Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Ugly Americans

Watching the political process, or lack thereof, over the past few months, brings me to a dire conclusion: the people charged by the people with running the show are clueless about what is really important. They listen to select minorities pounding away while the -- once tragically called -- Silent Majority is left scrambling to maintain a decent standard of living. One in five AMERICAN children goes to bed hungry every night. One in eleven Americans is out of work, and if you're Hispanic or Black the numkber is worse. Now I am told by my union (ah that other ugly word to those in power even though only one in eight American workers belongs to a union) that the US Postal Service wants to pull out of its agreed upon contributions to its workers' retirement benefits. An echoing in my head are words, always words, but once upon a time a man's word was his bond.

So I am here to remind you, and I hope you pass it on to anyone and everyone who might listen. Not my words. Not even new words expressing new ideas. They come from a speech made in 1944.

when you read them, think about all that we have achieved as a people over the past eighty years, since the Great Depression began in 1929, all that we have gained regarding the rights and protections of our working force, of Middle America. We remain the backbone of the country, and yet Congress coldly and assuredly is working toward destroying Social Security, Medicare, unions, health care, and personal freedom, all in the name of profit. Not my profit. Not your profit. So here come the words. Let them echo in your head, too, and resonate throughout this once great land.

“The Economic Bill of Rights”Excerpt from President Roosevelt's January 11, 1944 message to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Union[1]:

“ It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. 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.
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.

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 free men.”[2] 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 all our citizens.

For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

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