A New Deal Moment

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The budget will be nasty, brutal but, unfortunately, not short. Its effects will last – unless people through their popular organisations put enough pressure on the opposition parties to commit to its repeal. But repeal to what end?

We must demand a New Deal moment – a fundamental break from the existing parameters. There are many examples from history – including our own Democratic Programme of the First Dail. But growing up I was inspired by Franklin Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights, a radical extension of the New Deal programme into peace-time. I reproduce the segment below, from Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Nation address. You can listen to it here.

‘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.’

Roosevelt goes on – you can hear it in the recording – to warn of ‘rightist reaction‘, the dangers of returning to the ‘normalcy of the 1930s‘ and the potential of the fascism that this might bring. The economic bill of rights is aimed at deepening democracy and equality.

It remains, for me anyway, the benchmark of a profoundly social and democratic response to the crisis we face. It is the model of a pathway out of our crisis. Let us mobilise to this end.

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2 Responses

  1. Rob Hartnett

    December 7, 2010 12:00 pm

    “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

    Even the conservatives recognise this truism of Edmund Burke’s.

    But of course Fianna Fáil are different, aren’t they?

  2. Eric

    December 9, 2010 11:25 pm

    Hello Mickael,

    Forgive my rambling, but I believe in Eire and her great people. It is proper and right to be Irish and Proud. My late father went through the times of the Great Depression and WW2. He taught me a great many things in life which you and your viewer can relate to…

    I moved here for the love of a woman. The best thing I ever did in my life without a doubt. One of the most wonderful points about people here is that we stick together and will take care of each other. You still have this, so let us never loose this please and for the love of God and all his saints. This is what will lift us out of the thick of it…

    How we got to where we are:
    Depressions and recessions happen for one reason and one reason only. Too much money in too few hands… much of which I am sure after the turn of this year will be in offshore or Swiss accounts.
    As an American, I am by duty and law bound to declare and be taxed by the IRS on any moneies made here with Ireland. I do get an exemption for a certain amount. The euro – dollar exchange rate does affect this though. I not only paid tax here last year but also had to pay tax in the states.

    What should we do about it:
    Any protests should be peaceful, no matter how mad we all are with the government, they are still our brothers and sisters. Like Gahdi and Martin Luther King, we can overcome adversity with civility. But it shouldn’t be comfortable for the government…
    If ALL the unions were smart and they pulled together, and blockaded the Dail when they are in full session. If done without incident and peacebly, without fires or looting-the norm crap now seen on TV news like has happened in Greece, France and the UK, then this kind of action would be a world shocker. We would be seen as a giant awakening…
    Those who rule in our stead democratically could be force to eat humble pie and have to walk out of the Dail instead of in limos and use public tranport to get home like the rest of us… if they were worth their salt, they would honestly join us in solidarity to get this nation back on her feet. Given the chance, some might surprise us…

    When should we act:
    When we are not motivated out of our anger or fear…

    Revolutions, in my opinion, are not good for the people, as they tend to only replace one group of lords over the flock for another.
    The kinds of leaders we need today are those whom do not revel in wealth and power mongering. We need leaders with a vision for a greater and prosperous Ireland and work towards those ends.

    A social movement for equality and the survival of a living for good people is what is needed… Where there is a will there is a way… If the people desire it enough, it shall come to pass.

    We must take care of our most vulnerable in society, that is our elderly and children. We must get back to the basics of what makes us a people.

    In my opinion, if the IMF leans to heavily on us, we could in effect bankrupt Europe and ruin the euro if we choose to do so… Everyone talks about all the strict regulating criteria to the deal that has been struck; How come no one talks about the devil-in-the-details if we fail to meet any one of those criteria? I still don’t see the details of that out yet, do you?

    In my opinion, we do have a ways out of this without being forced to be slaves, or sending our children abroad for a better future.
    The rich should be made to be a part of this solidarity effort. They should have a choice: (A) Better Ireland by willingly distributing their wealth in vocations for getting us back to work and innovation or (B) Be severely taxed so the government can do the investment in her people properly again.
    I am not talking about hand-out, but the means to make a living.

    Anyway, It’s late and I am sure you have heard enough…

    Slainte
    Eric