Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: If you don't have a job - you're not free. 14 September '11
For the last 30 years or so - Republicans have defined what freedom means in America.
At the debate this week - Ron Paul told us what it means to be “free” in America:
Ron Paul: What he should do is whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy but not be forced...
Wolf Blitzer: But he doesn't have it and he needs intensive care for six months, who pays?
Ron Paul: That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This whole idea that you have to compare and take care of everybody...
As in - freedom to die alone and broke.
Just like what happened to Ron Paul's campaign manager - a fellow by the name of Kent Snyder - back in 2008 - when he was running Ron Paul's campaign - when he contracted pneumonia - he spent 2 months in the hospital - and died $400,000 in debt - because he didn't have health insurance.
Ron Paul doesn't even give his campaign staff health insurance - I guess it's because he wants them to be "free"
And then there's Rick Perry - who as Governor locked up more people than any other governor in America - he loves to spew his definition of freedom too:
And as we go forward, America needs to be about freedom. It needs to be about freedom from overtaxation, freedom from over-litigation, freedom from over-regulation.
Let me translate that into English. That means freedom from government keeping air, water, and food safe - freedom from government taxing us to pay for roads, bridges, and police officers - and freedom… I guess… from lawyers being allowed to sue on our behalf when a corporation or incompetent doctor ruins our lives.
That’s what Republicans want you to believe freedom means - freedom mostly from the government.
And considering our government is made up of “We the People” - then that Republican story essentially means freedom from each other - maybe that's why some people are arming themselves to the teeth today.
But this isn’t how freedom used to be defined in America.
In 1936 - President Franklin Roosevelt defined freedom a different way when he famously said:
An old English judge once said: 'Necessitous men are not free men.' Liberty requires opportunity to make a living - a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for."
A necessitous man in not a free man… so what does that mean?
Basically it means - if you have necessities that are not met, if you’re in need - then you’re not free.
If you're hungry and don’t have food - you’re not free.
If you’re homeless - you’re not free.
If you don’t have healthcare - you’re not free.
If you don’t have a job - you’re not free.
That’s why - shortly before he died - Franklin Roosevelt laid out his Second Bill of Rights - so that more and more Americans could enjoy that freedom that should come with living in the United States:
A second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station or race or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines throughout 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 - 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 while FDR’s second bill of rights never came to fruition, his New Deal did - and so, too, did Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” - and from after World War 2 until Reagan - our nation spread freedom to more and more Americans by caring for each other - by everyone pitching in to create a social safety net - including the rich who paid an income tax rate over 70% after their first million or so - and most of the time above 90%.
And what happened was more and more Americans were free to chase down their dreams - to be artists and inventors - to find that perfect job - to teach and to build.
They were free to spend more time with their families and to take vacations.
They were free to dream, and to pursue those dreams - and the explosion of innovation and opportunity in America during the period from the 1940s through the 1980s was the result of that freedom.
That's because they weren't constantly living on the edge - constantly living in need - they weren't "necessitous men and women".
They were free to quit a dead-end job because they knew it wasn't the only way they could get health insurance - which all the states back then required to be offered by non-profit companies and so was less expensive than today.
They were free to start a small start-up business because they weren't living paycheck to paycheck and they could take a risk without fear that their family would starve if the business went bust.
And because of all this new freedom - provided for BY government policies - our economy boomed - the middle class thrived - and the United States became a superpower - and a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world.
Then it all changed.
Reagan called FDR's concept of freedom nonsense - he called it communism - and he pivoted the nation toward a new definition of freedom - the one Republicans like Ron Paul and Rick Perry promote.
Bill Clinton continued the re-definition of freedom - and ended welfare "as we know it".
Today - half of the Great Society has been repealed - and the New Deal centerpiece of Social Security is under attack.
Regulations that keep us safe are being repealed - taxes on the rich and corporations that pay for the social safety net are being dropped - and despite what Republicans like to claim - Americans are more "free" from the government than they've ever been since the Great Depression.
And what do we see happening?
Working peoples' wages are going down - more Americans are living in poverty than at any other time in this nation's history - at least 20 million Americans are unemployed - 53 million Americans are without healthcare - more than 40 million Americans can't afford to put enough food on the table for their families.
We're free alright - free to go hungry - free to be poor - free to be jobless - free to breath toxic air and drink dirty water - and free to get sick and die - and all the while, free from the government helping us.
We need to once again ask ourselves what it means to be free - because for the vast majority of Americans - this new definition of freedom just isn't working.
Anthropologically speaking - historically speaking - humans have never bought into this bizarre new Republican - or Ayn Rand - notion of "freedom".
For thousands of years we've organized ourselves into groups - in families - in tribes - in cities - in nations - just so we could all collectively provide each other enough basic protections and safety to live more free lives.
That's the point of a democratic government in a republic like ours - to guarantee our freedom both from government intrusion but also from want, destitution, disease, and from the corporate predators around us.
It's in our biology to live in "We" societies.
So let's tell Rick Perry and Ron Paul and the rest of the Republicans to go build their libertarian "Me" societies somewhere else - like the libertarian paradise of Somalia, where the government provides only the most basic of services.
Then the rest of us can be free to recover our society from the damage of Reaganomics - and restore true freedom here in the United States of America.
That's The Big Picture.