Huey Long's Senate Speeches
|Huey Long was a flamboyant orator. Photo by NARS, FDR Library NPX-83-73.
During his three brief years in the U.S. Senate, Huey Long became one of the most flamboyant and provocative Senators in the nation's history. He earned the enmity of his fellow Senators due to his frequent use of the filibuster to make some "point of principle" about which he was especially passionate, and due to his not infrequent habit of casting aspersions on the character of his fellow Senators. But the floor of the Senate gave Huey Long what he prized most, a bully pulpit from which to expound his views. He used this opportunity to the fullest--taking the Senate floor to place in the official record his arguments for his Share The Wealth program, and to proselytize for his general world-view. These speeches delivered during 1934 and 1935 make his case that the nation is in a mess and that his Share The Wealth program is the solution.
THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD -- February 5, 1934
Mr. Long: Mr. President, I send to the desk and ask to have printed in the RECORD not a speech but what is more in the nature of an appeal to the people of America.
There being no objection, the paper entitled "Carry Out the Command of the Lord" was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
By Huey P. Long, United States Senator
People of America: In every community get together at once and organize a share-our-wealth society--Motto: Every man a king
Principles and platform:
1. To limit poverty by providing that every deserving family shall share in the wealth of America for not less than one third of the average wealth, thereby to possess not less than $5,000 free of debt.
2. To limit fortunes to such a few million dollars as will allow the balance of the American people to share in the wealth and profits of the land.
3. Old-age pensions of $30 per month to persons over 60 years of age who do not earn as much as $1,000 per year or who possess less than $10,000 in cash or property, thereby to remove from the field of labor in times of unemployment those who have contributed their share to the public service.
4. To limit the hours of work to such an extent as to prevent overproduction and to give the workers of America some share in the recreations, conveniences, and luxuries of life.
5. To balance agricultural production with what can be sold and consumed according to the laws of God, which have never failed.
6. To care for the veterans of our wars.
7. Taxation to run the Government to be supported, first, by reducing big fortunes from the top, thereby to improve the country and provide employment in public works whenever agricultural surplus is such as to render unnecessary, in whole or in part, any particular crop.
Simple and Concrete--Not an Experiment
To share our wealth by providing for every deserving family to have one third of the average wealth would mean that, at the worst, such a family could have a fairly comfortable home, an automobile, and a radio, with other reasonable home conveniences, and a place to educate their children. Through sharing the work, that is, by limiting the hours of toil so that all would share in what is made and produced in the land, every family would have enough coming in every year to feed, clothe, and provide a fair share of the luxuries of life to its members. Such is the result to a family, at the worst.
From the worst to the best there would be no limit to opportunity. One might become a millionaire or more. There would be a chance for talent to make a man big, because enough would be floating in the land to give brains its chance to be used. As it is, no matter how smart a man may be, everything is tied up in so few hands that no amount of energy or talent has a chance to gain any of it.
Would it break up big concerns? No. It would simply mean that, instead of one man getting all the one concern made, that there might be 1,000 or 10,000 persons sharing in such excess fortune, any one of whom, or all of whom, might be millionaires and over.
I ask somebody in every city, town, village, and farm community of America to take this as my personal request to call a meeting of as many neighbors and friends as will come to it to start a share-our-wealth society. Elect a president and a secretary and charge no dues. The meeting can be held at a courthouse, in some town hall or public building, or in the home of someone.
It does not matter how many will come to the first meeting. Get a society organized, if it has only two members. Then let us get to work quick, quick, quick to put an end by law to people starving and going naked in this land of too much to eat and too much to wear. The case is all with us. It is the word and work of the Lord. The Gideons had but two men when they organized. Three tailors of Tooley Street drew the Magna Carta of England. The Lord says: "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."
We propose to help our people into the place where the Lord said was their rightful own and no more.
We have waited long enough for these financial masters to do these things. They have promised and promised. Now we find our country $10 billion further in debt on account of the depression, and big lenders even propose to get 90 percent of that out of the hides of the common people in the form of a sales tax.
There is nothing wrong with the United States. We have more food than we can eat. We have more clothes and things out of which to make clothes than we can wear. We have more houses and lands than the whole 120 million can use if they all had good homes. So what is the trouble? Nothing except that a handful of men have everything and the balance of the people have nothing if their debts were paid. There should be every man a king in this land flowing with milk and honey instead of the lords of finance at the top and slaves and peasants at the bottom.
Now be prepared for the slurs and snickers of some high-ups when you start your local spread-our-wealth society. Also when you call your meeting be on your guard for some smart-aleck tool of the interests to come in and ask questions. Refer such to me for an answer to any question, and I will send you a copy. Spend your time getting the people to work to save their children and to save their homes, or to get a home for those who have already lost their own.
To explain the title, motto, and principles of such a society I give the full information, viz:
Title: Share-our-wealth society is simply to mean that God's creatures on this lovely American continent have a right to share in the wealth they have created in this country. They have the right to a living, with the conveniences and some of the luxuries of this life, so long as there are too many or enough for all. They have a right to raise their children in a healthy, wholesome atmosphere and to educate them, rather than to face the dread of their under-nourishment and sadness by being denied a real life.
Motto: "Every man a king" conveys the great plan of God and of the Declaration of Independence, which said: "All men are created equal." It conveys that no one man is the lord of another, but that from the head to the foot of every man is carried his sovereignty.
Now to cover the principles of the share-our-wealth society, I give them in order:
1. To limit poverty:
We propose that a deserving family shall share in our wealth of America at least for one third the average. An average family is slightly less than five persons. The number has become less during depression. The United States total wealth in normal times is about $400 billion or about $15,000 to a family. If there were fair distribution of our things in America, our national wealth would be three or four or five times the $400 billion, because a free, circulating wealth is worth many times more than wealth congested and frozen into a few hands as is America's wealth. But, figuring only on the basis of wealth as valued when frozen into a few hands, there is the average of $15,000 to the family. We say that we will limit poverty of the deserving people. One third of the average wealth to the family, or $5,000, is a fair limit to the depths we will allow any one man's family to fall. None too poor, none too rich.
2. To limit fortunes:
The wealth of this land is tied up in a few hands. It makes no difference how many years the laborer has worked, nor does it make any difference how many dreary rows the farmer has plowed, the wealth he has created is in the hands of manipulators. They have not worked any more than many other people who have nothing. Now we do not propose to hurt these very rich persons. We simply say that when they reach the place of millionaires they have everything they can use and they ought to let somebody else have something. As it is, 0.1 of 1 percent of the bank depositors nearly half of the money in the banks, leaving 99.9 of bank depositors owning the balance. Then two thirds of the people do not even have a bank account. The lowest estimate is that 4 percent of the people own 85 percent of our wealth. The people cannot ever come to light unless we share our wealth, hence the society to do it.
3. Old-age pensions:
Everyone has begun to realize something must be done for our old people who work out their lives, feed and clothe children and are left penniless in their declining years. They should be made to look forward to their mature years for comfort rather than fear. We propose that, at the age of 60, every person should begin to draw a pension from our Government of $30 per month, unless the person of 60 or over has an income of over $1,000 per year or is worth $10,000, which is two thirds of the average wealth in America, even figured on a basis of it being frozen into a few hands. Such a pension would retire from labor those persons who keep the rising generations from finding employment.
4. To limit the hours of work:
This applies to all industry. The longer hours the human family can rest from work, the more it can consume. It makes no difference how many labor-saving devices we may invent, just as long as we keep cutting down the hours and sharing what those machines produce, the better we become. Machines can never produce too much if everybody is allowed his share, and if it ever got to the point that the human family could work only 15 hours per week and still produce enough for everybody, then praised be the name of the Lord. Heaven would be coming nearer to earth. All of us could return to school a few months every year to learn some things they have found out since we were there: All could be gentlemen: Every man a king.
5. To balance agricultural production with consumption:
About the easiest of all things to do when financial masters and market manipulators step aside and let work the law of the Lord. When we have a supply of anything that is more than we can use for a year or two, just stop planting that particular crop for a year either in all the country or in a part of it. Let the Government take over and store the surplus for the next year. If there is not something else for the farmers to plant or some other work for them to do to live on for the year when the crop is banned, then let that be the year for the public works to be done in the section where the farmers need work. There is plenty of it to do and taxes of the big fortunes at the top will supply plenty of money without hurting anybody. In time we would have the people not struggling to raise so much when all were well fed and clothed. Distribution of wealth almost solves the whole problem without further trouble.
6. To care for the veterans of our wars:
A restoration of all rights taken from them by recent laws and further, a complete care of any disabled veteran for any ailment, who has no means of support.
Taxation is to be levied first at the top for the Governments support and expenses. Swollen fortunes should be reduced principally through taxation. The Government should be run through revenues it derives after allowing persons to become well above millionaires and no more. In this manner the fortunes will be kept down to reasonable size and at the same time all the works of the Government kept on a sound basis, without debts.
Things cannot continue as they now are. America must take one of three choices, viz:
1. A monarchy ruled by financial masters--a modern feudalism.
3. Sharing of the wealth and income of the land among all the people by limiting the hours of toil and limiting the size of fortunes.
The Lord prescribed the last form. It would preserve all our gains, share them among our population, guarantee a greater country and a happy people.
The need for such share-our-wealth society is to spread the truth among the people and to convey their sentiment to their Members of Congress.
Whenever such a local society has been organized, please send me notice of the same, so that I may send statistics and data which such local society can give out in their community, either through word of mouth in meetings, by circulars, or, when possible, in local newspapers.
Please understand that the Wall Street controlled public press will give you as little mention as possible and will condemn and ridicule your efforts. Such makes necessary the organizations to share the wealth of this land among the people, which the financial masters are determined they will not allow to be done. Where possible, I hope those organizing a society in one community will get in touch with their friends in other communities and get them to organize societies in them. Anyone can have copies of this article reprinted in circular form to distribute wherever they may desire, or, if they want me to have them printed for them, I can do so and mail them to any address for 60 cents per hundred or $4 per thousand copies.
I introduced in Congress and supported other measures to bring about the sharing of our wealth when I first reached the United States Senate in January 1932. The main efforts to that effect polled about six votes in the Senate at first. Last spring my plan polled the votes of nearly twenty United States Senators, becoming dangerous in proportions to the financial lords. Since then I have been abused in the newspapers and over the radio for everything under the sun. Now that I am pressing this program, the lies and abuse in the big newspapers and over the radio are a matter of daily occurrence. It will all become greater with this effort. Expect that. Meantime go ahead with the work to organize a share-our-wealth society.
Huey P. Long,
United States Senator.
THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD -- January 23, 1935
MR. FRAZIER: Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the RECORD a radio address delivered by Senator HUEY P. LONG, of Louisiana, over the network of the National Broadcasting Co., of Washington, D.C., on January 19 last.
There being no objection, the address was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Our Growing Calamity
Ladies and gentlemen, the only means by which any practical relief may be given to the people is in taking the money with which to give such relief from the big fortunes at the top. The common people haven't anything worth having; and when you put a tax that falls on them for the purpose of unemployment relief or for old-age pensions, or for anything else, you are giving nobody any relief, because you are taxing the same people who have nothing, on the pretense that you are going to give it back to them. And as a matter of fact, it all never does get back, but much of it would remain in the hands of these Washington bureaucrats and politicians.
Now, we have been clamoring for a number of relief measures. Among them was the old-age pension. We did not propose any unreasonably high old-age pension as some other plans have suggested, but we did propose that every person who reached the age of 60 should receive something around from $30 to $40 per month. We excluded from the list all people who owned $10,000 worth of property or who earned as much as $1,000 per year.
Now, along comes Mr. Roosevelt and says that he is for the old-age pension of $30 a month, but he says that it shall be paid by the States. And he says up until January 1, 1940, this $30 a month may be paid by the States to those who are over 70 years of age and after that time to those who are 65 years of age. Then he says that before they can get the $30 a month that the State government has got to put up one-half of the $30, and then it shall be paid only to those who are needy. And then he says that in order to get the money for the part the Federal Government is going to put up, that they will put a tax on all payrolls, so that the money would be taken from the very source and class to whom it is intended it would be paid.
What the Roosevelt pronouncement for old-age pensions means is that he would scuttle it inside and out. In other words, he will proceed to show how unreasonable, how impossible an old-age pension system can be, and how much harm can be done by trying to bring it about.
His plan contemplates that the Federal Government will contribute $125 million for old-age pensions throughout the United States. That is not a drop in the bucket. It will take $3 billion to pay an old-age pension to all people who are 60 years of age; and unless the United States Government puts up all of the $3 billion, you will not have any old age pension system that is worth anything.
Now, the only way you can get $3 billion is by taxing the billionaires and multimillionaires, and nobody else, because if you tax the poor wage earner, who is barely making a living now, you will do more harm than good in trying to build up an old-age pension system. All the worthy movements that have been advocated throughout the United States are always praised by Mr. Roosevelt, who prescribes, in order to carry them into effect, a remedy that means you try to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.
He admits that most of the people of America are impoverished because the rich people have all the money. He says they ought not allow them to have it all, but in the next breath he gives out a statement that the big rich must not be taxed very much, and that is as far as we ever get with him.
He rode into the President's office on the platform of redistributing wealth. He has done no such thing and has made no effort to do any such thing since he has been there. There is only one relief that can come to the American people that is of any value whatever, and that is to redistribute wealth by limiting the size of the big men's fortunes and guaranteeing that, beginning at the bottom, every family will have a living and the comforts of life. We can pass laws today providing for education, for old-age pensions, for unemployment insurance, for doles, public buildings, and anything else that we could think of, and still none of them would be worth anything unless we provided the money for them. And the money cannot be provided for them without these things doing twice as much harm as they do good unless that money is scraped off the big piles at the top and spread among the people at the bottom, who have nothing.
Any man with a thimbleful of sense who would be trying to help the poor people today by taxing the poor people so as to give the money back to them, ought to be bored for the hollow horn. Now, Mr. Roosevelt has better sense than that, but he is faced with a proposition. He has made the promise to the people that he will tear down these big fortunes by putting some reasonable limit on them, and he has further promised to build up the little man from the bottom. But he feels he doesn't dare keep that promise; he doesn't dare to keep that promise, and so, what is he doing? He makes every kind of move showing he is for this and for that; that he wants to appropriate a little money--so much for this and so much for that--but when you wind up, you find what he actually does is, that if there is any tax that can be levied on the poor people to give these things back to the poor people, that then he prescribes that kind of cure that never has cured or will cure.
The big interests realize Roosevelt's plan would not cost them anything, which is the same as saying it will be no relief to the poor. Here is the proof of that admission from the financial page of the New York Times of January 18, 1935:
The action of the stock markets yesterday indicated that Wall Street was not alarmed by the President's message to Congress on social security legislation. The financial community had been hopeful that the plan would not be so ambitious as to retard recovery. By its freedom from liquidation, when the message appeared on the news tickers, the market indicated that Wall Street did not feel that the plan would increase taxation unduly, since it would be largely self-sustaining.
What Wall Street is saying by this dispatch is that the big men of Wall Street were a little bit apprehensive for fear Roosevelt would provide some relief or social legislation that would cost them something, but they are glad to see whatever he does will be self-sustaining. That is, the poor people who get relief will pay for it. In other words, the poor people will be allowed to help the poor people, a poor wage earner will be allowed to help his aged father or mother and take away a little more from his wife and children. "Ain't" that grand? Yet Wall Street says they are much pleased with it because it means they will not be touched for the necessary money to cure the ills of our people.
Now, our conditions today are much more deplorable than they were in [Herbert] Hoover's depression. The Roosevelt depression is just a double dose of the Hoover depression. In 1929 we started out with the public debt under Hoover of $16,931,000,000, and we wound up under Hoover with his depression showing a public debt of $19,487,000,000, or an increase of $2 billion practically all of which increase under Hoover, however, was covered by loans made by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, for which it had adequate security and collateral, and so, in fact, there was scarcely any such thing as an increase in the public debt under Hoover as compared to Roosevelt.
So we started in, in 1933, with the Roosevelt depression, starting from the Hoover national debt figure of $19,487,000,000. Now, when we got to December 31, 1934, the national deficit had been raised by the Roosevelt depression to $28,478,000,000, or an increase of approximately $9 billion, and most of it is just that much more debt, good and simple.
Now, how much good has been done with it? Has it cured unemployment? Get ready to laugh, if crying will do it. I will give you some unemployment figures that will shed the light as it ought to be. Here they are as they exist today:
Knowing that one employed person may be the breadwinner of anywhere from 1.5 to 5 persons, this figure of 21,253,000 unemployed persons presents a total unemployment picture of nearly half the American people. It is about equally balanced, one-half unemployed to industry and one-half to agriculture. This does not even include the professional man as unemployed. The lawyer, doctor, accountant, architect, dentist, grocer, baker, and candlestick maker, who cannot make a living because the people have nothing to spend with them, are not even listed as unemployed, though if the proper thing were done they would increase the list another 2,000,000 unemployed.
The figure of 10,659,000 unemployed in the industrial class would be materially increased if we included as a percentage of unemployment those working part time, some down to as low as 1 day per week.
Note also that even those who are employed earn a wage which is 43 percent below a fair standard of living. (See American Federation of Labor bulletin of January 12, 1935.)
So you see from the Government's own figures that the estimate of one-half of all our people as unemployed does not near tell the whole story.
It would be very interesting if you would just take a look to see how well the people who are employed are getting along. I have here the monthly survey of business of the American Federation of Labor dated January 12, 1935. It says this:
Comparing 1934 with 1933, according to the records, we have--
1. Average yearly wage: The worker's average yearly wage has increased 6.7 percent in these industries, while the price of food rose 11.3 percent and prices of clothing and house furnishings rose 15.3 percent. Clearly, the average employed worker's standard of living was lower in 1934 than 1933, although his average yearly income rose from $1,029 to $1,099 in 1934.
2. The average worker's income of nearly $1,099 in 1934 is below the minimum necessary to support a family of five in health and decency by $813, or 43 percent.
In other words, according to these accredited figures, those so fortunate as to be employed are living 43 percent below a reasonable standard of living at the end of the year 1934 under Roosevelt's depression.
So we sum up our condition:
We compare the Roosevelt depression with the Hoover depression and we find the Roosevelt depression debt is $9 billion more than the Hoover depression debt; the unemployment under Roosevelt has eclipsed everything Hoover ever heard about, and approximates mores than one-half the whole population of America; the wage earner of today is living further below the standard of a fair living than ever before in the history of the country; the wealth of the country is more in the hands of the big interests and the big men than it has ever been, and the common people and masses in general have less than they ever had; two-thirds of all of the money in the banks is owned by one-one hundred and fiftieth of the people, according to the figures furnished by the Government bureau itself; there are 5 million more people on the dole than there were last year, and another 5 million people trying to get on the dole.
We have the same promises from Mr. Roosevelt now that we had before he was elected, with the exception he says you must not pass any such law as will put them into effect in actual fact.
The only difference in Roosevelt before election and now is that Roosevelt now says he is still for them, but that you must not do anything about them. The only difference between Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Hoover is that things are much worse in every degree under Mr. Roosevelt than ever under Mr. Hoover; and you could tell what Mr. Hoover meant to do, or rather meant not to do, whereas understanding what Mr. Roosevelt means to do compared to what he does do is difficult.
There is only one way to save our people; only one way to save America. How? Pull down wealth from the top and spread wealth at the bottom; free people of these debts they owe; God told just exactly how to do it all.
Many other countries have been in the shape that America is in now; many fell and vanished like Rome and Greece, but some cared for their people and were saved.
There was once a country in exactly the same shape as America is today. God's prophet was there and applied the laws as God had prescribed them. If you would just recognize that God is still alive, that His law still lives, America would not grope today. Here is the written record of that country that was in the same fix as America is today. Here is what they did under the command of God's prophet. Hear me, I read from the Bible, Nehemiah, chapter 5:
Hear me, people of America, God's laws live today. Keep them and none suffer, disregard them and we go the way of the missing. His word said that. Here is what He said:
"The profit of the earth is for all." Ecclesiastes: chapter 5, verse 9.
"And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family." Leviticus: chapter 25. verse 10.
"At the end of every 7 years thou shalt make a release. . . Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his. . . brother; because it is called the Lord's release." Deuteronomy: Chapter 15, verses 1 and 2.
Maybe you do not believe the Bible; maybe you do not accept God as your Supreme Lawgiver. God help you if you do not; but if you do not, then all I ask of you is to believe the simple problems of arithmetic, the tables of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. If you believe them, you will know that we cannot tolerate this condition of a handful of people owning nearly all and all owning nearly nothing. In a land of plenty there is no need to starve unless we allow greed to starve us to please the vanity of someone else. I can read you what Theodore Roosevelt, Daniel Webster, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson, all other great Americans said. Their beliefs might be stated in the following lines of Emerson: "Give no bounties: make equal laws: secure life and prosperity and you need not give alms." Or maybe these words of Theodore Roosevelt would be proof: "We must pay equal attention to the distribution of prosperity. The only prosperity worth having is that which affects the mass of people."
It was the poet Horace who warned that Rome would fall in the days of Augustus Caesar. He expressed the line: "Penniless and great plenty."
So are our American people today. Too much to eat, to wear, or to live in; too much, and yet we are penniless and starve.
Here are the words of Pope Pius in his encyclical letter of May 18,1932, which I, a Baptist, caused to be placed in the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD. Hear these words:
I call and ask you now to organize a share-our-wealth society in your community now. Don't delay. If you want to know more about it, write to me in Washington. If you want a copy of this speech, write to me for it. Help in our plan. What is it? I state it to you again:
We propose to limit the size of all big fortunes to not more than $3 to 4 million and to throw the balance in the United States Treasury; we will impose taxes every year to keep down these fortunes and to also limit the amount which any one may earn to $1 million per year, and to limit the amount any one can inherit to $1 million in a lifetime, throwing all surpluses into the United States Treasury.
Then from the immense money thus acquired we will guarantee to every family a home and the comforts of a home, including such conveniences as automobile and radio; we will guarantee education to every child and youth through college and vocational training, based upon the ability of the student and not upon the ability of the child's parents to pay the costs; we would pay flat and outright to all people over 60 years of age, a pension sufficient for their life and comfort; we would shorten the hours of work to 30 hours per week, maybe less, and to eleven months per year, maybe less; and thus share our work at living wages and to those for whom we fail to find work we would pay insurance until we do find it; we would pay the soldiers' bonus and give a sufficient supply of money to carry on our work and business.
All this can be done with ease only if we will say to the rich, "None shall be too rich!"
Won't you help in this work? Is not humanity worth the effort? How much do we need it? I will tell you.
Hear me now read you a report from our newspapers. It reads:
Good night, my friends. I thank you!
THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD -- January 14, 1935
MR. LONG. Mr. President, I send to the desk a radio address and a letter by myself which I ask to have inserted in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the address and the letter were ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a verse which says that the
"Saddest words of tongue or pen Are these: 'It might have been.' "
I must tell you good people of our beloved United States that the saddest words I have to say are:
"I told you so!"
In January 1932 I stood on the floor of the United States Senate and told what would happen in 1933. It all came to pass.
In March 1933, a few days after Mr. Roosevelt had become President and had made a few of his moves, I said what to expect in 1934. That came to pass.
As the Congress met in the early months of 1934 and I had a chance to see the course of events for that year, I again gave my belief on what would happen by the time we met again this January 1935. I am grieved to say to you that this week I had to say on the floor of the United States Senate, "I told you so!"
How I wish tonight that I might say to you that all my fears and beliefs of last year proved untrue! But here are the facts--
1. We have 1 million more men out of work now than 1 year ago.
2. We have had to put 5 million more families on the dole than we had there a year ago.
3. The newspapers report from the Government statistics that this past year we had an increase in the money made by the big men, but a decrease in the money made by the people of average and small means. In other words, still "the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer."
4. The United States Government's Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation reports that it has investigated to see who owns the money in the banks, and they wind up by showing that two-thirds of 1 percent of the people own 67 percent of all the money in the banks, showing again that the average man and the poor man have less than ever of what we have left in this country and that the big man has more of it.
So, without going into more figures, the situation finally presents to us once more the fact that a million more people are out of work: 5 million more are on the dole, and that many more are crying to get on it; the rich earn more, the common people earn less; more and more the rich get hold of what there is in the country, and, in general, America travels on toward its route to--.
Now, what is there to comfort us on this situation? In other words, is there a silver lining? Let's see if there is. I read the following newspaper clipping on what our President of the United States is supposed to think about it. It reads as follows:
That ends the news article on what President Roosevelt has had to say.
President Roosevelt was elected on November 8, 1932. People look upon an elected President as the President. This is January 1935. We are in our third year of the Roosevelt depression, with the conditions growing worse. That says nothing about the state of our national finances. I do not even bring that in for important mention, except to give the figures:
Our national debt of today has risen to $28.5 billion. When the World War ended we shuddered in our boots because the national debt had climbed to $26 billion. But we consoled ourselves by saying that the foreign countries owed us $11 billion and that in reality the United States national debt was only $15 billion. But say that it was all of the $26 billion today. Without a war our national debt under Mr. Roosevelt has climbed up to $28.5 billion, or more than we owed when the World War ended by 2 1/2 billions of dollars. And in the Budget message of the President he admits that next year the public debt of the United States will go up to $34 billion, or 5 1/2 billion dollars more than we now owe.
Now this big debt would not be so bad if we had something to show for it. If we had ended this depression once and for all we could say that it is worth it all, but at the end of this rainbow of the greatest national debt in all history that must get bigger and bigger, what do we find?
One million more unemployed; S million more families on the dole, and another 5 million trying to get there; the fortunes of the rich becoming bigger and the fortunes of the average and little men getting less and less; the money in the banks nearly all owned by a mere handful of people, and the President of the United States quoted as saying: "Don't touch the rich!"
I begged, I pleaded, and did everything else under the sun for over 2 years to try to get Mr. Roosevelt to keep his word that he gave to us; I hoped against hope that sooner or later he would see the light and come back to his promises on which he was made President. I warned what would happen last year and for this year if he did not keep these promises made to the people.
But going into this third year of Roosevelt's administration, I can hope for nothing further from the Roosevelt policies. And I call back to mind that whatever we have been able to do to try to hold the situation together during the past three years has been forced down the throat of the national administration. I held the floor in the Senate for days until they allowed the bank laws to be amended that permitted the banks in the small cities and towns to reopen. The bank deposit guaranty law and the Frazier-Lemke farm debt moratorium law had to be passed in spite of the Roosevelt administration. I helped to pass them both.
All the time we have pointed to the rising cloud of debt, the increases in unemployment, the gradual slipping away of what money the middle man and the poor man have into the hands of the big masters, all the time we have prayed and shouted, begged and pleaded, and now we hear the message once again from Roosevelt that he cannot touch the big fortunes.
Hope for more through Roosevelt? He has promised and promised, smiled and bowed; he has read fine speeches and told anyone in need to get in touch with him. What has it meant?
We must now become awakened! We must know the truth and speak the truth. There is no use to wait 3 more years. It is not Roosevelt or ruin; it is Roosevelt's ruin.
Now, my friends, it makes no difference who is President or who is Senator. America is for 125 million people and the unborn to come. We ran Mr. Roosevelt for the Presidency of the United States because he promised to us by word of mouth and in writing:
1. That the size of the big man's fortune would be reduced so as to give the masses at the bottom enough to wipe out all poverty; and
2. That the hours of labor would be so reduced that all would share in the work to be done and in consuming the abundance mankind produced.
Hundreds of words were used by Mr. Roosevelt to make these promises to the people, but they were made over and over again. He reiterated these pledges even after he took his oath as President. Summed up, what these promises meant was: "Share our wealth."
When I saw him spending all his time of ease and recreation with the business partners of Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., with such men as the Astors, etc., maybe I ought to have had better sense than to have believed he would ever break down their big fortunes to give enough to the masses to end poverty--maybe some will think me weak for ever believing it all, but millions of other people were fooled the same as myself. I was like a drowning man grabbing at a straw, I guess. The face and eyes, the hungry forms of mothers and children, the aching hearts of students denied education were before our eyes, and when Roosevelt promised, we jumped for that ray of hope.
So therefore I call upon the men and women of America to immediately join in our work and movement to share our wealth.
There are thousands of share-our-wealth societies organized in the United States now. We want a hundred thousand such societies formed for every nook and corner of this country--societies that will meet, talk, and work, all for the purpose that the great wealth and abundance of this great land that belongs to us may be shared and enjoyed by all of us.
We have nothing more for which we should ask the Lord. He has allowed this land to have too much of everything that humanity needs.
So in this land of God's abundance we propose laws, viz:
1. The fortunes of the multimillionaires and billionaires shall be reduced so that no one person shall own more than a few million dollars to the person. We would do this by a capital levy tax. On the first million that a man was worth we would not impose any tax. We would say, "All right for your first million dollars, but after you get that rich you will have to start helping the balance of us." So we would not levy any capital levy tax on the first million one owned. But on the second million a man owns we would tax that 1 percent, so that every year the man owned the second million dollars he would be taxed $10,000. On the third million we would impose a tax of 2 percent. On the fourth million we would impose a tax of 4 percent. On the fifth million we would impose a tax of 8 percent. On the sixth million we would impose a tax of 16 percent. On the seventh million we would impose a tax of 32 percent. On the eighth million we would impose a tax of 64 percent; and on all over the eighth million we would impose a tax of 100 percent. What this would mean is that the annual tax would bring the biggest fortune down to three or four million dollars to the person because no one could pay taxes very long in the higher brackets. But $3 to 4 million is enough for any one person and his children and his children's children. We cannot allow one to have more than that because it would not leave enough for the balance to have something.
2. We propose to limit the amount any one man can earn in 1 year or inherit to $1 million to the person.
3. Now, by limiting the size of the fortunes and incomes of the big men we will throw into the Government Treasury the money and property from which we will care for the millions of people who have nothing; and with this money we will provide a home and the comforts of home, with such common conveniences as radio and automobile, for every family in America, free of debt.
4. We guarantee food and clothing and employment for everyone who should work by shortening the hours of labor to thirty hours per week, maybe less, and to eleven months per year, maybe less. We would have the hours shortened just so much as would give work to everybody to produce enough for everybody; and if we were to get them down to where they were too short, then we would lengthen them again. As long as all the people working can produce enough of automobiles, radios, homes, schools, and theaters for everyone to have that kind of comfort and convenience, then let us all have work to do and have that much of heaven on earth.
5. We would provide education at the expense of the States and the United States for every child, not only through grammar school and high school but through to a college and vocational education. We would simply extend the Louisiana plan to apply to colleges and all people. Yes; we would have to build thousands of more colleges and employ a hundred thousand more teachers; but we have materials, men, and women who are ready and available for the work. Why have the right to a college education depend upon whether the father or mother is so well to do as to send a boy or girl to college? We would give every child the right to education and a living at birth.
6. We would give a pension to all persons above 60 years of age in an amount sufficient to support them in comfortable circumstances, excepting those who earn $1,000 per year or who are worth $10,000.
7. Until we could straighten things out--and we can straighten things out in two months under our program--we would grant a moratorium on all debts which people owe that they cannot pay.
And now you have our program, none too big, none too little, but every man a king.
We owe debts in America today, public and private, amounting to $252 billion. That means that every child is born with a $2,000 debt tied around his neck to hold him down before he gets started. Then, on top of that, the wealth is locked in a vice owned by a few people. We propose that children shall be born in a land of opportunity, guaranteed a home, food, clothes, and the other things that make for living, including the right to education.
Our plan would injure no one. It would not stop us from having millionaires--it would increase them tenfold, because so many more people could make a million dollars if they had the chance our plan gives them. Our plan would not break up big concerns. The only difference would be that maybe 10,000 people would own a concern instead of 10 people owning it.
But my friends, unless we do share our wealth, unless we limit the size of the big man so as to give something to the little man, we can never have a happy or free people. God said so! He ordered it.
We have everything our people need. Too much of food, clothes, and houses why not let all have their fill and lie down in the ease and comfort God has given us? Why not? Because a few own everything--the masses own nothing.
I wonder if any of you people who are listening to me were ever at a barbecue! We used to go there--sometimes a thousand people or more. If there were 1,000 people we would put enough meat and bread and everything else on the table for 1,000 people. Then everybody would be called and everyone would eat all they wanted. But suppose at one of these barbecues for 1,000 people that one man took 90 percent of the food and ran off with it and ate until he got sick and let the balance rot. Then 999 people would have only enough for 100 to eat and there would be many to starve because of the greed of just one person for something he couldn't eat himself.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, America, all the people of America, have been invited to a barbecue. God invited us all to come and eat and drink all we wanted. He smiled on our land and we grew crops of plenty to eat and wear. He showed us in the earth the iron and other things to make everything we wanted. He unfolded to us the secrets of science so that our work might be easy. God called: "Come to my feast."
Then what happened? Rockefeller, Morgan, and their crowd stepped up and took enough for 120 million people and left only enough for 5 million for all the other 125 million to eat. And so many millions must go hungry and without these good things God gave us unless we call on them to put some of it back.
I call on you to organize share-our-wealth societies. Write to me in Washington if you will help.
Let us dry the eyes of those who suffer; let us lift the hearts of the sad. There is plenty. There is more. Why should we not secure laws to do justice--laws that were promised to us--never should we have quibbled over the soldiers' bonus. We need that money circulating among our people. That is why I offered the amendment to pay it last year. I will do so again this year.
Why weep or slumber, America?
United States Senate,
Washington, D. C.
Note: General Hugh Johnson, mentioned by Long in this speech, was FDR's Director of the National Recovery Administration (NRA). A controversial figure in his own right, Johnson was forced to resign from the government in late 1934, but he remained a Roosevelt supporter. In March 1935 he delivered an unexpected attack on the plans of Huey Long and Father Coughlin. His speech, at a dinner in his honor, set off a firestorm of debate about the merits of the two plans and it was the first time that the pro-Roosevelt forces had dared to take on Long and Coughlin.
THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD -- March 12, 1935
MR. LONG. Mr. President, I ask to have a speech printed in the RECORD.
MR. ROBINSON. What is the request?
MR. LONG. To have a speech printed in the RECORD.
The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the Senator from Louisiana?
MR. ROBINSON. I should like to know what the speech is.
MR. LONG. I suggest the Senator look at it and see if he objects to it. It is a speech which I made over the radio the other night.
MR. CONNALLY. Mr. President, I am not going to object, but I think the Senator should have enough respect for the Senate to indicate what it is he asks to have printed.
MR. LONG. Everyone in the Senate listened to it the other night, or read it in the New York Times. I want it to go to the remainder of the country.
MR. CONNALLY. The Senator handed in something and asked to have it printed in the RECORD, but did not state what it was.
MR. LONG. It is my last radio speech.
MR. CONNALLY. The Senate is entitled to that information.
MR. LONG. I beg the Senate's pardon.
The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, the speech will be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the speech, broadcast from
Washington, D.C., March 7, 1935, was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Ladies and gentlemen, it has been publicly announced that the White House orders of the Roosevelt administration have declared war on HUEY LONG. The late and lamented, the pampered ex-crown prince, Gen. Hugh S. Johnson, one of those satellites loaned by Wall Street to run the Government, and who, at the end of his control over and dismissal from the NRA, pronounced it "as dead as a dodo", this Mr. Johnson was apparently selected to make the lead-off speech in this White House charge begun last Monday night. The Johnson speech was followed by more fuss and fury on behalf of the administration by spellbinders in and out of Congress.
In a far-away island, when a queen dies, her first favorite is done the honor to be buried alive with her. The funeral procession of the NRA (another one of these new-deal schisms or isms) is about ready to occur. It is said that General Johnson's speech of Monday night to attack me was delivered on the eve of announcing the publication of his obituary in the Red Book Magazine. Seems then that soon this erstwhile prince of the deranged alphabet makes ready to appear at the funeral of NRA like unto the colored lady in Mississippi who there asserted: "I is de wife of dese remains."
I shall undertake to cover my main subject and make answer to these gentlemen in the course of this speech tonight.
It will serve no purpose to our distressed people for me to call my opponents more bitter names than they call me. Even were I able, I have not the time to present my side of the argument and match them in billingsgate or profanity.
What is this trouble with this administration of Mr. [Franklin D.] Roosevelt, Mr. [Hugh S.] Johnson, Mr. [James A.] Farley,l Mr. [Vincent] Astor, and all their spoilers and spellbinders? They think that HUEY LONG is the cause of all their worry. They go gunning for me. But, am I the cause of their misery? They are like old Davy Crockett, who went out to hunt a possum. He saw in the gleam of the moonlight that a possum in the top of a tree was going from limb to limb. He shot and missed. He saw the possum again. He fired a second time and missed again. Soon he discovered that it was not a possum he saw at all in the top of that tree. It was a louse in his own eyebrow.
I do not make this illustration to do discredit to any of these gentlemen. I make it to show how often we imagine we see great trouble being done to us by someone at a distance, when, in reality, all of it may be a fault in our own make-up.
The trouble with the Roosevelt administration is that when their schemes and isms have failed, these things I told them not to do and voted not to do, that they think it will help them to light out on those of us who warned them in the beginning that the tangled messes and noble experiments would not work. The Roosevelt administration has had its way for two years. They have been allowed to set up or knock down anything and everybody. There was one difference between [Herbert] Hoover and Roosevelt. Hoover could not get the Congress to carry out the schemes he wanted to try. We managed to lick him on a roll call in the United States Senate time after time. But, different with Mr. Roosevelt. He got his plans through Congress. But on cold analysis they were found to be the same things Hoover tried to pass and failed.
The kitchen cabinet that sat in to advise Hoover was not different from the kitchen cabinet which advised Roosevelt. Many of the persons are the same. Many of those in Roosevelt's kitchen cabinet are of the same men or set of men who furnished employees to sit in the kitchen cabinet to advise Hoover.
Maybe you see a little change in the man waiting on the tables, but back in the kitchen the same set of cooks are fixing up the victuals for us that cooked up the mess under Hoover.
Why, do you think this Roosevelt's plan for plowing up cotton, corn, and wheat; and for pouring milk in the river, and for destroying and burying hogs and cattle by the millions, all while people starve and go naked--do you think those plans were the original ideas of this Roosevelt administration? If you do, you are wrong. The whole idea of that kind of thing first came from Hoover's administration. Don't you remember when Mr. Hoover proposed to plow up every fourth row of cotton? We laughed him into scorn. President Roosevelt flayed him for proposing such a thing in the speech which he made from the steps of the capitol in Topeka, Kans.
And so we beat Mr. Hoover on his plan. But when Mr. Roosevelt started on his plan, it was not to plow up every fourth row of cotton as Hoover tried to do. Roosevelt's plan was to plow up every third row of cotton, just one-twelfth more cotton to be plowed up than Hoover proposed. Roosevelt succeeded in his plan.
So it has been that while millions have starved and gone naked; so it has been that while babies have cried and died for milk; so it has been that while people have begged for meat and bread, Mr. Roosevelt's administration has sailed merrily along, plowing under and destroying the things to eat and to wear, with tear-dimmed eyes and hungry souls made to chant for this new deal so that even their starvation dole is not taken away, and meanwhile the food and clothes craved by their bodies and souls go for destruction and ruin. What is it? Is it government? Maybe so. It looks more like St. Vitus dance.
Now, since they sallied forth with General Johnson to start the war on me, let us take a look at this NRA that they opened up around here two years ago. They had parades and Fascist signs just as Hitler, and Mussolini. They started the dictatorship here to regiment business and labor much more than anyone did in Germany or Italy. The only difference was in the sign. Italy's sign of the Fascist was a black shirt. Germany's sign of the Fascist was a swastika. So in America they sidetracked the Stars and Stripes, and the sign of the Blue Eagle was used instead.
And they proceeded with the NRA. Everything from a peanut stand to a power house had to have a separate book of rules and laws to regulate what they did. If a peanut stand started to parch a sack of goobers for sale, they had to be careful to go through the rule book. One slip and he went to jail. A little fellow w ho pressed a pair of pants went to jail because he charged 5 cents under the price set in the rule book. So they wrote their NRA rule book, codes, laws, etc. They got up over 900 of them. One would be as thick as an unabridged dictionary and as confusing as a study of the stars. It would take 40 lawyers to tell a shoe-shine stand how to operate and be certain he didn't go to jail.
Some people came to me for advice, as a lawyer, on how to run business. I took several days and then couldn't understand it myself. The only thing I could tell them was that it couldn't be much worse in jail than it was out of jail with that kind of thing going on in the country, and so to go on and do the best they could.
The whole thing of Mr. Roosevelt, as run under General Johnson, became such a national scandal that Roosevelt had to let Johnson slide out as the scapegoat. Let them call for an NRA parade tomorrow and you couldn't get enough people to form a funeral march.
It was under this NRA and the other funny alphabetical combinations which followed it that we ran the whole country into a mares nest. The Farleys and Johnsons combed the land with agents, inspectors, supervisors, detectives, secretaries, assistants, etc., all armed with the power to arrest and send to jail whomever they found not living up to some rule in one of these 900 catalogs. One man whose case reached the Supreme Court of the United States was turned loose because they couldn't even find the rule he was supposed to have violated in a search throughout the United States.
And now it is with PWA's, CWA's, NRA's, AAA's, J-UG's, G-IN's, and every other flimsy combination that the country finds its affairs and business tangled to where no one can recognize it. More men are now out of work than ever; the debt of the United States has gone up another $10 billion. There is starvation; there is homelessness; there is misery on every hand and corner, but mind you, in the meantime, Mr. Roosevelt has had his way. He is one man that can't blame any of his troubles on HUEY LONG. He has had his way. Down in my part of the country if any man has the measles he blames that on me; but there is one man that can't blame anything on anybody but himself, and that is Mr. Franklin De-La-No Roosevelt.
And now, on top of that, they order war on me because nearly 4 years ago I told Hoover's crowd it wouldn't do and because 3 years ago I told Roosevelt and his crowd it wouldn't do. In other words, they are in a rage at HUEY LONG because I have said, "I told you so."
I am not overstating the conditions now prevailing in this country. In their own words they have confessed all I now say or ever have said. Mr. Roosevelt and even Mrs. Roosevelt have bewailed the fact that food, clothes, and shelter have not been provided for the people. Even Gen. Hugh S. Johnson said in his speech of Monday night that there are 80 million people in America who are badly hurt or wrecked by this depression. Mr. Harry Hopkins, who runs the relief work, says the dole roll has risen now to 22,375,000 persons, the highest it has ever been. And now, what is there for the Roosevelt crowd to do but to admit the facts and admit further that they are now on their third year, making matters worse instead of better all the time? No one is to blame, except them, for what is going on because they have had their way. And if they couldn't change the thing in over two years, now bogged down worse than ever, how could anyone expect any good of them hereafter? God save us two more years of the disaster we have had under that gang.
Now, my friends, when this condition of distress and suffering among so many millions of our people began to develop in the Hoover administration, we knew then what the trouble was and what we would have to do to correct it. I was the first man to say publicly--but Mr. Roosevelt followed in my tracks a few months later and said the same thing. We said that all of our trouble and woe was due to the fact that too few of our people owned too much of our wealth. We said that in our land, with too much to eat, and too much to wear, and too many houses to live in, too many automobiles to be sold, that the only trouble was that the people suffered in the land of abundance because too few controlled the money and the wealth and too many did not have money with which to buy the things they needed for life and comfort.
So I said to the people of the United States in my speeches which I delivered in the United States Senate in the early part of 1932 that the only way by which we could restore our people to reasonable life and comfort was to limit the size of the big man's fortune and guarantee some minimum to the fortune and comfort of the little man's family.
I said then, as I have said since, that it was inhuman to have food rotting, cotton and wool going to waste, houses empty, and at the same time to have millions of our people starving, naked, and homeless because they could not buy the things which other men had and for which they had no use whatever. So we convinced Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt that it was necessary that he announce and promise to the American people that in the event he were elected President of the United States he would pull down the size of the big man's fortune and guarantee something to every family--enough to do away with all poverty and to give employment to those who were able to work and education to the children born into the world.
Mr. Roosevelt made those promises; he made them before he was nominated in the Chicago convention. He made them again before he was elected in November, and he went so far as to remake those promises after he was inaugurated President of the United States. And I thought for a day or two after he took the oath as President, that maybe he was going through with his promises. No heart was ever so saddened; no person's ambition was ever so blighted, as was mine when I came to the realization that the President of the United States was not going to undertake what he had said he would do, and what I know to be necessary if the people of America were ever saved from calamity and misery.
So now, my friends, I come to that point where I must in a few sentences describe to you just what was the cause of our trouble which became so serious in 1929, and which has been worse ever since. The wealth in the United States was three times as much in 1910 as it was in 1890, and yet the masses of our people owned less in 1910 than they did in 1890. In the year 1916 the condition had become so bad that a committee provided for by the Congress of the United States reported that 2 percent of the people in the United States owned 60 percent of the wealth in the country, and that 65 percent of the people owned less than 5 percent of the wealth. This report showed, however, that there was a middle class--some 33 percent of the people--who owned 35 percent of the wealth. This report went on to say that the trouble with the American people at that time was that too much of the wealth was in the hands of too few of the people, and recommended that something be done to correct the evil condition then existing.
It was at about the same time that many of our publications began to deplore the fact that so few people owned so much and that so many people owned so little. Among those commenting upon that situation was the Saturday Evening Post, which, in an issue of September 23, 1916, said: "Along one statistical line you can figure out a Nation bustling with wealth; along another a bloated plutocracy comprising 1 percent of the population lording it over a starving horde with only a thin margin of merely well-to-do in between."
And it was, as the Saturday Evening Post and the committee appointed by Congress said, it was a deplorable thing back in 1916, when it was found that 2 percent of the people owned twice as much as all of the remainder of the people put together, and that 65 percent of all of our people owned practically nothing.
But what did we do to correct that condition? Instead of moving to take these big fortunes from the top and spreading them among the suffering people at the bottom, the financial masters of America moved in to take complete charge of the Government for fear our lawmakers might do something along that line.
And as a result, 14 years after the report of 1916, the Federal Trade Commission made a study to see how the wealth of this land was distributed, and did they find it still as bad as it was in 1916? They found it worse! They found that 1 percent of the people owned about 59 percent of the wealth, which was almost twice as bad as what was said to be an intolerable condition in 1916, when 2 percent of the people owned 60 percent of the wealth. And as a result of foreclosures, failures, and bankruptcies, which began to happen prior to and in the year of 1929, before the campaign of 1932, and at this late date, it is the estimate of all conservative statisticians that 75 percent of the people in the United States don't own anything, that is, not enough to pay their debts, and that 4 percent of the people, or maybe less than 4 percent of the people, own from 85 to 90 percent of all our wealth in the United States.
Remember, in 1916 there was a middle class--33 percent of the people--who owned 35 percent of the wealth. That middle class is practically gone today. It no longer exists. They have dropped into the ranks of the poor. The thriving man of independent business standing is fast fading. The corner grocery store is becoming a thing of the past. Concentrated chain-merchandise and banking systems have laid waste to all middle opportunity. That "thin margin of merely well-to-do in between" which the Saturday Evening Post mentioned on September 23, 1916, has dwindled to practically no margin of well-to-do in between. Those suffering on the bottom and the few lords of finance on the top are nearly all that are left.
It became apparent that the billionaires and multimillionaires even began to squeeze out the common millionaires, closing in and taking their properties and wrecking their businesses. And so we arrived (and are still there) at the place that in abundant America where we have everything for which a human heart can pray, the hundreds of millions--or, as General Johnson says, the 80 million--of our people are crying in misery for the want of the things which they need for life, notwithstanding the fact that the country has had and can have more than the entire human race can consume.
The 125 million people of America have seated themselves at the barbecue table to consume the products which have been guaranteed to them by their Lord and Creator. There is provided by the Almighty what it takes for them all to eat; yea, more. There is provided more than what is needed for all to eat. But the financial masters of America have taken off the barbecue table 90 percent of the food placed thereon by God, through the labors of mankind, even before the feast begins, and there is left on that table to be eaten by 125 million people less than should be there for 10 million of them.
What has become of the remainder of those things placed on the table by the Lord for the use of us all? They are in the hands of the Morgans, the Rockefellers, the Mellons, the Baruches, the Bakers, the Astors, and the Vanderbilts--600 families at the most either possessing or controlling the entire 90 percent of all that is in America. They cannot eat the food, they cannot wear the clothes, so they destroy it. They have it rotted; they plow it up; they pour it into the rivers; they bring destruction through the acts of mankind to let humanity suffer; to let humanity go naked; to let humanity go homeless, so that nothing may occur that will do harm to their vanity and to their greed. Like the dog in the manger, they command a wagon load of hay, which the dog would not allow the cow to eat, though he could not eat it himself.
So now, ladies and gentlemen, we come to that plan of mine for which I have been so roundly denounced and condemned by such men as Mr. Farley, Mr. Robinson, and Gen. Hugh S. Johnson, and other spellers and speakers and spoilers of the Roosevelt administration. It is for the redistribution of wealth and for guaranteeing comforts and conveniences to all humanity out of this abundance in our country. I hope none will be horror-stricken when they hear me say that we must limit the size of the big man's fortune in order to guarantee a minimum of fortune, life and comfort to the little man; but, if you are, think first that such is the declaration on which Roosevelt rode into the nomination and election of President. While my urgings are declared by some to be the average of a madman, and by such men as General Johnson as insincere bait of a pied piper, if you will listen to me you will find that it is restating the laws handed down by God to man; you will find that it was the exact provision of the contract and law of the Pilgrim Fathers who landed at Plymouth in 1620.
Here's what the Pilgrim Fathers said in the contract with the early settlers in the year 1620. I read you article 5 from that contract: "5. That at ye end of ye 7. years, ye capital & profits, viz. the houses, lands, goods, and chattels, be equally divided betwixt ye adventurers, and planters; which done, every man shall be free from other of them of any debt or detriment concerning this adventure."
So the Pilgrim Fathers wrote into the covenant to do just exactly what the Bible said to do, that they should have an equal division of the wealth every seven years. I don't go that far; I merely advocate that no man be allowed to become so big that he makes paupers out of a million other people.
You will find that it is the cornerstone on which nearly every religion since the beginning of man has been founded. You will find that it was urged by Bacon, Milton, and Shakespeare in England, by Socrates, Plato, Theognis, and other wisest of men in Greece, by Pope Pius XI in the Vatican, by the world's greatest inventor, Marconi in Italy, by Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, and Theodore Roosevelt in the United States, as well as by nearly all of the thousands of great men whose names are yet mentioned in history.
The principle was not only the mainspring of Roosevelt's nomination and election, but in the closing speech of Herbert Hoover at Madison Square Garden in November 1932, even Hoover said: "My conception of America is a land where men and women may walk in ordered liberty, where they may enjoy the advantages of wealth, not concentrated in the hands of a few but diffused through the lives of all."
And so now I come to give you again that plan, taken from these leaders of all times and from the Bible, for the sponsoring of which I am labeled America's menace, madman, pied piper, and demagogue.
First. That every big fortune shall be cut down immediately by a capital levy tax to where no one will own more than a few million dollars, as a matter of fact, to where no one can very long own a fortune in excess of about three to four millions of dollars. I propose that the surplus of all the big fortunes, above the few millions to any one person at the most, shall go into the United States ownership. How would we get all these surplus fortunes into the United States Treasury? Not hard to do. We would not do it by making everyone sell what he owned; no. We would send everyone a questionnaire. On that he would list the properties he owns, lands and houses, stocks and bonds, factories and patents, and so on. Every man would place his appraisal on his property, which the Government would review and maybe change on some items. On that appraisal the big fortune holder would say out of what property he would retain the few millions allowed to him, the balance to go to the United States. Say Mr. Henry Ford should allow that he owned all the stock of the Ford Motor Co., worth, say, $2 billion; he could claim, say $4 million of the Ford stock, but $1,996,000,000 would go to the United States. Say the Rockefeller fortune was listed at $10 billion in oil stocks, bank stocks, money, and stores. Each Rockefeller could say whether he wanted his limit in either the money, oil, or bank stocks, but about nine billion and eight hundred million would go to the Government. And so, in this way, the Government of the United States would come into the possession of about two-fifths of its wealth, which on normal values would be worth, say, $165 billion.
Then we would turn to the inventories of the 25 million families of America. All those who showed properties and money clear of debts that were above $5,000 and up to the limit of a few millions would not be touched. But those showing less than $5,000 to the family free of debt would be added to, so that every family would start life again with homestead possessions of at least a home and the comforts needed for a home, including such things as a radio and an automobile. These things would go to every family as a homestead, not to be sold either for debts or taxes or even by consent of the owner except by the consent of the court or Government, and then only on condition that the court hold it to be spent for the purpose of buying another home and comforts thereof.
Such would mean that the $165 billion or more taken from big fortunes would have about $100 billion of it used to provide all with the comforts of home and living. The Government might have to issue warrants for claim and location, or even currency to be retired from such property as was claimed, but all that is a detail not impractical to get these homes into the hands of the people.
So America would start again with millionaires, but no multi-millionaires or billionaires; with some poor, but none too poor to be denied the comforts of life. America, however, would still have maybe a $65 billion balance from these big fortunes not yet used to set up the poor people. What would we do with that? Wait a moment. I am coming to that, too.
Second. We propose that after homes and comforts of homes have been set up for the families of the country, that we shall turn our attention to the children and the youth of the land, providing first for their education and training. We would not have to worry about the problem of child labor, because the very first thing which we would place in front of every child would be not only a comfortable home during his early years but the opportunity for education and training, not only through the grammar school and the high school but through college and to include vocational and professional training for every child. If necessary, that would include the living cost of that child while he attended college, if one should be too distant for him to live at home and conveniently attend, as would be the case with many of those living in the rural areas.
We now have an educational system, and in States like Louisiana--and it is the best one--where school books are furnished free to every child and where transportation by bus is given to every student, however far he may live from a grammar or high school; there is a fairly good assurance of education through grammar and high school for the child whose father and mother have enough at home to feed and clothe them. But when it comes to a matter of college education, except in few cases the right to a college education is determined at this day and time by the financial ability of the father and mother to pay for the cost and the expense of a college education. It don't make any difference how brilliant a boy or girl may be, that don't give them the right to a college education in America today.
Now, Gen. Hugh Johnson says I am indeed a very smart demagogue, a wise and dangerous menace. But I am one of those who didn't have the opportunity to secure a college education or training. We propose that the right to education and the extent of education shall be determined and gauged not so much by the financial ability of the parents but by the mental ability and energy of a child to absorb the learning at a college. This should appeal to General Johnson, who says I am a smart man, since, had I enjoyed the learning and college training which my plan would provide for others, I might not have fallen into the path of the dangerous menace and demagogue that he has now found me to be.
Remember, we have $65 billion to account for that would lie in the hands of the United States, even after providing home comforts for all families. We will use a large part of it immediately to expand particularly the colleges and universities of this country. You would not know the great institutions like Yale, Harvard, and Louisiana State University. Get ready for a surprise. College enrollments would multiply 1,000 percent. We would immediately call in the architects and engineers, the idle professors and scholars of learning. We would send out a hurry call because the problem of providing college education for all of the youth would start a fusillade of employment which might suddenly and immediately make it possible for us to shorten the hours of labor, even as we contemplate in the balance of our program.
And how happy the youth of this land would be tomorrow morning if they knew instantly their right to a home and the comforts of a home and to complete college and professional training and education were assured! I know how happy they would be, because I know how I would have felt had such a message been delivered to my door.
I cannot deliver that promise to the youth of this land tonight, but I am doing my part. I am standing the blows; I am hearing the charges hurled at me from the four quarters of the country. It is the same fight which was made against me in Louisiana when I was undertaking to provide the free school books, free busses, university facilities, and things of that kind to educate the youth of that State as best I could. It is the same blare which I heard when I was undertaking to provide for the sick and the afflicted. When the youth of this land realizes what is meant and what is contemplated the billingsgate and the profanity of all the Farleys and Johnsons in America can't prevent the light of truth from hurling itself in understandable letters against the dark canopy of the sky.
Now, when we have landed at the place where homes and comforts are provided for all families and complete education and training for all young men and women, the next problem is what about our income to sustain our people thereafter. How shall that be arranged to guarantee all the fair share of what soul and body need to sustain them conveniently. That brings us to our next point. We propose:
No. 3. We shall shorten the hours of labor by law so much as may be necessary that none will be worked too long and none unemployed. We shall cut the hours of toil to 30 hours per week, maybe less; we may cut the working year to 11 months' work and 1 month's vacation; maybe less. If our great improvement programs show we need more labor than we may have, we will lengthen the hours as convenience requires. At all events, the hours for production will be gauged to meet the market for consumption. We will need all our machinery for many years, because we have much public improvement to do; and, further, the more use that we may make of them, the less toil will be required for all of us to survive in splendor.
Now, a minimum earning would be established for any person with a family to support. It would be such a living which one, already owning a home, could maintain a family in comfort, of not less than $2,500 per year to every family.
And now by reason of false statements made, particularly by Mr. Arthur Brisbane and Gen. Hugh S. Johnson, I must make answer to show you that there is more than enough in this country and more than enough raised and made every year to do what I propose.
Mr. Brisbane says I am proposing to give every person $15,000 for a home and its comforts, and he says that would mean the United States would have to be worth over a trillion dollars. Why make that untrue statement, Mr. Brisbane? You know that is not so. I do not propose any home and comfort of $15,000 to each person--it is a minimum of $5,000 to every family, which would be less than $125 billion, which is less than one-third of this Nation's wealth in normal times of $400 billion.
General Johnson says that my proposal is for $5,000 guaranteed earning to each family, which he says would cost from four to five hundred millions of dollars per year, which he says is four times more than our whole national income ever has been. Why make such untrue statements, General Johnson? Must you be a false witness to argue your point? I do not propose $5,000 income per year to each family. I propose a minimum of from $2,000 to $2,500 income per year to each family. For 25 million families that minimum income per family would require from $50 billion to $60.6 billion. In the prosperous days we have had nearly double that for income some years already, which allowed plenty for the affluent; but with the unheard prosperity we would have, if all our people could buy what they need, our national income would be double what it has ever been.
The Wall Street writer and statistician says we could have an income of at least $10,000 to every family in goods if all worked short hours and none were idle. According to him, only one-fourth of the average income would carry out my plan.
And now I come to the remainder of the plan. We propose:
No. 4. That agricultural production will be cared for in the manner specified in the Bible. We would plow under no crops; we would burn no corn; we would spill no milk into the river; we would shoot no hogs; would slaughter no cattle to be rotted. What we would do is this:
We would raise all the cotton that we could raise, all the corn that we could raise, and everything else that we could raise. Let us say, for example, that we raised more cotton than we could use.
But here again I wish to surprise you when I say that if everyone could buy all the towels, all the sheets, all the bedding, all the clothing, all the carpets, all the window curtains, and all of everything else he reasonably needs; America would consume 20 million bales of cotton per year without having to sell a bale to the foreign countries. The same would be true of the wheat crop, and of the corn crop, and of the meat crop. Whenever everyone could buy the things he desires to eat, there would be no great excess in any of those food supplies.
But for the sake of the argument, let us say, however, that there would be a surplus. And I hope there will be, because it will do the country good to have a big surplus. Let us take cotton as an example. Let us say that the United States will have a market for 10 million bales of cotton and that we raise 15 million bales of cotton. We will store 5 million bales in warehouses provided by the Government. If the next year we raise 15 million bales of cotton and only need 10, we will store another 5 million bales of cotton, and the Government will care for that. When we reach the year when we have enough cotton to last for twelve or eighteen months, we will plant no more cotton for that next year. The people will have their certificates of the Government which they can cash in for that year for the surplus, or if necessary, the Government can pay for the whole 15 million bales of cotton as it is produced every year; and when the year comes that we will raise no cotton, we will not leave the people idle and with nothing to do. That is the year when, in the cotton States, we will do our public improvement work that needs to be done so badly. We will care for the flood-control problems; we will extend the electricity lines into rural areas; we will widen roads and build more roads; and if we have a little time left, some of us can go back and attend a school for a few months and not only learn some of the things we have forgotten but we can learn some things that they have found out about that they didn't know anything about when we were children.
Now the example of what we would do about cotton is the same policy we would follow about all other crops. This program would necessitate the building of large storage plants, both heated and cold storage, and warehouses in all the counties of America, and that building program alone would take up all the idle people that America has today. But the money spent would go for good and would prevent any trouble happening in the future. And then there is another good thing. If we would fill these warehouses, then if there were to come a year of famine there would be enough on hand to feed and clothe the people of the Nation. It would be the part of good sense to keep a year or two of stock on hand all the time to provide for an emergency, maybe to provide for war or other calamity.
I give you the next step in our program:
No. 5: We will provide for old-age pensions for those who reach the age of 60 and pay it to all those who have an income of less than $1,000 per year or less than $10,000 in property or money. This would relieve from the ranks of labor those persons who press down the price for the use of their flesh and blood. Now the person who reaches the age of 60 would already have the comforts of home as well as something else guaranteed by reason of the redistribution that had been made of things. They would be given enough more to give them a reasonably comfortable existence in their declining days. However, such would not come from a sales tax or taxes placed upon the common run of people. It would be supported from the taxes levied on those with big incomes and the yearly tax that would be levied on big fortunes, so that they would always be kept down to a few million dollars to any one person.
No. 6. We propose that the obligations which this country owes to the veterans of its wars, including the soldiers' bonus and to care for those who have been either incapacitated or disabled, would be discharged without stint or unreasonable limit. I have always supported each and every bill that has had to do with the payment of the bonus due to the ex-service men. I have always opposed reducing the allowances which they have been granted. It is an unfair thing for a country to begin its economy while big fortunes exist by inflicting misery on those who have borne the burden of national defense.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, such is the share-our-wealth movement. What I have here stated to you will be found to be approved by the law of our Divine Maker. You will find it in the Book of Leviticus, from the twenty-fifth to the twenty-seventh chapters. You will find it in the writings of King Solomon. You will find it in the teachings of Christ. You will find it in the words of our great teachers and statesmen of all countries and of all times. If you care to write to me for such proof, I shall be glad to furnish it to you, free of expense, by mail.
Will you not organize a share-our-wealth society in your community tonight or tomorrow to place this plan into law? You need it; your people need it. Write me, wire to me; get into this work with us if you believe we are right. Help to save humanity. Help to save this country. If you wish a copy of this speech or a copy of any other speech I have made, write me and it will be forwarded to you. You can reach me always in Washington, D. C.
I thank you.
THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD -- July 22, 1935
. . . And now, my friends, this brings me to the last part of my speech. Out of this orgy of chaos, out of this dreary atmosphere of calamity and confusion, what is our hope and our port of safety and security? It will be found in the promise of the President of the United States when he accepted the nomination at the Chicago convention. Prior to the Chicago convention I was the sole author of a plan known as the share-our-wealth plan. It proposed that none should own too much, and none should own too little. It necessarily required a redistribution of wealth, so that those who had more than they had any business with, should be made to give over to the Government the money and things which the Government would furnish to the people who did not have enough upon which to live. I proposed that plan when I became a member of the United States Senate early in 1932. It would do this: No man would be permitted to own more than a few millions of dollars, and no family would be allowed to have less than a home and reasonable other things so as to live in comfort. No man would have been allowed to make more than from several hundred thousand dollars up to a million dollars in 1 year. No family would have been allowed to earn less than from $2,000 to $2,500 per year. The rule is that no man should own more than or make more than 100 times what the average family owned or made, and that no family should own or make less than one-third what the average family owned or made. The further provision was that those persons who reached the age of 60 should be given an adequate pension of somewhere around $30 to $40 per month, unless they owned considerable property or had a livable income. Also, my plan contemplated the full payment of the debt to soldiers; and, finally, the guarantee from the Government of education, even through college, to all children for professional or vocational service in life. No boy or girl would have wanted for the desired education or training in college on account of the poverty of the family. Such was my plan.
It became known as the "share our wealth" plan in later days. Before Mr. Roosevelt was nominated, I had seen to it that he had committed himself to this principle, in the main, and that he had promised to commit himself after his nomination. And so, at the Chicago convention, he appeared and made this pledge, which I quote from his speech:
"Throughout the Nation men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the Government of the last years, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth."
So, ladies and gentlemen, you might now say, as was said before Mr. Roosevelt's election, that he pledged himself to the Huey Long share-our-wealth plan. Since Mr. Roosevelt has taken the office of President, he has opposed every effort to adopt the plan for redistribution of wealth. Time and again I have offered this plan to the Congress. I have offered the old-age pension plan; his administration has caused its defeat. I have offered the plan to pay the soldiers what we owe them; he has caused its defeat. I have offered the plan to educate the children in colleges; he has caused its defeat. I have offered the plan by which all would be assured of homes, and of incomes sufficient to keep them in comfort, and he has caused its defeat.
But lo and behold, with the public roused from coast to coast, and from the Canadian line to the Gulf, Mr. Roosevelt decided that he had to make a gesture the other day. It was the fifth time he had made the gesture, but he made it again. He sent a message to Congress saying that he was for the "share our wealth" plan. Immediately I called upon him to assist in passing a bill. What has he done? He sent us a bill already--that is, a bill has come up there, but they have been hiding it ever since--providing for taxes on big fortunes, which they said would yield $340 million a year. As a matter of fact, it would not yield half that much, but at best their claims were that it would yield $340 million a year. That was not even to be paid out to the people; it was to go on the deficit of the Government. The entire $340 million per year, if it had been that much, and it was not, would have been one-tenth of the annual deficit of Roosevelt's administration. If it had not gone on the deficit it would have given everybody $2.70 a year. In other words, he declared for share our wealth and sent us a bill to Congress that was as much like the share-our-wealth plan as a bedbug is like a hotel. And that is about the kind of fodder we get from him every time.
Take the way he gummed up the old-age pension plan we had. I proposed in Congress to give the people who were 60 years old or older from $30 to $40 per month, unless they had an income of $1,000 a year, or unless they owned $10,000 worth of property. He came in with a plan proposing as if he were going to have a genuine old-age-pension plan for the United States. It appropriated $49 million a year out of the United States Treasury and provided that the States had to match the $49 million, so as to make a total of $98 million. There were over 14 million people in the United States over 60 years old who were entitled to the pension under my plan. The whole $49 million of the Government, and the whole $49,000,000 of the States, the entire $98 million, would have given them all about $7 a year apiece. And that is just the kind of way the Roosevelt administration has deluded and gummed up and blind-sighted the people of the United States ever since he started out.
I have no faith whatever in the pledges of this administration. Some days ago they made the announcement that they had sent $1,700,000 to Louisiana to the university there. I warned those people that they had not done any such thing, and that they never would do it. Today they admit themselves that they did not send it, and do not intend to send it.
Such a Government such lack of dependability, such lack of integrity--the Roosevelt administration--the St. Vitus dance government of the United States of America.
But our hope lies in the ultimate victory for the share-our-wealth plan, none would have too much, but all would have enough.
But although Mr. Roosevelt has refused to let the share-our-wealth bill become a law, yet the fact that he says what I say and prays for the share-our-wealth plan at least puts him on record to where no man who claims to be for Roosevelt can say other than that "Huey Long is right." They say that Mr. Roosevelt has only done this so as to steal my political thunder, or to take the wind out of my sails. Call it a mere imitation of my talk, if you will; call Mr. Roosevelt's gesture for the share-our-wealth plan a counterfeit, if you desire; the fact remains that no one imitates another imitation, and no one counterfeits another counterfeit. If Mr. Roosevelt considers that either HUEY LONG or his share-our-wealth plan is so popular or so good that he must either imitate or counterfeit it for his own sake, then he knows that the genuine plan is considered sound enough, good enough, and popular enough to justify his imitation or counterfeit. In all events, you who would take the word or gesture of Roosevelt, must do honor and add prestige and dignity to the share-our-wealth cause, however insincere Mr. Roosevelt may be.
I ask everyone to join in this move that will mean success to the share-our-wealth plan, and thereby life, liberty, and happiness to all our people.