I’d run for president, but there’s a sex tape…

I just learned about FDR’s proposed Second Bill of Rights today. I can’t help but wonder how different things would be right now if these rights had been enacted. I’ve listed them below, along with my own thoughts on how to enact these rights.

FDR’s Second Bill of Rights

Proposed in 1944, FDR suggested adding this second bill of rights to the US Constitution because the current bill of rights was inadequate to assure that the pursuit of happiness was possible for all Americans.*

* Employment, with a living wage,
* Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies,
* Housing,
* Medical care,
* Education, and,
* Social security

Many of these rights were implemented throughout Europe and Japan during their rebuilding and restructuring following WWII. **

FDR died before he could implement this second bill of rights in America. We need these rights now more than ever as the top 1% of the population is taking more of America’s wealth while the bottom 95% continues to suffer more and more each day.

Here are my ideas for making these rights available to every American citizen:

1. Employment with a living wage

Provide tax incentives for employers to increase their employees’ wages. Enact a plan to increase wages yearly, and reward employers who create more jobs. Set a minimum increase amount and punish those who don’t meet that minimum within a specified amount of time.

2. Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies

Encourage companies to lower the prices of their products while increasing employee wages. I would like to see profits lowered by 50% (if a product makes $1 for every unit sold, they would now make $.50 per unit.) and employee wages increased by at least 10%. Lower prices would mean more sales, and soon the difference in profits would even out. Initially, this would be hard to enact, but in the long run, it’s good for everyone.

I also wonder if it would be possible to put a cap on profits. For example, a company couldn’t make more than $5 million per year in profits. Anything above that must be paid to employees or in taxes. This would also be hard to enact, and I’m not sure it would be upheld in the Supreme Court. However, if this were possible, it would ensure that all employees are paid very good wages based on their work and that the extremely wealthy would pay a substantial amount of taxes rather than continue to get richer. There would have to be regulations in place to make sure that these extra profits are going to ALL employees, not just top board members and CEOs.

3. Housing

Stop the foreclosure crisis. Punish banks who have taken part in unfair lending practices. Let people who bought their homes with subprime mortgages refinance at fair, affordable rates. Many of these foreclosed properties are sitting empty– they should be occupied by the families who want their homes back, and these people should be given assistance as needed to afford their homes. This is by no means a “free ride”– homes should be bought and sold for what they are worth, and people should pay what they can afford. With guaranteed jobs and decent wages, people should only need assistance in paying for their homes for a few months. After that, they should be able to make their mortgage payments on their own.

4. Education

Education is good for America as a whole, not just the individuals who obtain it. Keep Head Start programs alive– give kids an early start to a great education. Make sure teachers are paid decent wages, and that schools are funded well enough to ensure reasonable class sizes, availability of supplies, and progressive programs. Make sure all students have access to extra help when necessary and programs that will help them graduate high school and move on to higher education.

Set a cap on college tuition for both public and private schools. Make sure education is affordable for everyone, and help those who need financial assistance. Students shouldn’t be graduating with $100,000+ in student loan debt. Offer programs to pay for all or a portion of college tuition to any person who wants to obtain higher education. These programs should be equal across the board– students should be offered the same amount of assistance for public vs. private universities based on their parents’ income. For adults who would like to go back to school, offer tax incentives for their workplaces to help pay for it.

5. Health Care

Sickness should not be a for-profit phenomena. Why are hospitals getting rich off people’s suffering? I think hospitals should at least be regulated by the government, if not owned by it. Tax dollars should cover the care any American citizen needs, and we should be trying our best to come up with new ways to cure and treat illnesses. Life or death shouldn’t be dependent on income, and no one should make a profit from someone’s poor health. Doctors and nurses should still be paid fair wages based on their work. Hospital CEOs and board members shouldn’t be getting rich, and the doctors and nurses who save lives and care for the sick every day should be able to pay all their bills and make a decent living.

6. Social Security

This is hugely important now as baby boomers reach retirement age and the companies they worked for are going bankrupt. All elderly people should be assured financial security as they age and are unable to work any longer. Personally, I’d like to see Social Security phased out and replaced with personal retirement savings and investment. However, there will still be people who, for one reason or another, need the guarantee of a paycheck after they retire. Social Security should remain available to those who need it, but retirement savings programs should be encouraged. Guarantee that even if a company goes under, their long-time employees will still be paid their full retirement benefits. Never let company pension funds be used for anything other than paying retired employees.

These all seem like utopian ideals that will never be accepted in today’s society. However, as the middle class continues to dwindle, we need the assurances this second bill of rights would provide. I know many people who feel that the government is already too involved in everything– I agree, but I feel that they’re too involved in the wrong areas. I’d like to see the government become more involved in regulating industry and making sure that huge companies aren’t getting rich off their underpaid employees’ backs. I’d also like to see the government create more jobs. After all, there are millions of people looking for work and lots of projects that need to be completed all over the country. Also, if these rights were enacted, we would need more government officials to make sure that these policies were being followed. Severe penalties should be enforced for any official or company who breaks the rules.

We can’t let the wealthy continue to control our country. Without a middle class, America will become a third-world country with most of its citizens living on the streets while only a small percentage of the very rich control everything. How is it that we’ve accepted that CEOs are making multi-millions every year while a teacher can’t afford to buy a home? When did it become ok for public service workers to lose their jobs while giant corporations are able to avoid paying taxes? This isn’t right, and we only have one defense: our voice.

While it may seem like the top 1% of America’s citizens have all the power, it isn’t true. Remember, we have 99% of the votes in this country. We can elect officials who will help make sure that every American citizen has the right to pursue happiness. We have the power to call our senators and tell them what we want. We are able to go to our state capitals and demand that our voices be heard.

Each day, more and more Americans are finding their voices. We’re seeing how unjust our current financial situation is, and we’re getting more and more angry. Profit has become more important than ethics, and that’s not right. It’s time to get pissed off and fight for change.

** Capitalism: A Love Story (documentary by Michael Moore)


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