4. A Strong Social Safety Net

4. A Strong Social Safety Net

In addition to protections for farms and factories, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Second Bill of Rights” concerned the promotion of what the U.S. Constitution calls the “General Welfare,” by establishing the rights of all Americans to Food, clothing and leisure; Housing, Medical care, Social Security and Education.

A government modeled on the American System will stand between the needs of working people and the greed of Wall Street financiers. As with proven programs like Medicare and Social Security, the federal government alone has the scale and resources to uphold the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We must fulfill Roosevelt’s vision by securing the economic rights on which human rights are founded.

We Demand:

Food, clothing and leisure

We must start by protecting our family farms with Parity (living wage) prices, and restoring the American textile industry with a 15% general tariff. Good, productive jobs take people off the dole and provide high-quality goods to all Americans. But we should also recognize that buying “cheap” cheapens the producer. Your cheap food exploits a dwindling number of American farmers, and your cheap clothes exploit 3rd-world textile workers – none of whom can afford to trade for your goods or services, and all of whom are overworked and underpaid to keep neoliberalism alive.

Those things we need and use for our survival or even for our leisure must be produced at home, at good wages, and with good working conditions that allow Americans and people around the world the living standards and leisure time to raise strong families and communities, and secure a better future for our world.

Medicare for All

Obamacare made certain positive steps, but did not expand public programs nor contain the rising costs of health insurance. We join a chorus of progressive activists, labor unions, business leaders and physicians in demanding Medicare for All.

Medicare is not merely “universal coverage,” but a publicly-financed insurance program that operates at greatly reduced costs. Physicians for a National Health Program estimates that 31% of US health spending is wasted on shareholder compensation and administrative expenses in the for-profit insurance industry. No wonder our per-capita healthcare costs are so much higher than those in Canada, Western Europe and other comparable economies. To expand Medicare to younger Americans will not only greatly increase its cost efficiency, but make American employers more competitive by removing from them the enormous burden of providing health insurance to their employees.

  • Medicare for All. Pass H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.
  • Universal, comprehensive coverage
  • A single national insurance plan with regional administration
  • Free choice of providers
  • No out-of-pocket payments
  • Funding will come from a modest, progressive payroll tax, supplemented by revenue from a 1% Wall Street Sales Tax

Stronger Social Security

Social Security, a hard-won achievement of the New Deal, is the only thing standing between many American seniors and poverty. We must reject attempts to delay retirement, reduce benefits, and privatize this public treasure.

Social Security has been often and wrongly called a “Ponzi scheme” by Wall Street operatives because current beneficiaries rely on contributions from current workers. Indeed, Social Security relies on the health of the US economy. Yet it has continued to function with a surplus despite decades of economic decline. In the robust economy made possible by the program outlined here, Social Security will continue to deliver at improved levels for America's seniors, widows and disabled for many decades into the future.

UFAA supports the seven principles of Strengthen Social Security:

  1. Social Security has a surplus of $2.6 trillion, which it has loaned to the federal government. Social Security did not cause the federal deficit. Its benefits should not be cut to reduce the deficit.
  2. Social Security, which has stood the test of time, should not be privatized in whole or in part.
  3. Social Security is insurance and should not be means-tested. Because workers pay for it, they should receive it regardless of their income or savings.
  4. Social Security is fully funded for more than 25 years; thereafter it has sufficient funds to meet 75 percent of promised benefits. To reassure Americans that Social Security will be there for them, Congress should act in the coming few years outside the context of deficit reduction to close this funding gap by requiring those who are most able to afford it to pay somewhat more.
  5. Social Security’s retirement age, already scheduled to increase from 65 to 67, should not be raised further. That would be a benefit cut that places the greatest hardship on older Americans who are in physically demanding jobs, or are otherwise unable to find or keep employment.
  6. Social Security, whose average benefit was $13,000 in 2010, provides vital protection against the loss of wages as the result of disability, death, or old age.  Those benefits should not be reduced, including by changes to the cost of living adjustment or the benefit formula.
  7. Social Security’s benefits should be increased for those who are most disadvantaged. The benefits, which are very important to virtually all workers and their families, are particularly crucial to those who are disadvantaged.

Affordable Public Education

In higher education, student loan debt now stands at $1.2 trillion dollars, up over 500% since 1999. Average tuition rose over 8% in 2010 alone. The cost of higher education has become prohibitive to too many American families, and the culprit as usual is Wall Street. State tax bases eroded thanks to tax policies that expect nothing from the super-rich, corporate America and financiers. Many University endowments have been destroyed by derivatives speculation. Lastly, rising tuition costs satisfy the profit motives of banks dealing in private student loans.

Education, like healthcare, is an obvious target for the proceeds of the 1% Wall Street Sales Tax. We can bolster our underfunded K-12 systems, and greatly defray the costs of community college and public Universities, by subsidizing education with a tax on Wall Street. On the path to tuition-free higher education, we can offer interest-free Federal credit for student loans to limit the cost burden of higher education.