Dear Occupiers and the 99%,
I am inspired by your courage and conviction and I thank you for the leadership that you are showing the nation.
I agree with many of the critical statements made in the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City about our current financial and political system and I admire the comprehensive nature of the approach.
As we further develop our collective vision and political strategy, I submit for consideration, Franklin D. Roosevelt's Economic Bill of Rights proposed in his State of a Union speech in 1944, a year before his death.
Although never adopted as an official amendment to the US Constitution, the Economic Bill of Rights became the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, authored in part by his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, and adopted by the UN General Assembly December 10, 1948. The United States voted in favor of the adoption.
Martin Luther King, Jr. attempted to advance a version of this in 1968 through the Poor People's Campaign before he was assassinated.
While we may need to revise it, the Economic Bill of Rights offers an orientation — an intellectual, social and moral one — that addresses many concerns that we all have as citizens and frames our rights as rights; not as "entitlements" for the elderly, the undeserving, or the under-performing.
The values and ideas expressed in the Economic Bill of Rights were embodied in the New Deal programs, Roosevelt administration's response to the Great Depression.The U.S. Social Security program remains one of the lasting and influential outgrowths of Roosevelt’s EBR, though threatened and underfunded by an unfair system of taxation and corporate influence in our federal legislature.
Insofar as the Economic Bill of Rights may appear to be unrealizable, this so-called conventional wisdom attests to just how far our current consciousness has departed from the lessons in human avarice and systemic myopia painfully learned during the Great Depression and World War II.
This departure is no accident; it is by design. In the last 30 years, we've moved away from Roosevelt's vision, and have been lured or bullied into accepting an entirely different social contract. Roosevelt wanted the Economic Bill of Rights to be the law of the land because he knew the "economic royalists" were nipping at the heels of social justice. He wanted to give us constitutional protection from their abuse of power. He spelled it out in his 1936 speech "Rendezvous with History."
The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor - these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship . The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age — other people's money — these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.
Without our consent, we have become enablers or cogs of a financial system that requires us to pay off the gambling debts of the "money guys" at the casino we call Wall St and maintain the system that benefits the 1%, the "economic royalists." Our political system is now fully co-dependent on this financial system, addicted to the enormous amounts of cash that flow into campaign coffers and into bank accounts awaiting our elected leaders upon their return to the private sector.
Because of these problems, and, our incomprehensible and unfair tax code, our country has an upward income redistribution system, (one in which ?% of earnings now goes to the top 1%). Rather than protecting the economic rights of the majority, our government actively redistributes our nation’s wealth to those who least require it. It bestows privileges to the wealthy for being wealthy and punishes the poor for being poor.
The current social contract tramples on our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We need to thoroughly revisit and renegotiate our social contract. It is not too late reverse the terrible policies of the last 30 years that have led to the current recession, extreme economic inequality, the corruption of our democracy. We ought to return to a politics that recognizes our humanity.
Let's discuss the merits of the vision advanced by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt who praised compassion, and compare it to the vision advanced by Ayn Rand who praised selfishness instead. Let us decide as a nation which we prefer. We do need to make a choice here.
Let's take the occupation to the voting booth. Let's take it to town halls, city halls, state capitols and the US Capitol. Let's Occupy the Voting Booth in 2012.
The truth is, too many of us have been absent from the political process. Widespread public disengagement hurts our democracy as much if not more than greed and corruption. We cannot achieve changes in this country until We the People occupy the People's House.
In Egypt, the people demanded that a dictator step down. With a dictatorship, that can work: Hosni Mubarak stepped down and the people of Egypt embarked on a journey to constitute a new democratic society. But the United States is already a representative democracy based upon a well-established system of laws. There is no one person who could step down, or step up, and solve our problems. The closest thing that we have to Mubarak is money. And the only ones who can step up are We the People. Perhaps the rally cry for the American people should be: Money out. People in. We want our democracy back.
Whichever solution or slogan we decide to advance as a people working together to change our society, we cannot achieve our goals without the commitment to ongoing and fiercely persistent engagement from all of us. We need to take our jobs as citizens seriously and understand that our civic duty is really a civic gift from those who fought for and are still fighting for real democracy.
Finally, to my new friends at OccupyDC and to OccupyTogether, I invite you to join us on October 29th for a Citizens Intervention at the US Capitol. Let's speak for the 99% and take our concerns, stories, ideas and grievances directly to Congress. Let's initiate a civil, national dialog with all Americans in the spirit of the democratic slogan “out of many voices, one.”
We need all Americans whether they are in Congress or not, to participate in a dialogue about our future. As much as we may at times feel alienated from each other, we do share a common future and a common bond, the love of our country and its ideals.
I have no idea what the outcome of our struggle will be. I can offer my hope and these stirring words from Roosevelt.
To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny... It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.
Let's move to protect our democracy for our fellow and future Americans as well as the rest of the world from our pernicious and rapacious few. (or something like that – just a bit stronger ending.)
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, 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.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
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 farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
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.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
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.