The Full Employment Solution

Monday, February 12, 2018
The American Prospect

Two years into U.S. involvement in World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his 1944 State of the Union address, calling for a Second Bill of Rights—by which he meant not just political rights, but economic rights. The wartime economy was firing on all cylinders, bringing the unemployment rate to historic lows, averaging just 1.7 percent from 1943 to 1945. But Roosevelt and his advisers were concerned about maintaining these employment levels and the economic expansion when the war came to a close. “Necessitous men,” Roosevelt observed, “are not free men.” Those “who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” Real freedom, he said, freedom to “pursue happiness,” required a “second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all.” For Roosevelt, full citizenship demanded more than the political rights designated in the first ten amendments to the Constitution: It required economic rights as well. Roosevelt outlined them in his speech:

1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

3. The right of every family to a decent home.

4. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

5. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.

6. The right to a good education.

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