A Platform for Retrieving the American Dream: The Pursuit of Happiness

The platform was written for the New York Socialist Party in consultation with two other activist women. One, Gretchen Van Dyck, is 23 years old and another is in her 70s. It began as a feminist platform and changed into a platform on the shared, dire needs of all Americans.

The conditions for the pursuit of happiness promised in our Declaration of Independence are fast disappearing for all of us. One condition for saving our dream is a movement to create the pursuit of happiness for all. Changing personal life is the one place where Americans seem hopeful. An achievable program for the pursuit of happiness follows.

1. Universal, Single-Payer Health Care: We agree with the majority of humanity and most governments, that health care is a human right, not a privilege of the affluent. The US spends more than any other nation on inadequate, profit-driven health care. It's urgent that we convert to a practical, public model providing high-quality care for all. The advent of universal quality health care would remove a huge burden of anxiety and economic insecurity from American shoulders.

2. Maternity and Paternity Leave: In the developed world, paid maternity and paternity leave is leave granted by both public sector and private workplaces for the birth of a child. In Norway, for example, paternity leave is mandatory, to prevent employers from offering fathers a salary bonus as an incentive for them to forego their leave, the point being to encourage both mother- and father-child bonding. It is time for the United States to create the conditions for joy and ease in caring for children.

3. Paid Leave for Family Care: We favor the provision of paid leave for workers to care for a sick child or other relative. European paid family leave ranges from 18 months to three years. Paid family leave relieves the terrible anxiety of having to choose between attending to emergency family needs or losing your job.

4. Paid Vacation Time and Paid Personal Time: By law in France, both public and private employers must grant their workers five weeks of paid vacation leave. Paid personal time permits people to pursue the happiness of time together.

5. Single-Mother Subsidies: Forty percent of US children are born outside of marriage, and single mothers and their children are the poorest of all Americans. Basic human needs – food, housing, health and education – should be available for single-parent families. Poverty impedes the pursuit of happiness.

6. Recognition of Emotional Labor With Appropriate Compensation: The time is overdue for our society to acknowledge the value and indispensability of emotional labor, which is the active expression of caring for another person's needs. Traditionally, emotional labor has been “women's work.” As a result, it is hardly noticed, even less valued. In the 21st century, emotional labor professionals deserve recognition, respect and higher pay for the essential services they provide.

7. Gender Equality in Workplaces and Households: In the United States, mothers are disproportionately the targets of discrimination against women. Our mothers currently earn 73 percent of what American males earn, whether or not the males are fathers. Having a child in the United States is a predictor of poverty. In order to give parents and children energy and hope, public programs supportive of mothers are crucial.

8. Democracy in the Workplace: Democratic principles should not disappear at the door to our jobs. Adult workers are qualified and competent to participate in decisions on salary scales; on the volume of production; and on the percentage of profits to be paid out in wages, allocated to consultants, reinvested in the business etc. Such workplace arrangements exist not only in foreign locations such as Mondragon, Spain, but also in the United States. Dynamic work environments empower all workers. They engender self-respect, pride and agency as well as mutual respect among workers of different education levels and skill sets.

9. Subsidized Cleaning and Laundry Services for One parent or Two-Working-Parent Families: Many New York condo buildings offer their affluent residents the option of housecleaning and laundry services. Providing those subsidized services would lighten American women's load, free time for bonding with family members and provide employment for thousands.

10. Free High-Quality Public Education From Day Care Through College: Highly trained day care personnel for children from birth to four years should be subsidized for all families above the poverty line. For poor families, programs should be free, as they are in other nations. Subsidized/free after-school and summer programs can be provided for families with children aged four and up. This would spare parents worry for their children's safety. All children could enjoy the care that only rich American children now enjoy.

11. Reproductive Education: In the early grades, children could study plant reproduction (as in Sweden) as the first components of a comprehensive reproduction curriculum that continues in an age-appropriate way up through the grades. Pre-teens would learn about human anatomy, human reproduction and gender and sexual orientation differences. Teens could learn about personal relationships, sexual responsibility and family planning/birth control. A comprehensive reproduction curriculum empowers young people to exercise control over their lives and also enjoy the future, unencumbered by unwanted pregnancy.

12. Relationship Education: Free courses should be available, beginning in the teen years and throughout life, for people wishing to develop skills for relating constructively, responsibly and empathically to partners, children, friends, coworkers, and others. Such courses help facilitate people's healthy connectivity to one another. In addition, relationship education should be extended into the community through quality counseling centers available free of charge to the poor and at low cost to others. Family members could visit these centers to address problems, seek solutions, develop self-awareness and improve social skills. Certainly, this would facilitate the pursuit of happiness.

13. Addiction Counseling: Some addiction counseling programs already exist in our society (although long waiting lists indicate many more are needed). Twelve-step programs are free and widely available. We suggest that all twelve-step programs join ACA/Dysfunctional Families and allow attention to the covert role authoritarian-type families and profit-driven industries – like the highly advertised liquor and drug industries – play in encouraging addiction.

These programs are available in nations poorer than ours. They are all achievable if we end outrageous military spending and tax the rich.

This abbreviated version of a platform on the pursuit of happiness may reach Americans where they still feel they can make a difference, and claim the unalienable American right to the pursuit of happiness.

This platform is part of a much elaborated piece edited expertly by Alana Price. The full version is available at Tikkun Magazine.