by Diane Ravitch, 12/31/19
I have engaged in a heated exchange off line with people who are upset about taxing billionaires. They feel sure that taxing the 1% or the .00025% is a slippery slope, and soon enough we will all pay taxes so high that we will have to give up our homes.
This is a good time, I think, to revisit Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union Address. FDR came from the landed gentry but he somehow developed an acute social conscience.
Here is an excerpt from that speech, in which he described the “second Bill of Rights,” what he called “an economic bill of rights.”
He said, as he looked forward to the day when the World War came to an end:
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….
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