Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Democratic Socialists USA: Social and Economic Bill of Rights

This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat: Democratic Socialists USA: Social and Economic Bill of Rights

When you look at the New Deal from President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, you see the creation of the American public safety net. With things like retirement insurance, which is what Social Security is. Unemployment Insurance, for people who lose their jobs. Welfare Insurance for people who don't have real skills and also have kids. Public Housing for people who can't afford a home. And there were other social programs and protections like that. Go up to the Great Society of the 1960s under President Lyndon Johnson and you see programs that build on the New Deal with more help for the poor. Medicaid, medical insurance for low-income workers and non-workers who aren't retired yet. Medicare for all retired seniors and seniors who haven't retired yet and other programs.

In 1944-45, President Roosevelt introduced what he called the Economic Bill of Rights. Which was phase two of his New Deal which would have gone much further than simple  social economic insurance, but to move us to a Scandinavian welfare state. Health insurance for everyone, a guaranteed quality education from government, guaranteed retirement income, guaranteed good jobs. If people can't find a job then government would give them one working for the government. President Harry Truman had similar proposals in what he called the Fair Deal in the late 1940s.  But by the time Lyndon Johnson becomes president in 1963 and he moves to his Great Society agenda in 1964, he's not looking at the Scandinavian welfare state as the economic model for America. But more social insurance to deal with poverty. Not a welfare state to manage everyone's lives for them.

What Democratic Socialists USA and other democratic socialist and social democratic groups and parties would do in America, is create that Scandinavian welfare state for America. To go way past the safety net and import Denmark or Sweden as far as our economic model. The whole idea of the safety net is a social insurance system for people who need it when they fall down in the private enterprise system. The welfare state is there to take care of everyone regardless of income level. Government provided education for everyone, government provided health care for everyone, government provided health insurance for everyone, government provided retirement for everyone, government provided leave for everyone, etc. All of these programs would become universal regardless of income level in a democratic socialist model.

So when I hear things like Economic Bill of Rights, I hear about government guarantees so people don't have to starve, go homeless, go without health care, always will have a job even if it is working for government. At least that is the plan under these proposals and I would argue about whether we should do this or not. And instead offer an alternative that is based on empowering more Americans to have the skills to get the jobs and make the money to have the freedom to make the decisions for themselves in the private market. But that is what Democratic Socialists advocate that everyone shouldn't have to go without and they would argue the way to guarantee that is to have the central government not as the last provider of human services, but the sole provider. Which is a much different economic philosophy from what Americans are use to seeing.