Now that THE ROOSEVELTS series on PBS, the seven part series presented to the nation by the great documentarian Ken Burns, is over, many thoughts and emotions cross one’s mind.
FDR offered so much to the nation in his New Deal, and in his leadership of the struggle against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in World War II.
But what struck this author more than any of this, while watching this 14 hour series over the past week, is an often forgotten speech, the State of the Union speech of January 11, 1944, delivered by FDR in a joint session of Congress.
The speech dealt with the issue of a “Second Bill Of Rights”.
FDR knew that the Bill Of Rights had made America the beacon of the civilized world, with the basic civil liberties it granted to all Americans.
But FDR was looking ahead to the end of World War II, and envisioned a nation that would extend the concept of a bill of rights to other issues that affected all Americans.
So FDR called for a future guarantee of everyone having a decent job with a living wage; a guarantee of decent housing for all Americans; a guarantee of a decent supply of food, clothing, and leisure for all; a guarantee of a decent education providing opportunity for all to advance; an expansion of Social Security beyond the beginning of the concept nine years earlier in 1935; and provision for a decent health care system for all Americans.
Now 70 years later, none of these have been accomplished, although Social Security has improved tremendously for the elderly, and for women who are widowed and children who lose a parent or are orphaned: Medicare has done so much to help the elderly and disabled; and ObamaCare, under great duress, has provided health care for millions of Americans who never had health coverage before.
But yet, conservatives and Republicans are out to make Social Security and Medicare privatized, and want to destroy ObamaCare!
But we have too many people who cannot find work, due to the Great Recession of George W. Bush and cannot even gain extension of the New Deal concept of unemployment compensation; many Americans live in substandard housing; many people go hungry and live in dire poverty; many have to work multiple jobs and cannot have time for leisure, with most Americans not able to have vacation time, less than any European democracy, or Canada or Australia; and many children are denied a good education system and can only gain minimum wage employment as adults.
The right wing extremists are trying to destroy the New Deal and Great Society reforms, and return American to a century ago before there was social justice and economic opportunity and political reform offered, starting with the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.
How can any decent American not rise up in protest and anger at the selfishness and greed of the elite one percent and their propagandists, who do not care what happens to anyone other than their own class? Why is acquisition of obscene wealth and power so important that these right wingers have no humanity, no common decency, no desire to see their fellow Americans have a chance to succeed as they were given? Why is the hatred of taxes so vehement, as if one can take his or her wealth to the grave, or give it in obscene amounts to offspring who will never know responsibility or the virtue of accomplishing on their own? What is wrong with this nation, that 70 years after the “Second Bill of Rights” speech of FDR, we have made very little progress on the goals of the speech, and have even backtracked on them, and we have evil forces wanting to destroy the most significant programs of the New Deal and Great Society?