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Published: Sunday, 10/12/2008

FDR's economic fairness initiative resonates today

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Nearly 65 years ago, a forward-looking President Franklin Delano Roosevelt searching for recovery of the economy and looking toward the end of a global war on two fronts presented to the country his idea of a second Bill of Rights dictating the right of all Americans to have jobs, adequate medical care, food, shelter, and education.

The nation's political leaders now are seeking to reverse unemployment, fix an economy battered by turmoil on Wall Street, and win or at least honorably end a global war on terror being fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Leaders in Ohio and Michigan are fighting to improve two of the worst state economies in the country, with jobless rates the highest in years and plant closings routine news.

Today, when Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama returns to Toledo, The Blade, on its front page, asks Mr. Obama a simple question: Do all Americans who want to work have the right to a job where they live?

John Robinson Block, co-publisher and editor-in-chief of the newspaper, said the answer to that question is important to all Toledoans and to all Americans.

'The late, great governor of Ohio, James A. Rhodes, used to say there is nothing wrong with Ohio that more jobs won't solve,' Mr. Block said. 'And 64 years ago, President Roosevelt said every American has the right to a job. We wonder if Senator Obama thinks having a job is a right today.'

The similarities of the challenges of the 1940s and today have not gone unnoticed.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Roosevelt created the New Deal to provide relief for the unemployed, economic recovery, and to reform the country's economic and banking systems.

And near the end of his presidency, during his Jan. 11, 1944, State of the Union message, President Roosevelt spoke of the need for a second Bill of Rights 'under which a basis of security and prosperity can be established for all, regardless of station, race, or creed.'

In today's bad-news economy, many believe the 32nd president's ideas should be invoked again.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D., Ohio), said the rules of economic fairness in the country need to be restored.

'The social contract in this country has always been if you worked hard, took care of your family, went to work, and played by the rules, you would be rewarded,' Mr. Brown said. 'We have moved away from that, and the social contract is not what it used to be in this country.'

President Roosevelt's proposed second Bill of Rights included:

• 'The right to a useful, remunerative job in industries, shops, farms, or mines.'

• 'The right to earn enough to provide adequate food, clothing, and recreation.'

• 'The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return that will provide a decent living.'

• 'The right of every businessman to trade with freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies.'

• '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 protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.'

• 'The right to a good education.'

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.




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