Share Our Wealth

Share Our Wealth

Share Our Wealth was a movement begun during the Great Depression by Huey Long, a governor and later United States Senator from Louisiana.

Huey P. Long's 1934 radio broadcast

In February, 1934, Senator Huey Long announced during a nationwide radio address that he was forming the Share Our Wealth Society, dedicated to the redistribution of the nation's wealth. Long had originally been a supporter of the New Deal policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but starting with the formation of the Share Our Wealth Society, began advocating for more radical reforms that Roosevelt wasn't willing to embrace. He claimed considerable support across America, boasting that the "Share our Wealth" movement had over 27,000 branches and nearly 7.5 million members. He also intended to stand against Roosevelt as a third party candidate in the election of 1936 and could have seriously damaged Roosevelt's chance of re-election by splitting the Democratic vote.

Major provisions of "Share Our Wealth"

The key planks of the Share Our Wealth platform included:
#No person would be allowed to accumulate a personal net worth of more than 100 to 300 times the average family fortune, which would limit personal assets to between $1.5 million and $5 million. Income taxes would be levied to ensure this. Annual capital levy taxes would be assessed on all persons with a net worth exceeding $1 million.
#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 100 to 300 times the size of the average family income.
#An old-age pension would be made available for all persons over 60.
#To balance agricultural production, the government will preserve/store surplus. This is made so no food is wasted.
#Veterans are paid what they are owed
#Education and training for all children to be equal in opportunity in all schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions for training in the professions and vocations of life.
#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.

The death of Huey P. Long

The official slogan of the Share Our Wealth movement was "Every Man a King," which also became the title of a song co-written by Long in 1935 to promote his proposal.

Huey 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. 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 by his assassination on September 8, 1935, in Baton Rouge.

T. Harry Williams and William Ivy Hair revealed the Senator had in fact 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.

Program mismanagement after Long's death

After Long's assassination, the control of the Share Our Wealth Society fell to Gerald L. K. Smith, who was widely viewed as a political demagogue. Smith brought the Share Our 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.

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