Corporations are destroying our economy, our environment and our children's future.
We need a new Social and Economic Bill of Rights!
In his 1944 State of the Union address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called for 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.” Sixty-six years later, his vision for a nation, in which no member of society went “ill-fed, ill clothed, ill-housed and insecure,” is yet to be realized.
To prevent the grotesque social inequalities that unbridled capitalism would otherwise engender, democratic societies “decommodify” (take out of private market provision) and provide as a right such basic human needs as healthcare, childcare, education, housing and either jobs or income. Such a society must protect labor rights, ensure a sustainable environment and employ a strong social insurance system to protect, as far as is possible, all members of society from the vicissitudes of life, such as illness, disability, and old age.
The United States can readily afford these social and economic rights by restoring progressive taxation, cutting wasteful “defense” spending, investing in human needs and curtailing runaway health care costs via a single-payer health insurance system. Winning such a bill of rights — and making it applicable to all those who labor and reside within our borders — will eliminate the stark inequality in life chances between a child born in an inner city or an affluent suburb.
DSA believes every person is entitled to the following fundamental rights which constitute a new Social and Economic Bill of Rights
Jobs: To quote FDR: We all have the “right to a useful and remunerative job.” This is perhaps the most fundamental criterion for creating an economy that serves human needs: that it generate living-wage jobs for all who are willing and able to work.
Food: A sufficient amount of nutritious food, free of contaminants and harmful additives, is essential for human well-being and the greater health of our society. No country can maintain stability and productivity if this basic need is not met without restriction. FDR’s reference to “one-third of a nation ill-fed…” still resonates today.
Housing: Safe, healthy, secure and affordable housing is a right not a privilege. An adequate place to live must provide the necessary energy sources for cooking, heating, cooling and lighting. The right to housing supersedes the profit interests of lenders, developers and landlords. If other human needs are not to be threatened, protection against forced evictions must be guaranteed.
Health Care: Preventive, acute and long-term care must be readily available as needed. Unless health care is recognized as a human right, as the U.S. did in signing the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and its accessibility ensured in law and custom, health care becomes a commodity for private purchase. If health care is left to the private sector, the nation’s people will suffer as barriers to access increase, costs skyrocket, and quality deteriorates.
Education: Society has an obligation to provide free, high quality public education. First, elementary school but then, high school was regarded as generally sufficient. In the 21st century, college, or its equivalent in career and technical training, are now baseline requirements, and should be free for everyone. This is provided by right in some developed countries, but not in the U.S.
Child Care: Publicly financed childcare, provided through childcare co-ops or public pre-schools, would ensure that the children of working parents receive high quality care. Paid parental leave would enable a parent to stay at home full-time with an infant child without suffering any loss of income.
Income Security: Economic well-being means more than a living wage job. Equally important is people’s confidence that, in periods of unemployment, or in our retirement, or if we are or become disabled, income sufficient to live in dignity is assured
Leisure Time: Free time is fundamental to cultural, political, and intellectual development. Every working person should be guaranteed a minimum of four weeks paid vacation and paid family leave, as needed. A democracy requires that citizens have time to think and to engage in politics.
A Healthy Environment: To live and work in an environment free of toxic pollutants, pathogens and other hazards is a basic human need, whether in the workplace, community or biosphere. We should all have equal access to wholesome air, water, land and habitats and a just share of energy and natural resources. We all need a stable climate and ecosystems and must pass on a healthy planet to future generations
The Right to Organize: The free choice to form and join a union is essential to gaining and safeguarding all other economic rights and community organizing is key to effective democratic participation in social and political life. Without the right to organize, bargain collectively and engage in political and mass actions, workers and others are powerless against employers, corporations and government bodies that are hostile to their interests
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