Economic Bill of Rights: An Antidote to Clown Car Politics?

by Peter Kilkus

For the 30% or so of people in this country who seem to revel in the celebration of ignorance described by Carl Sagan above, a lesson in basic American values and fundamental economics may be in order.

People come first! Years ago it was assumed that working people would share in the fruits of economic productivity increases. Wages would go up with productivity; we'd have a 4-day work week; businesses would sprout to cater to our leisure time needs.

But economic principles have been perverted as educational standards have have been driven down. Predatory capitalism has become a religion based on the premise that real people don't really count. 

Instead of the simple and fair idea that when a robot  builds something quicker, the productivity (profit) derived from the use of that robot should be shared by all the members of the company, corporations actually treat robots better than people - and all the money goes to the managers at the top.

Compensation & Productivity edited-1

Why do Americans allow that perversion of basic societal fairness? Why do narcissistic, empathy-challenged, frat boy sociopaths with a grammar school grasp of the English language steal our own money  while doing nothing of real value? During my career I've known too many of these Goldman Sachs-types. They are actually proud that they got their MBAs so they could rip off the "sheep" - you and me.

FDR and his colleagues recognized this basic problem decades ago when they created Social Security and other social safety nets. Roosevelt proposed a Second Bill of Rights - an Economic Bill of Rights -  for the safety and security of United States citizens. Why don't we have these protections yet - more than 70 years later?


The Economic Bill of Rights

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jan. 11, 1944)

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:

1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

4. 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;

5. The right of every family to a decent home;

6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

8. 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.

*****                       © Peter Kilkus 2018