Toward an 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 "de-commodify" (take out of private market provision) and provide as a right such basic human needs as healthcare, childcare, education, housing and 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 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 this second economic bill of rights and making it applicable to all those who labor and reside within our borders will eliminate the stark inequality in life opportunity between a child born in an inner city or an affluent suburb.

Every person is entitled to these fundamental economic and social rights:

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 widely available 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.

Jobs

FDR said it well: 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 livingwage jobs for all who are willing and able to work.

Health Care

Preventive, acute and longterm 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 becoming baseline requirements, and should be free for everyone, as is provided by right in some developed countries, but not in the U.S.

Child Care

Publicly financed childcare, provided through child care co-ops or public preschools, 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 wellbeing means more than a living wage job. Equally important is the confidence that, in periods of unemployment, or in our retirement, or if we are or become disabled, there will be assurance of income sufficient to live in dignity.

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

Whether in the workplace, community, or biosphere. A healthy environment means one that is free of toxic pollutants, pathogens and hazards. 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. Community organizing is key to effective democratic participation in social and political life. But without the right to freely organize, bargain and engage in political and mass actions collectively, workers and others are powerless against employers, corporations and government bodies that are hostile to their interests.

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 60 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 95 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 27 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 14 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 5 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.