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America Needs Economic Rights. Now Is the Time to Push for Them.

Seventy-five years ago today, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used his State of the Union address to declare that the government should guarantee a basic floor of well-being. Political rights alone could not assure “equality in the pursuit of happiness,” he argued. “True individual freedom cannot exist without security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.”

FDR was calling for a second Bill of Rights—an Economic Bill of Rights—that would include the right to employment, housing, education, health care, and an economy free of unchecked corporate and monopoly power.

Last week, we watched more Democratic candidates sworn into Congress than any time since 1974—a blue wave propelled by ideas that echoed policies articulated by FDR. For too long, the Democratic Party had deemed such notions—universal health care, free college, a jobs guarantee—as too big, too risky, even too socialist. Now the party, and the left more broadly, is taking its cues from, and in turn inspiring, an American electorate that wants bold solutions to the instability and insecurity facing so many families.

While daring ideas are moving into the left’s mainstream, they are still mostly piecemeal attempts by individual candidates. When we debate them, we rarely acknowledge that we are really grappling with a decades-old question: Is it time for America to finally recognize that meeting basic material needs is a human right? In other words, is it time for economic rights to be at the forefront of the progressive agenda? We believe it is.

Framing issues in terms of economic rights would further embolden the left, not only by changing what we should expect and deserve from the government but by providing connective tissue across a range of progressive policies. As we approach the 2020 presidential campaign season, there is currently no concept that explains how candidates’ ideas relate to one another or why the moment demands not just one or two of these policies—not just a federal jobs guarantee or affordable college or universal health care or a Green New Deal—but all of them and more. This moment demands a framework for upending the structures that are driving inequality today. An agenda focused on realizing economic rights could do just that. Read more

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America Needs Economic Rights. Now Is the Time to Push for Them.

Seventy-five years ago today, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used his State of the Union address to declare that the government should guarantee a basic floor of well-being. Political rights alone could not assure “equality in the pursuit of happiness,” he argued. “True individual freedom cannot exist without security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.”