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.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 45 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 14 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 9 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 8 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.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 4 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.