I am an immigrant from a formerly socialist country who now lives in Palm Desert. I arrived in the United States on March 12, 1974. It's been a long journey.
If you had my background, you would understand my concerns for the seeping of socialist policies into the laws of our great country, the "Land of the Free."
Here is a piece I wrote regarding how seemingly "nice," "just," and politically correct ideas can be unfair and jeopardize freedom itself.
I originally wrote the following essay on March 29, 2010 examining the merits of FDR's Second Bill of Rights - an example of how good intentions could result in unintended consequences...
Since Michael Moore's reference to FDR's Second Bill of Rights in his movie Capitalism: A Love Story, there has been some renewed interest and much discussion on the subject.
Was it a good idea? Was FDR a visionary whose dream for our country is about to come true? Is this dream feasible? Is it fair? What would the consequences of implementing the Second Bill of Right be?
There are those who think that the constitution does not provide for basic “rights” that every citizen “should be” entitled to. Even President Obama has that view, as evidenced by his 2001 comments in a radio interview:
“But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as people tried to characterize the Warren court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can’t do to you, it says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted.”(emphasis added) - Barack Obama
In his book The Second Bill of Rights: FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More than Ever former University of Chicago law professor and current Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration, Cass Sunstein asserts: “at a minimum, the second bill should be seen as part and parcel of America’s constitutive commitments. Roosevelt’s speech proposing the second bill deserves a place among the great documents in the nation’s history. Indeed, it can be seen as occupying a place akin to the Declaration of Independence, or perhaps somewhere between the Declaration and the Constitution.”
Both Barack Obama and Sunstein seem to imply that our Constitution is deficient and must be amended and that time has come for FDR’S Second Bill of Rights to be incorporated, or as Professor Sunstein calls it “migrated” into our founding document.
The following are excerpts from President Roosevelt’s January 11, 1944 State of the Union address:
“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.”
FDR proceeded to propose the following as a “Second Bill of Rights”:
“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.”
The notion that only by implementing a “Second Bill of Rights” can we have a fair and just society is based on the premise that “rights” are something the government bestows upon us. The U.S. Constitution begs to differ.
Although the proposal certainly has good intentions, it conflicts with our founding document. In order to implement the bill, for example, we would have to entrust the government to administer these “rights” that are very different from those guaranteed by our Constitution. Our constitutional rights protect us from government and guarantee our right to pursue happiness without interference.
Furthermore, FDR’s Second Bill of Rights would give government arbitrary powers to decide what is adequate wealth; housing; education; heath care; and even food; clothing, and shelter! Do we really want the government to be the ultimate authority on such?
The proposed bill promotes a statist mentality as it claims that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence” FDR’s assertion is that government assistance can protect citizenry from falling victim to enslavement. I would submit that all encompassing social programs and government assistance will create enslavement.
While some social welfare is necessary to assist the needy in times of hardship, unlimited entitlements for all are not financially feasible in a free society. In addition, the policy would create endless bureaucracy and unavoidable corruption. Entitlements or social programs are bottomless pits eating up taxpayer dollars uncontrollably. Taxing all the rich in the country 100% would not be enough to provide all the free services proposed for everyone indefinitely; eventually the middle class and even the lower working classes would have to be taxed more to provide for all the “free” benefits. With more and more of their income withheld to pay for “free” services, people will not be able to function without the government taking care of them – hence enslavement as exemplified by the failed socialist countries of Eastern Europe.
Another unsettling question: How does the government guarantee protection from fear of unemployment without regard to the economic forces of supply and demand? While providing unemployment benefits to help workers who are temporarily out of work is necessary, how could a remunerative job be guaranteed without forcing someone else to provide such?
Moreover, implementing the provisions in the Second Bill of Rights would hardy be fair to those who are more industrious and would be willing to invest more of their hard work in attaining better standard of living for themselves. Providing equally without regard to individual contribution eliminates incentives, hence stifles production and ultimately hampers economic prosperity.
While FDR’s declaration that businesses should have the right “to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies…” states the importance of some necessary government protection, the method of how this “protection” might be implemented could create the opposite effect.
Excessive control by government such as taking over businesses (i.e. car industry, banking, and health care) will create monopolies as never seen before in this country. Companies enjoying government protection from failing will not have the same pressures to maintain profitability. Our government is already making arbitrary decisions on which companies may fail or survive. How does that guarantee “an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition”?
The notion of the rights of farmers to earn a decent living sounds reasonable, until you consider the following: Are we comfortable allowing the government to determine what “decent living” is? Furthermore; should farmers be able to produce goods that are poor in quality or otherwise don’t meet demand and be guaranteed a “decent living” or should they be held to the same standards as all other producers are in a free market economy? Would not the lack of doing so lower quality standards? If they were not required to adhere to the same production standards as their counterparts in other industries will that not make them unequal to the rest of us? Should the government have the power to discriminate so?
“Good education” provided by the state is something that this author is very weary of; having been the product of such. He who pays controls what is thought and learned. State founded education is another step towards complete government control. While providing basic level of education to those who cannot afford private schooling is necessary, higher education should be a choice and must remain free of federal control to promote free learning. Improving programs to help families afford any education they choose should be the goal instead of simply providing what government deems adequate or “good”.
“The right of every family to a decent home” implies that society is to pay for it in some way. Providing “adequate” shelter for the needy is reasonable, but who decides what that standard is? In 1977 the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. A rating system was established to evaluate the performance of banks in accordance with the act. While the law was much needed to regulate banks and to eliminate discriminatory practices such as red-lining (refusing credit in minority populated areas of the city) one could argue that abuses by those regulating the institutions ultimately contributed to the housing crisis that devastated the financial markets and our economy. In 1989 our 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush signed the Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) into law. FIRREA mandated that each bank’s CRA ratings would be issued publicly. This led to the ability of public advocacy and community groups to interpret those records in ways that furthered their agenda. By threatening banks to use selected data to create negative publicity, these groups were able to pressure financial institutions into lowering landing standards in low income areas. Besides leading to massive defaults, this practice also created an inequality, as same was not afforded in higher income demographic areas. Should one family’s right to own a home trump the rights of others to be protected from government interference in the free market?
“The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health” certainly sounds reasonable and it seems that we are about to have that part of FDR’s dream come true.
Again, my issue is with who decides what “good” is; it is the concern I have regarding the plan that our Congress in working on as well. We are about to create a system that is modeled on two institutions, Medicare, and Medicaid both of which the President himself declared unsustainable; a massive system that no one understands; our nation cannot afford, and which mandates the creation of some 110 new government agencies – an expensive web of bureaucracy. While it would be nice if all what is promised could be delivered, it seems that to stay within the astronomical budget, cuts will have to be made in services to the elderly. With government run health care Americans will be subjected to a monopoly that will have no incentives to provide the best care, but rather will be aiming for “adequate”. There are many references to European countries and Canada having socialized medicine and doing “adequate” with it. I don’t believe Americans understand what that means. The U.S. has the best health care in the world. Adjusting to an “adequate” system will create much disappointment to say the least.
We must find ways of improving conditions in our country by adhering to the Constitution.
FDR’s Second Bill of Rights is in direct conflict with the provisions in our founding document as demonstrated above. The Constitution has protected our freedom for 200 plus years from enemies foreign and domestic. Incorporating President Roosevelt’s dream or allowing it to “migrate” into this Founding Document would be a subversion of the Constitution of the United States of America.