Do We Need An Economic Bill of Rights?

By Kenrya Rankin Mar 05, 2018

During his 1944 State of the Union Address to Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt argued for amendments to the Constitution that would grant Americans with inalienable economic rights. His plan never became law, but an article posted by The American Prospect today (March 5) uses it as a starting point for a proposed Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century.

"We envision moving far beyond marginal or incremental steps. We envision reforms aimed at building an inclusive economy that works for all, enshrining a national obligation to provide every American with economic security and opportunity," the authors—Mark Paul, William Darity Jr. and Darrick Hamilton—write. "While many will spend the next four years fighting the Trump administration in an attempt to preserve the limited economic and civil rights that still remain unequally distributed, we want to build a real alternative that will produce fundamental change."

Per the article, these are the six economic rights outlined in Roosevelt’s original plan:

  • 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 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.

The authors argue that while they are a good start, even if those rights had been assured back in ’44, they wouldn’t be enough in 2018:

Today, we must transcend the racial, ethnic and regional divisions exacerbated by post-Depression and post-World War II-era policies by building universal policies that are cognizant of identities and intersectionality, and inclusive of race, gender, nationality, sexuality and ability.

The first six rights outlined by FDR above are still all too germane today, but to update these economic rights to facilitate an inclusive economy for the 21st century, we add:

  • The right to sound banking and financial services.
  • The right to a safe and clean environment.
  • The right to a meaningful endowment of resources as a birthright.

The authors go on to expound on the new rights, delving into the history that birthed the need for them, the current policies that negatively impact people living in the margins, and the methods of implementation that could make the proposed rights life-changing for generations to come.

Read the full article at