• Matthew Rodgers

A Grand Idea from Huey Long

Updated: Apr 13

Huey Long transformed the economic reality in Louisiana from a system stacked against its rural poor citizens to something that offered opportunity and tools for advancement.

During his reign as Governor of Louisiana, many of his economic policies benefited the weak and poor of Louisiana which even included the minorities such as the African American population that was often left behind in the United States in favor of systematically racist laws and policies to prevent economic and social progress. For example, Long often promoted free education and government-subsidized living expenses to assist the disenfranchised. Prior to Longs' administration, the cost of living in Louisiana was one of the highest in its history — especially due to the Great Depression encompassing the entire globe. Long also enacted infrastructure projects that involved the creation of all-weather roads and bridges which economically assisted the average Lousianan family by helping in reducing gas consumption as well as preventing major wear and tear on their vehicles. In total, these infrastructure projects would go on to save the average family around $1,500 annually (adjusted for inflation). Long also mandated a reduction of property tax via the “Homestead Exemption”, which saves people roughly $780 annually (adjusted for inflation).

But with all this said, have many of these ideas and programs extended into post-Long Louisiana? Of course, some parts of his ideology have stayed and lingered around. But, for the most part, politicians have abandoned Long's way of thinking. Long was also notably a religious individual who held many Christian values and included his beliefs in his ideology. For example, the Bible states that all men are equal and so a major component of Long’s thinking was following this rule of law so-to-speak. Such thinking would bring massive popularity to his campaign, allowing him to win the governorship and eventually have a seat in the US Senate. Not without ridicule however as Louisiana had long-standing problems with racism and the Klu Klux Klan. Long vehemently disavowed and fought against their actions due to their violence against minorities and the religious. Huey also believed that no family should go hungry and no family should be homeless which led him to found the “Share Our Wealth Foundation” which was a group to advocate for the Every Man a King idea that Long adamantly believed in. This plan was mainly about wealth and income during the Great Depression and just some of what the plan had laid out was a cap on personal fortunes, limits on annual income, a universal basic income, and old age pensions to keep the working man and families functioning and moving along in an ever-evolving economy and society in the world.

Today, Louisiana has abandoned the values of Long and has continued to leave the poor and weak in today's society in the dust, as many politicians rather accumulate massive fortunes than help those in need in this beautiful state. Huey Long believed that a basic income for the people would even out and equalize many tensions between the working class and the rich as it would allow the workings of capitalism and a free market to benefit the workers along with limited government intervention to prevent major wealth hoarding and the harm coming from the super-rich and oil barrens of the time. I personally believe UBI (Universal Basic Income) does have its benefits and uses in modern society as the gap between the rich and the middle class is ever-growing in which UBI could help bridge the gap between the average hard-working family and the upper echelon of America. If the United States could possibly cap all wealth out to about $90 million annually per individual, that would leave enough room for the wealthy to live a happy life, while the money taken off the top would be used to assist the government and be used in a hypothetical UBI program. However, the United States would face incredible difficulty with money laundering, major capital and investment leaving the nation, and the use of “Swiss Banks,” which is a usual system to hide extreme wealth used by billionaires around the world. But, if the government could overhaul the bloated tax system and some welfare systems, I believe that a UBI could have a valuable use in today's society, just as Huey Long saw the prospects of the system over 80 years ago.


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