I cannot remember more hype and predictions and fluff and puffery for any previous State of the Union Address, can you? After all, the event occurs every year. Even Michelle has been dragged into the drama with the WH press office announcing a list of people who have been invited to sit with the First Lady. Even poor Cmdr. Mark Kelly, Rep. Giffords’s husband, was invited. He declined the invitation--obviously.
CrooksandLiars.com has done us another great service by digging back and finding this great Franklin D. Roosevelt State of the Union Address. It’s been referred to as FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. It was heard on January 11, 1944. (I wrote “heard” rather than “delivered” because the speech had been taped. Roosevelt had been ill with the flu and was unable to address Congress directly.)
This was FDR’s opening: [Here]
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.
The following are the fundamental economic rights that Roosevelt listed in that 1944 State of the Union speech.
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.
A year and three months later, FDR died from a massive stroke. Yet, here we are, more than 50 years later, still struggling to effect the fundamental economic bill of rights that FDR had envisioned and had taught us yearn for.
FDR kept his eyes on the least fortunate in our society and never lost sight of them. More importantly, his vision of a just society gave us a political language for the morality we had learned at home, at school and in church.
On the other hand, the Republican Party of Herbert Hoover believed that if the upper income folks prospered so did the rest of society. Why? Well, the wealth would sort of “trickle down” the economic ladder. That philosophy, while fundamentally demeaning, at least acknowledges that there are the unemployed, the poor, the working and middle class below them. Today’s GOP doesn’t even say that because they simply ignore the poor and concentrate on the wealthy.
I am certain that Rep. Paul Ryan’s GOP rebuttal, which will be delivered immediately after the President’s address, will reflect this same old GOP philosophy but couched in slicker language. We’ll write more on this tomorrow.
Let us hope that Barack Obama and his speech writers have learned a little something from FDR’s vision and not Ronald Reagan’s. Will the President describe the present despair of the long-time unemployed, the homeless and the dispossessed when he sketches his vision for America’s future?
Will Obama’s eye be on the sparrow or on the corporate vultures?....