Remembering FDR’s legacy
Roosevelt’s ‘New Economic Bill of Rights’ should be enacted
One U.S. president stands above the rest who led this country during the 20th century: Franklin D. Roosevelt.
FDR guided us through some of the darkest hours of our history. He brought us out of the Great Depression and was commander in chief during World War II.
Roosevelt is also responsible for helping Americans avoid poverty when they retire thanks to Social Security.
His Fair Labor Standards Act gave American employees the 40-hour work week and set the first minimum wage. His Wagner Act helped unionize the American workforce and create our middle class, until that was gutted by amendments.
FDR’s banking regulations protected our economy from the widespread devastation of Wall Street crises until several key provisions were repealed in the 1990s.
“We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people – whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth – is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure,” Roosevelt declared in his 1944 State of the Union Address. “True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”
In this speech, FDR proposed a “New Economic 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 home and 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 economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment
• The right to a good education.
“All of these rights spell security,” Roosevelt concluded. “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.”
It is the tragedy of our times that the economic rights Americans won during Roosevelt’s administration and held for more than four decades following their enactment, have either been taken away or under threat since the 1980s.