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Huey Long Advises Occupy Wall Street: Need an Agenda? You Can Have Mine.

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In a national radio address on February 23, 1934, Huey Long unveiled his "Share Our Wealth" plan, a program designed to provide a decent standard of living to all Americans by spreading the nation's wealth among the people.

Long proposed capping personal fortunes at $50 million each (roughly $600 million in today's dollars) through a restructured, progressive federal tax code and sharing the resulting revenue with the public through government benefits and public works. In subsequent speeches and writings, he revised his graduated tax levy on wealth over $1 million to cap fortunes at $5 - $8 million (or $60 - $96 million today).

Sound good? I'd say so. Sound like an agenda that would work for Occupy Wall Street? I'd say so.

There is a long and storied U.S. history of populist uprisings with social justice messages for tough economic times: from the 1776 Declaration of Independence : "When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them..." to 1895 and William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech: "The man who is employed for wages is as much a businessman as his employer..." "to today.

But no-one has made the American economic justice case better than Louisiana Governor and U.S. Senator Huey Long, a rabble-rousing dictator in some people's view, but, in mine, a singularly valuable advocate for "ordinary Americans," whose agenda the Zucotti Park residents (as well as the rest of us social justice advocates) would do well to adopt.

Coming into his political adulthood at a time when Standard Oil, a predecessor company to BP, was running rough-shod in Louisiana (sound familiar?), Long's first big public fight was for "ordinary Americans" and against "Big Oil."

Fighting hard, Long made the point that the company should pay its fair share of taxes (sound familiar?). While Long lost the first round of his fight, as well as the second, (when he was a member of the state's oil-company regulator, the Public Service Commission), as governor he won and applied the taxes Standard Oil paid to funding education for ordinary Louisianans.

Later, preparing to run for President, Long developed the Share Our Wealth program described above.

I confess that more than once in the last couple terrible years I've blogged about this solution of Huey Long's to our ghastly economic problems. I repeat here an ever-so-apt remark Long made about the need for it:

The same mill that grinds out the extra rich is the same mill that will grind out the extra poor, because, in order that the extra rich can become so affluent, they must necessarily take more of what ordinarily would belong to the average man.

Just read the Share Our Wealth platform. It really does read like an agenda just right for Occupy Wall Street:

  • Cap personal fortunes at50 million each -- equivalent to about600 million today (later reduced to5 -8 million, or60 -96 million today)
  • Limit annual income to one million dollars each (about12 million today)
  • Limit inheritances to five million dollars each (about60 million today)
  • Guarantee every family an annual income of2,000 (or one-third the national average)
  • Free college education and vocational training
  • Old-age pensions for all persons over 60
  • Veterans benefits and healthcare
  • A 30 hour work week
  • A four week vacation for every worker
  • Greater regulation of commodity production to stabilize prices.

Subsequently, Long recommended: "......a debt moratorium to give struggling families time to pay their mortgages and other debts before losing their property to creditors." Sound familiar? Sound right? I'd say so.

Here's how the great Louisiana-born singer Randy Newman summed-it-all-up (thanks to steadfast political girl Kit Duffy for bringing this to my attention). Take a careful listen, please, and then act-up.

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