Friday, February 20, 2015

FDR's Second Bill of Rights vs. Republican Governors

(In the video above, we see FDR deliver his Second Bill of Rights speech in 1944. The original YouTube page for this video is at
In his Second Bill of Rights speech, President Franklin Roosevelt called for new set of rights for American citizens. Among these were the right to "adequate medical care," "protection from the economic fears of old age," and the "right to a good education." FDR and his New Deal policymakers wanted to make the lives of middle-class and low-income Americans better. For awhile, they were successful. With New Deal policies and infrastructure in place during and after World War II (for example, FDIC, Social Security, and New Deal roads, schools, and airports) the American middle-class grew like never before or since.

Today, on the other hand, Republican governors all across the country are making the lives of middle-class and low-income Americans harder, in order to grant or maintain tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy. Consider these five examples (note: some of these proposed budget cuts might now be law):

1. In Wisconsin, with his state's budget pulverized by tax cuts, Republican Governor Scott Walker wants to cut $300 million from higher education.

2. In Kansas, with his state's budget pulverized by tax cuts, Republican Governor Sam Brownback wants to cut $45 million from K-12 and higher education, and reduce pension contributions by $41 million.

3. In Louisiana, with his state's budget pulverized by tax cuts, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal wants to cut funding from higher education by hundreds of millions of dollars.

4. In Arizona, with his state's budget pulverized by tax cuts, Republican Governor Doug Ducey wants to cut $75 million from higher education.

5. The new Republican Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, doesn't want to be outdone by his fellow right-wing zealots. He wants to cut funding for higher education, kick low-income people off Medicaid, and reduce pension plans for public employees. But, with respect to his own multi-million dollar personal fortune, he hasn't proposed that it be taxed at an increased rate, not even by a tenth of a percent. The state's current income tax rate is 3.75%, a rate that Rauner no doubt thinks is too burdensome for him and his mega-wealthy buddies--yes, better to deprive low-income workers of health insurance, reduce the income of future retirees, and force a tuition increase on college students, than to create a horrible situation where the super-rich can't afford to buy more mansions and private jets.

(New Deal policymakers thought adequate health care was important for all Americans, regardless of income. Sadly, many right-wing politicians today feel just the opposite, which is why so many have fought tooth-and-nail to prevent low-income Americans from receiving Medicaid assistance. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

All these Republican-engineered budget cuts (the five examples above are just the tip of the iceberg) place an increasing financial burden on middle and low-income Americans. But why is this happening? Answer: Because the right-wing millionaires & billionaires funding the political campaigns of these Republican governors want their personal fortunes protected while everyone else takes a hit. In Kansas, for example, Koch-funded Sam Brownback is going to divert money away from highway funds to plug a budget hole, so that multi-billionaires like the Koch brothers don't have to pay another dime in taxes. To put it another way, the majority of Kansans have to see their roadways begin to deteriorate, and their car maintenance bills increase, so that the most wealthy Kansans can hoard more money, go on more vacations, send their kids to affluent private schools, and soak & gloat in 24-karat gold bathtubs.

The craziest thing of all, of course, is that tens of millions of people keep voting for Republican & Tea Party politicians, even as their wages stagnate, their personal debt increases, their retirement is put at risk, the infrastructure they use crumbles, their state's reserve funds are burned through, their sales taxes are increased, and the funding for their children's schools is decimated.

Economic self-flagellation at the polls is an amazing thing to witness. As for me, I prefer FDR's Second Bill of Rights.

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