) provided college or vocational education for 7.8 million returning vets plus a year of unemployment compensation. In addition, 2.4 million got VA-backed low-interest, no down payment home loans at a time their average cost was under $5,000, enabling millions of families to afford them, many with government help.
Roosevelt called his proposal "security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these happiness and well-being" measures in the interest of democracy, humanity, fairness, justice, and a nation discharging its responsibilities for all its citizens equitably.
Today, these ideas are lost at a time of an unprecedented wealth gap, and officials ignoring essential needs by growing millions, on their own and out of luck because both major parties spurn them.
Instead they focus on imperial wars, handouts to bankers and other corporate favorites, repressive laws, and eroding freedoms, destroying them one at a time or in bunches, creating banana republic harshness in their place.
FDR's prescription was different, a patrician who gave back to save capitalism with policies mirror opposite of today's that will end up destroying it and America - its political and economic dominance, afterwards its military might when little money's left to fund it, then bankruptcy when it's gone, leaving only a short epitaph saying rest in peace.
Perhaps humanity will then exhale, absent America's belligerence and no shyness unleashing it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.