Share Our Wealth

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Share The Wealth was a movement begun in February 1934, during the Great Depression, by Huey Long, a governor and later United States Senator from Louisiana. Huey Long first proposed the plan in a national radio address, which is now referred to as the "Share Our Wealth Speech".[1]

Major provisions of "Share The Wealth"[edit]

The key planks of the Share The Wealth platform included:

  1. No person would be allowed to accumulate a personal net worth of more than 300 times the average family fortune, which would limit personal assets to between $5 million and $8 million. A graduated capital levy tax would be assessed on all persons with a net worth exceeding $1 million.
  2. Annual incomes would be limited to $1 million and inheritances would be capped at $5 million.
  3. Every family was to be furnished with a homestead allowance of not less than one-third the average family wealth of the country. Every family was to be guaranteed an annual family income of at least $2,000 to $2,500, or not less than one-third of the average annual family income in the United States. Yearly income, however, cannot exceed more than 300 times the size of the average family income.
  4. An old-age pension would be made available for all persons over 60.
  5. To balance agricultural production, the government would preserve/store surplus goods, abolishing the practice of destroying surplus food and other necessities due to lack of purchasing power.
  6. Veterans would be paid what they were owed (a pension and healthcare benefits).
  7. Free education and training for all students to have equal opportunities in all schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions for training in the professions and vocations of life.
  8. The raising of revenue and taxes for the support of this program was to come from the reduction of swollen fortunes from the top, as well as for the support of public works to give employment whenever there may be any slackening necessary in private enterprise.[2]

Motivation[edit]

Long believed that the underlying cause of the Great Depression, (which he called "Mr. Roosevelt's depression") was the growing disparity between the rich and everyone else.[3] For most of his political career, he was endeared to the "little man," which refers to the rural poor.[4] The Share Our Wealth program was going to become the capstone project for Long's populist agenda.

The Share Our Wealth program was controversial. Many also suspected that Huey Long was planning on using the Share Our Wealth Society as a vehicle for mounting a third party challenge to Roosevelt during the 1936 Presidential election. Any Presidential ambitions which Long might have had were cut short when he was shot by an assassin on September 8, 1935, in Baton Rouge; he died two days later on September 10, 1935.[5]

Biographers T. Harry Williams and William Ivy Hair speculated that the Senator had never intended to run for the presidency in 1936. Long planned to form a third party in 1936 that would run a candidate who would probably lose, but also split the progressive vote, causing Roosevelt to lose as well. Long would then run for president on his new party's ticket in 1940.

Reception[edit]

The official slogan of the Share The Wealth movement was "Every Man a King (But No One Wears a Crown)", which also became the title of a song co-written by Long in 1935 to promote his proposal.[6]

Long was a populist, extremely popular in his home state of Louisiana, but many saw his Share Our Wealth proposal as an unworkable plan that threatened the reforms of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, especially by the right.[7]

Program mismanagement after Long's death[edit]

After Long's assassination, the control of the Share The Wealth Society fell to Gerald L. K. Smith, who was widely viewed as a political demagogue. Smith brought the Share The Wealth Society into a brief coalition with the followers of radio priest Charles Coughlin and old-age pension advocate Francis Townsend in support of the short-lived Union Party, a third party effort which ran William Lemke of North Dakota for President in 1936, but under his leadership, the Share Our Wealth movement quickly fell apart.

References[edit]

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