Bill of Rights
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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. 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.
We want to resurrect a bold idea, an Economic Bill of Rights for all Americans—more specifically, an inclusive Economic Bill of Rights tailored to the conditions of the 21st century. In his groundbreaking State of the Union address, President Franklin Roosevelt called for an expansion of the Bill of Rights to recognize economic rights as well.
Roosevelt outlined those rights as follows:. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment. Roosevelt died before he could begin a national movement to enshrine these economic rights as a constitutional commitment.
In subsequent decades, though prominent politicians and civil rights leaders continued building on Roosevelt's pursuit of economic justice. Seeking to extend the scope of the Civil Rights movement in the mids, A. Martin Luther King Jr. We need to rethink public policies, breaking out of the straightjacket that overemphasizes market-based solutions. We have thought big before—but have compromised big as well.
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During the Great Depression, FDR and liberals made a Faustian bargain with southern segregationists to provide a New Deal and beyond, rewriting the rules of our economy. But only for some of our citizens. The racial apartheid that existed under slavery war renewed under another name—Jim Crow—for decades.
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The exclusions from the guarantees of the New Deal contributed to the highly unequal outcomes we observe today. 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:. Let us briefly explore each of these rights—those proposed in and those we're proposing now—in turn. As a onetime centerpiece of progressive politics, a Federal Job Guarantee received tremendous support from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and civil-rights leader Bayard Rustin.
The provision of a job for all was central to the Freedom Budget, crafted for the A. Philip Randolph Institute in the wake of the March on Washington. Today, despite the recovery from the Great Recession, the problem of inadequate employment continues to plague our society.
The Bill of Rights
Not only are there millions more Americans seeking jobs than there are available openings, but many Americans who are working remain in poverty because of woefully inadequate wages. These conditions warrant the resurrection of a bold idea, an Economic Bill of Rights for all Americans, tailored to the conditions of the 21st century. Below, we turn our attention to the first article of a new Economic Bill of Rights— a federal job guarantee. Why the need for such a guarantee? First, we invariably have major economic crisis that drive people out of work; the most recent episode is the Great Recession.
The Story of the Bill of Rights
And third, not only do we generally have an inadequate number of jobs, but we have a tier of jobs that are of extremely low quality. They are low-paid, have uncertain hours, and have few or no benefits. What the nation needs is a program, established through federal legislation, that would guarantee employment to every American at non-poverty wages. Similar legislation to what we envision has already been introduced to Congress House Resolution - Jobs for All Act, which has 29 co-sponsors.
In our proposal, we would first establish the National Investment Employment Corps NIEC , a permanent agency to oversee direct employment of all Americans seeking a job.
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If individuals were unable to find adequate employment in the private sector, they could turn to the government for employment. In return, the government would provide employment at non-poverty wages.
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Provision of a reasonable floor for compensation in the labor market must be a critical feature of the program. If employers are unwilling to provide employment, or are offering terms inferior to those offered under the NIEC, individuals can simply take the public sector job. However, to provide genuine economic security, workers will need more than a non-poverty wage—they need benefits. The program will include health insurance for full-time workers hours per week of the same quality that is received by civil servants and elected officials in the federal government.
Labor’s Bill of Rights
Such a program, which will transform the labor market as we know it, will come with a price tag. But that will not be the net expense of the program. Since the program functions both as a full employment and as an anti-poverty program, a portion of the expenditures the United States currently devotes to a variety of entitlement programs could be reduced significantly. This would include lower expenditures for unemployment insurance, SNAP, or other types of means-tested social programs. Moreover, it is not extraordinarily difficult for governments to fund large-scale programs.
The fact that at the outset of the great recession, huge amounts of public funds quickly were turned over to the banking community, suggests that there is a huge capacity on the part of the federal government to meet large, new expenses. A federal job guarantee would enable the nation to fund the well-being of all of our citizens, rather than support, narrowly, the folks who produced our most recent economic crisis.
Before Martin Luther King Jr. Capitol building in Washington on June 24, How would the program function? If individuals want a job, they simply could go to reconfigured unemployment offices. Under the job guarantee, those offices would become, literally, employment offices; where any applicant could get a job on demand.
Bill of Rights:
The specific types of work undertaken in the program would be developed in conjunction with local and state governments. The needs of a rural community in West Virginia may be different from the community needs in the city of Milwaukee. Local and state governments would work with the federal government to develop jobs that would serve the needs of specific communities while taking into consideration what would be appropriate for workers in need in the region.
Ultimate administrative authority and funding would be provided at the federal level, and priority would be given to the most distressed communities and to infrastructure projects in areas with the most need.
We envision an array of jobs that would address both our nation's physical and human infrastructure needs. Such a program could rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, and they also could provide vital services, like elder care and child care. Imagine if the government mobilized resources to provide universal, high quality elder care. Its positive impact would not be limited to the direct recipients of the service, but it could also reduce dramatically the stress, time, and monetary expenses now borne by relatives who now have to provide or pay for all of the care work themselves.
Additional socially beneficial goods and services could also be provided through the program. For instance, this map by the Living New Deal project highlights the outstanding accomplishments achieved through direct employment projects during the New Deal, many of which still improve our lives today. One of the major benefits of such a program is its transformative effect on the U.
The program will reshape the power dynamics between labor and capital, enabling workers to have more bargaining power by removing the threat of unemployment. This will likely lead to a shift in the income away from capital towards labor. As a result, corporations and their shareholders do stand to incur a loss on that score.
On the other hand, the federal job guarantee will reduce business costs by extending and maintaining the nation's human and physical infrastructure and creating greater stability of demand for the products of America's businesses. Both of these effects will benefit the private sector's bottom line, providing at least a partial offset to the impact of the job guarantee on labor's bargaining position. Shelter is a basic need for survival, yet it is one many Americans cannot attain.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition , a household whose occupants earn the minimum wage would need more than one full-time-wage worker to afford a two-bedroom rental apartment at fair market rent. This is not only a problem for low-income Americans. At least 90 American cities have a median rent, excluding utilities, that comes to more than 30 percent of median gross household income.
In short, these are rent-burdened cities. Across the country, half of all renters are now spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. A recent Housing and Urban Development report found that there are 7. With over 17 million vacant housing units , perhaps we also can design innovative policy measures to provide housing for the roughly , homeless Americans. The U. Other countries, such as Singapore , have had relatively successful national housing policies, resulting in 90 percent home ownership rates. The Affordable Care Act provided millions with health insurance, driving down the uninsured rate to 9.
But the ACA was a grand compromise between the Democrats and corporate interests. While the ACA expanded coverage, improved access to contraceptives, ended some harmful practices by insurance companies, and drove down inflation in the health-care sector, it left far too many without coverage or with inadequate coverage. A Medicare-for-All type program, like the one put forth by Senator Bernie Sanders, would certainly fit the bill. His American Health Security Act would provide every American with affordable and comprehensive health-care services through the establishment of a national American Health Security Program.
Universal access to a high-quality public education, from Pre-K through the completion of a college degree, needs to be a right, not a privilege.