A Second Bill of Rights Comes of Age
"We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care."
--President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
As the United States Senate debates -- and the party of "no" attempts to stymie -- health care reform, we take heed of the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, spoken in a fireside chat some sixty-six years ago, expressing not only the hope, but the right, of all Americans to be secure, among other things, in their access to health care.
He implored our elected representatives then, as we do today, to afford every American "adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health," warning of threats to security at home, in the face of enemies abroad. People who are hungry, out of a job, and are denied access to adequate health care, said Roosevelt, " are the stuff of which dictatorships are made."
If there is such a thing as "deja vu, all over again," Franklin Roosevelt called it squarely, citing "the grave dangers of rightest reaction."
Should we yield to the cynicism of the right, retreating rather than advancing, succumbing to fear and ignorance, "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."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be pleased that, at long last, we, as a nation, are making great strides toward fulfilling his Economic Bill of Rights. We can almost see him breaking into that famous broad grin, cigarette holder clenched between his teeth, admonishing the obstreperous Republicans to govern or get out of the way, as America moves boldly forward.
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Economic Bill of Rights (1944)
. . . an equally basic essential to peace is a decent standard of living for all individual men and women and children in all nations. Freedom from fear is eternally linked with freedom from want....
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 freemen." 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;
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 1920s - 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 to do so....
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And now, a recorded message to the Grand Old (and getting older by the minute) Party. [You know. The folks who say "no" to providing access to health care to all Americans; "no" to eliminating pre-existing conditions as a bar to health insurance coverage; "no" to women, who pay more for health insurance than their male counterparts; and "no" to our dependent children under age 26, who, but for the new law of the land, would have no health insurance coverage at all. Why, these blockheads even voted "no" on their own amendments.]