To guarantee everyone an equal chance to earn their fair share of America’s prosperity.
In the year since I began rallying Americans to demand that Congress remove Donald Trump from office, more than 6 million have joined our impeachment movement. But we’ve always known Trump is not the cause of America’s problems; he’s merely the worst, most dangerous symptom.
To get our country back, we need to do more than just remove Trump. We need to permanently fix a rigged system that has built impassable barriers to prevent the majority of Americans from achieving their true potential. We need and must demand a 21st-century bill of rights — a modern contract that binds together our civil society by guaranteeing each of us a fair and equal chance to achieve our dreams and to have a full voice in our democracy.
This mission won’t wait. Our country and our world face urgent challenges to our planet and our freedoms — but our government cannot summon the ability or the will to deal with them.
When I began my career as an investor some 40 years ago, I thought the American system was basically good and fair — and in the very important places where it wasn’t, I believed it was getting better. As I made investments on behalf of college endowment funds, foundations and individuals, I thought we were not just making money for them, but also helping to power the economy to build a good and fair society.
But over time, I saw private greed overcome public good. The balance of power shifted sharply, to the private sector, which began setting the rules solely for its own benefit. Lobbyists took over our government and re-wrote our laws to favor profits over people.
The time arrived when I could see that our economy was rigged to funnel virtually all the enormous benefits of our growing productivity to the wealthy and their large corporations, while the vast majority of Americans — the people who do the work — gained little or nothing. And it became clear to me that our economy is rigged because our political system is even more rigged.
That’s why I left my investment firm in 2012, gave up my license to trade stocks and bonds, and my wife Kathryn and I signed The Giving Pledge, promising to give away the majority of our wealth during our lifetimes. Since making that change, I’ve invested all my time and large amounts of my money in philanthropy and political action, fighting for average Americans and their families against politics-as-usual and corporate power.
The people who have rigged our society are narrow minded, but they aren’t stupid. After 30 years as an investor, I understand them and one thing I can tell you is that no elite group in the history of the world has ever given up their privileges voluntarily. But I also know that no tiny elite can stand against the power of a united people.
I’ve traveled this country, listening to thousands of people’s stories. Your stories explain and confirm what the polls say: Roughly 8 of 10 Americans — Democrats, Republicans, Independents — believe our democracy has been bought wholesale by corporations. We are united in this belief.
The people’s elected officials do not put them first. Politicians put their corporate donors first and and are willing to discard all moral decency just to win for the corporate class and their own financial benefit. When all else fails, the Republicans are even willing to destroy our democracy by depriving U.S. citizens — especially people of color — of their sacred right to vote.
We are a country divided. But we have the power to reunite and, once united, the people are unstoppable.
Seventy years ago, Franklin Roosevelt was fighting to unite America after a devastating depression and in the face of worldwide war. He told the nation then that people in need are “not free.” I want to say to America today that FDR’s words are still true.
- No one is free if they work hard all day at a full-time job and still have to worry about paying the rent.
- No one is free if they earn good grades in high school and can’t afford the college education they need to pursue their dreams.
- No one is free if their child is sick and they have no money for a doctor.
- No one is free if going to jail for non-violent offenses is something that happens almost only to people of color and the poor.
- And America can’t be a free country so long as any of us are turned away at the polls and denied the fundamental right to vote for no good reason.
Today, there are more hard-working Americans than ever who are in need. They struggle to be free from the constant anxiety of not being able to make it, not being able to care for their families. Today, too, the majority of Americans are not heard by our leaders and their welfare is not considered when our elected representatives make decisions.
This is a great injustice that cannot be tolerated in America in the 21st century.
To fix this rigged system once and for all will require us to rally together around a set of guaranteed protections for each of us. I call these protections the 5 Rights. They are:
- The right to an equal vote in a fair democracy;
- The right to clean air and clean water;
- The right to learn, from pre-K through college and advanced skills training;
- The right to earn a living wage; and
- The right to health.
THE 5 Rights must be like constitutional rights — they can’t be taken away by anybody, ever. Deciding who should and shouldn’t enjoy these rights is way above the paygrade of any member of Congress or any president. No one gets to decide which Americans are or aren’t “worthy” of these rights. Because each and every one of us has equal value.
These rights should be the basis of the Democratic Party’s platform. But this is bigger than any political party. These rights are fundamental to our shared idea of America’s promise to each of us. The Constitution says all power comes from the people. That power was stolen decades ago by big business and its enablers in politics. It is time now to put the people back in power so they can set themselves free to chase their dreams and earn their fair share of America’s great wealth.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to hold events across the country. At each event, we’re going to focus on one of the 5 Rights and have a detailed conversation about what it means to people. These rights come from conversations I’ve had with thousands of average Americans about what they need. We’re going to work them out in conversations with one another.
Together, we will achieve these rights for all Americans. And we’ll rebuild our democracy to protect and lift up all of us. We will no longer build walls to keep people down. We will not build walls to keep people out. Instead, we will dismantle the walls that hold us back and we will ensure that America puts all of us on an upward path.
More than anything, I want to encourage everyone to join this national conversation about making a just America where we all can be free to rise up and thrive together.
Please join the conversation at our events and let me know what you think.
I promise, whether you’re with us in person or online, this time, your voices will be heard.