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Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights: For Workers

roosevelt workers bill of rights

FDR at Soldier Field in Chicago, 1944.

At the end of his last State of the Union message to Congress, on Jan. 11, 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined an ambition plan for a “Second Bill of Rights.” Roosevelt believed that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” His proposal, never enacted, would have amounted to a Bill of Rights “under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.” Here’s how he phrased it:

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 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;

FDR in Charlotte, NC

FDR in Charlotte, NC, on Sept. 10, 1936. (FDR Library)

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 our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.

I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights- for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the Nation will be conscious of the fact.

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.

The foreign policy that we have been following—the policy that guided us at Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran—is based on the common sense principle which was best expressed by Benjamin Franklin on July 4, 1776: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

I have often said that there are no two fronts for America in this war. There is only one front. There is one line of unity which extends from the hearts of the people at home to the men of our attacking forces in our farthest outposts. When we speak of our total effort, we speak of the factory and the field, and the mine as well as of the battleground — we speak of the soldier and the civilian, the citizen and his Government.

Each and every one of us has a solemn obligation under God to serve this Nation in its most critical hour—to keep this Nation great — to make this Nation greater in a better world.

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18 Responses for “Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights: For Workers”

  1. Lou says:

    One is not free if he or she is enslaved by debt, like most Americans are.

  2. Sherry says:

    If the “wealthy” actually PAID their taxes, our national debt would be ZERO! Instead of “blaming” the poor and disenfranchised, we need to place the blame where it truly belongs!

    Once we reach the point where EQUAL education, justice and opportunity is actually achieved, we can create a path to success for every American. . . just as it should be. EQUALITY is the key!

    Meanwhile, the rich must be “required” to PAY their fair share of taxes, just as we are required to do!

  3. Free says:

    Lou, I agree. But isn’t debit the premise of the American dream: Here everything is for sale; we are allowed to get into debt as long as we are willing to work to the bone to keep pace with our American Dream. The trick is that we must reconcile how much debt we really need, and how much debt we really want… I equate it to the Zac Brown Band song “Free”, ‘no, we don’t have a lot of money, all we need is love’… but we are free. I’ll take a old van and a few gallons of gas thank you very much.

  4. Anonymous says:

    communist and socialist

  5. mark101 says:

    The Right, for People to purchase above their means using that simple item called a credit card, regardless of the interest.

    Is it The Right of people to NOT get a job, while asking for food stamps and housing and healthcare.

  6. palmcoaster says:

    Communist is the POTUS we have now bartering our national security with Communist Russia to benefit his business.
    Demanding what the people of our country needs, jobs, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, Universal Health Coverage for all and free education is not socialism is our beloved country reality.
    So far our taxes just go to fatten the pockets of the already wealthy and has to stop. Greed is running our USA and undermining us all.

  7. Sherry says:

    Is it the Right of the Wealthy to hide their riches in “off shore” accounts and NOT pay taxes?

  8. Sherry says:

    Our hard working tax payers deserve much better than the current administration! This from The Hill:

    AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka ripped President Trump on Labor Day for repealing key protections for workers.

    Trumka said Monday on CNN that Trump has repeatedly “assaulted” major regulations aimed at keeping American workers safe.

    “He’s assaulted just about every health and safety regulation out there, whether it’s from beryllium or silica,” Trumka said. “He attacked the overtime regulations, he attacked regulations for consumer protection.”

    Trumka acknowledged that Trump had attracted support from workers during the 2016 campaign, but argued he “hasn’t really done a good job” since taking office.

  9. JROCK says:

    @Sherry, people/corporations don’t pay taxes on their wealth, they pay taxes on their earnings. You can only legally “hide” you riches in an off shore account if they were earned off shore.

  10. Pogo says:

    @trumpholes and other liars

    how to offshore income

    “I do know that the slickest way to lie is to tell the right amount of truth–then shut up.”
    – Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

  11. Sherry says:

    Educate yourselves. . . there’s plenty of information about how the wealthy avoid paying taxes by utilizing off shore accounts. I even found an article on your favorite . . . Fox. . . about this abuse. Take a read:

  12. Sherry says:

    Another good read. . . a short supply of “illegal immigrants” to do the clean up (cheaply and with no benefits and NO taxes paid) after hurricane Harvey. . . while Texas sues to get rid of DACA. . . HYPOCRITES!

  13. JROCK says:

    @Pogo…..Tell me how someone can earn money in the US and somehow magically not pay taxes on it through an offshore account?

  14. Sherry says:

    OMG. . . Please get your heads out of the sand and educate yourselves! Read the hundreds of articles on the internet about money laundering and shell corporations that the wealthy used to avoid taxes. Do you really think trump and his ilk pay their full income taxes like we do? Did you not see him brag on television, during the presidential debate, that he is “smart” NOT TO PAY TAXES? Why do you think he is adament that his tax returns not be made public? Because you would immediately understand just how little he’s paid in taxes and to charities, etc. Take your brain back, and stopped being duped!

    The wealthy don’t simply receive a pay check with US income taxes withheld, like we do . . . they have the majority of their income from “investments”. Their’s is an entirely different world. . . one where they hire teams of tax attorneys to find every tax loophole, and where they “buy” politicians to vote for so called “tax reform” . . . in order to pay even less than they already do. Watch them try to “lower” the “capital gains” taxes on “investments”, and get rid of inheritance and luxury taxes on their yachts.

    Wake Up. . . knowledge is power! . .

  15. Pogo says:

    JROCK says:

    @Pogo…..Tell me how someone can earn money in the US and somehow magically not pay taxes on it through an offshore account?

    Pogo says:

    To repeat:

    how to offshore income

    And stil true too, “I do know that the slickest way to lie is to tell the right amount of truth–then shut up.”
    – Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

    Give a shout when the weakly (sic) Standard and the rest of Murdoch’s noise machine does this investigation:

    how the weathly evade taxes

    murdoch’s noise machine

    Thanks for your support of the Southern Poverty Law Center….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.7.1317…0j0i131k1.x028zw3ODXQ

  16. john dolan says:

    Income tax is unfair. I exchange my labor or skill for a salary. Taxes are for businesses and companies that earn profits. The cost of living has exceeded our salaries. After paying rent,groceries , insurance,fuel, water bill, power bill, cable, internet, telephone no money left. On a fixed income but everything goes up.Also everything I buy is taxed again.

  17. Lance the Libertarian says:

    FDR’s economic policies slowed America’s recovery of the depression by, at least, 7 years. They raised taxes to unsustainable levels with horrible results. Such was their folly that FDRs Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, said,”We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrongsomebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promisesI say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we startedAnd an enormous debt to boot!”

    This was after 8 years of failed economic policies by the FDR administration.

    Europe going to war saved the US and pulled us out of the depression manufacturing weapons and goods to a European continent at war. Post WWII, we the US, were the only large economy left intact and we rebuilt the free world through Capitalism and representative government, not Socialist/ Communism.

    This is not thanks to FDR whose own administration was wrought with Soviet spies, or so says the declassified Venona Project.

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