Doc Yale

Fidel Castro and an Economic Bill of Rights
Fidel's Accomplishments and the Lack of Progress in the US

Read this morning of Fidel’s death and of some of his accomplishments.  The two that struck me most notably was that the Cuban people have universal health care and that the literacy rate in Cuba is estimated at 99.8%.  If the Cuban government, in spite of the handicaps placed on it by the rest of the world, could accomplish such things why can’t the US.  I was reminded of Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights.

In January 1944 Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), proposed an “Economic Bill of  Rights” in his State of the Union Message.   They included:

  • “The right to a useful and remunerative job…
  • 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 business man…to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies…
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care…
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; and
  • The right to a good education.”

FDR made it clear that such rights should apply to all. He stated:  “We cannot be content…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”.

And he summarized the need in two sentences: “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.”

After seventy two years, these rights form a useful baseline to compare against the rhetoric of the recent presidential campaign.  There is little doubt that FDR was a “democratic socialist”.   And history demonstrates  that the President who led the United States out of the great depression, who was re-elected to an unprecedented four terms of office as president, and who led the nation in World War II, was a pragmatic man—one who could get things done.  FDR’s legacy demonstrates that being pragmatic and visionary can be complementary characteristics rather than conflicting ones.

Those of us who have lived all or most of these seventy two years will not live to see these rights fully adopted in their lifetimes.   Too many of the resources of the last seventy years, that could have been invested in making these rights a reality, have been squandered on endless wars around the world.  However, we can hope that our grandchildren and great grandchildren will see them adopted in their lifetimes, either as constitutional amendments or as working paradigms of a democratic socialist government.  Let us hope that in the future the Supreme Court can be considering issues such as the violation of a person’s right to a remunerative job rather than the right of some abstract corporado “person” to free speech.