Blast from the Past: FDR’s Second Bill of Rights and the Obama Agenda

Jefferson believed that all men are “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights… that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Framers of our Constitution adopted a full bill of rights that covers everything from the freedom of speech and religion to the rights of the individual states.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt went a step further on January 11, 1944. During his State of the Union address, he outlined his vision for “the Second Bill of Rights” to which he believed every American citizen is entitled. In doing so, FDR wrote the agenda for every progressive who came after him, including President Obama.

FDR enumerated several rights in his speech, but three of them are particularly important:

  1. 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.
  2. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health
  3. The right to a good education.

While FDR directed his comments on the necessity of “freedom from unfair competition” specifically towards the business world, that one phrase has evolved into the foundation of modern progressive thought. As such, the pursuit of “freedom from unfair competition” pervades most of the administration’s decision making, particularly in health care and education.

For years now, President Obama and the Department of Justice have resisted the growing calls for school choice in education. The President famously stated in an interview with Bill O’Reilly in 2014 that allowing for school choice through a voucher program “would have very limited impact if any.” This flew in the face of research conducted by the Department of Education, which cited the examples of the D.C. voucher program, the Milwaukee voucher program, and the Louisiana voucher program. All three voucher programs found great success in improving high school graduation rates and the number of students going on to college.

The Department of Justice has pulled no punches in fighting these school choice programs. Citing possible discrimination, the DOJ resurrected a nearly 40-year old segregation case when seeking an injunction against Louisiana’s voucher program. The irony, as pointed out by Governors Walker and Jindal in their Politico op-ed, is that more than 90% of participants in voucher programs are minority students. Last year alone saw more than 9,000 Louisianans and 25,000 Wisconsinites enroll in these programs.

Rather than heed the calls for choice from parents, students, and education experts, the President opted to forge ahead with the implementation of the Common Core. The Common Core Standards State is nothing more than the industrialization of education that leaves students with only technical skill, while lacking the ability to think critically.

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama Administration brought new “equality” to the health care system in a variety of ways.

First and foremost, the essential health benefits (EHB) standards made all of the plans available on the exchange almost uniform in terms of coverage. What changes between the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans is the copay/deductible structure. The benefits across the plans are essentially the same, which means that you don’t necessarily get more for your money. It is just a question of whether you want to pay for your care upfront or pay when you actually receive care. Bronze plans come with a low premium, but also have a high deductible and copays. These plans allow for deferred payment for care, allowing the consumer to gamble that he or she won’t get sick. Platinum plans come with a high premium, but also have a low deductible and copays. The premium on a Platinum plan is a down payment for care the consumer expects to receive.

Second, the Affordable Care Act barred any new enrollees into grandfathered plans. We all recall the President’s oft-repeated promise: “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” The problem is that by barring any new enrollees, the pool of eligible consumers for pre-ACA coverage plans will continue to shrink until the plan becomes unsustainable for the insurer. Once the pool shrinks to a certain size, the insurer is forced to cut the plan to remain fiscally solvent. Many insurers decided to save themselves the hassle and simply cancelled all pre-ACA coverage options and sent those customers to the exchanges.

Third, the Affordable Care Act imposes a “Cadillac Tax,” beginning in 2018, on any plans that are deemed too generous in the coverage they offer ($10,200 per individual or $27,500 per family). The idea is to force employers to stop offering excessive health care plans in order to avoid taxes by abusing the Employer Sponsored Insurance (ESI) tax subsidy. The ESI subsidy allows employers to use pre-tax dollars to pay for tax-free health care for their employees. As Avik Roy points out in Forbes, expensive health care plans are not necessarily excessive in benefits. Older and/or sicker customers are certainly more expensive to cover. In the face of the Cadillac Tax, many employers will cut benefits all together or purchase insurance in the ACA small business exchange, known as SHOP. The outcome of the Cadillac Tax will be fewer benefits, higher premiums, and an unfavorable cost-sharing structure for the consumer.

In education and health care, the Obama administration favors top-down, one-size-fits-all approaches to policy. The Affordable Care Act offers “equal” benefits to all customers, but it forces many of them into the marketplace and replaces coverage customers previously had. In education, the Obama administration abjectly refuses to allow choice for parents and students. Instead, he forces the Common Core on state educational systems by holding funds through his Race to the Top program. The chase for a state in which all are “free from unfair competition” has resulted in fewer personal liberties and less market competition.