Huey P. Long – Saint Vitus Dance Government Radio Address
Radio Address: Saint Vitus Dance Government
delivered 2 May 1935
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Whether you do or do not believe in the divine rule of the Scriptures or in the precepts of the Founders of this country or in the history of philosophy of all nations, if you will believe the four tables of arithmetic — those of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division — you will agree with me that the wealth of this land must be immediately redistributed to among our 125 million people, if America is to be saved as a country.
For a moment ladies and gentlemen, let me turn to the last radio address by our President, the honorable Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was delivered to the people of our country on last Sunday night. Now the President says that the people cannot understand just how good he has got them coming along. Here are his words (quote):
The job of creating a program for the nation’s welfare is in some respects like the building of a ship. At different points on the coast where I often visit they build great seagoing ships.
You see, what the President is talking about there is that when he goes out on that five million dollar yacht they call the Nourmahal — owed by brother Vincent Astor, who does lots of ship subsidy business for the United States, where they get as much as a thousand dollars for carrying one three cent letter — he sometimes sees them building a ship.
Now let us quote further from the President (quote):
When one of these ships is under construction and the steel frames have been set in the keel, it is difficult for a person who does not know ships to tell how it will finally look when it is sailing the high seas. It is that way with the making of a national policy.
So we see our President of the United States — some of us call him the Knight of the Nourmahal — says we’re confused because we cannot see just how this thing is going to look when he gets through making it. Why to be sure: all those millions of hogs they killed, all those cattle they shot down, the milk they poured into the rivers with the people starving for it, all of the cotton they plowed under and wool that they burned up with the people naked because they could not get it — none of us can see just how that is working out. But the President says it is going to look pretty when he gets the picture made up. Surely it will look pretty. It may not look exactly like a song, but it would be something like a dance: the Saint Vitus dance.1
Now the President says this (quote): “They know that the process of constructive rebuilding of America cannot be done in a day or a year” (end quote). No, and if he is a fair sample of it, they know it cannot be done in a hundred years. His process of construction, if you call it construction, is to start out repairing the automobile by first tearing off the top and then when the rain begins to beat in, to hammer the engine to pieces, pare down the chassis, and then wind up by taking off the wheels. That leaves only one thing to do, he sends the bill for the work. That bill has now reached the size of over 30 billions of dollars, six times more than all the money in circulation in the United States.
But now we’re going to get to something. The President takes you into his confidence. Here is what he says next (quote:):
The most difficult place in the world to get a clear and open perspective of the country as a whole is in Washington. That is why I occasionally leave this scene of action for a few days to go fishing.
I’m going to read that again from the President (quote):
The most difficult place in the world to get a clear and open perspective of the country as a whole is in Washington. That is why I occasionally leave this scene of action for a few days to go fishing.
Now if you will observe closely, ladies and gentlemen, our President remarks that he could not find out about the people of the country in Washington. So he betook himself on board the five million dollar yacht called the Nourmahal, owned by Vincent Astor, where he was dead certain to find out just how things were getting along. This Nourmahal yacht sailed out into the British waters with the President on board and soon thereafter was boarded by the son and daughter-in-law of the King of England, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and now after some several days or week’s tour on the briny British waters, enthroned on a five million dollar yacht in company with the multi-millionaire Astor and the Duke and Duchess of Kent right out of England, our great and benevolent President returns and says he went on this fishing trip to find out what it is all about.
This would be great comfort to the cotton hands who are not allowed to plant cotton this year and who are naked because they can’t get cotton goods and can’t make any money to buy it either. It would do a great deal of help among the starving who are told they must make contracts to reduce the quantity of food stuffs, so that there will not be too much to eat.
Hooray for President Roosevelt’s fishing trip! Let’s send him off again. If he doesn’t get any better understanding of the conditions in this country then he has had in the last two years, it’d be a fine thing if Congress made a contract with Mr. Vincent Astor and his five million dollar yacht, not only to take the President out in the British waters to fish for a week or two, but to keep him there for several more months, then trust in luck that the country would find its way back to normal before he got back.
I didn’t get to hear the message of our President — It was delivered over the radio — because I was on board a train returning from Des Moines, Iowa, where I had made a speech on last Saturday. But I would say to you that at the place of Des Moines, I took a vote of the crowd — some 20 thousand highly educated and intelligent people — and without one single exception, every hand was raised into the air favoring the plan for redistribution of wealth, and not one hand was raised against it.
But to get back to my point, not having heard the President speak, as I returned to Washington, I stepped over to my office where I was approached by an officer. He said to me, he says, “I heard the President speak last night.” And I asked him, I said, “What did he say?” He said, “He said to just keep waiting.”
But the President of the United States has long since forgotten the pledge and promise which he made and on which he was nominated and elected to President. He promised in terms that were certain, in language which could not be misunderstood, that he would break up the size of the big fortunes of this country and use it to build the common people up from the ground to where they had something on which to live in comfort. He made that promise in the speech that he delivered in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was that speech that was the basis on which I declared for him as President. I gave him the Louisiana delegation and helped him to get several others on the promises that he made in that Atlanta speech. He made that promise when he accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party at the Chicago convention. He made that promise in other speeches which he delivered during the campaign for President.
I was sent into state after state, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and into Kansas, directly from the then candidate for President, Mr. Roosevelt. And I was sent there to tell the people that when Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the President of the United States, that the big fortunes would be whittled down to a reasonable limit in size and that thereby the common run of mankind would be built up from the bottom, at least to the point where all of our people had a home and the comforts of life for their families, with steady employment to all labor and profit over production costs to all the farmers.
What I say as to these promises by our President will not be disputed by him or by anyone else. They are in indelible type. They are in letters and pamphlets that cannot be disputed or questioned.
But now in the third year of his Administration, we find more of our people unemployed than at any other time. We find our houses empty and our people hungry, many of them half-clothed and many of them not clothed at all.
Mr. Hopkins announced 22 millions on the dole, a new high water mark in that particular sum a few weeks ago. We find not only the people going further into debt but that the United States is going further into debt. The states are going further into debt and the cities and towns are even going into bankruptcy. The condition has become deplorable.
Instead of his promises, the only remedy that Mr. Roosevelt has prescribed is to borrow more money if he can and to go further into debt. The last move was to borrow five billion dollars more on which we must pay interest for the balance of our lifetime and probably during the lifetime of our children. And with it all there stalks the slimy specter of want, hunger, destitution, and pestilence — all because of the fact that in the land of too much to eat and of too much to wear, our President has failed in his promise to have these necessities of life distributed into the hands of the people who have need of them.
Now the jet black shadow of our want and misery came upon us step by step with certain precision, day after day, month after month, and year after year. There were investigations and studies made both by private bodies and governmental agencies to find out the cause of our trouble. The whole matter was studied very seriously up to as late as the year 1916, 1920.
The departments of the United States government and many of our statesmen and newspapers and other journals openly stated that our growing trouble was caused by too much of our wealth getting into the hands of too few of our people. All of them said that we had to turn things around the other way, so as to have the people owning less and less, so as to have the masses owning more and more. That is that the few should own less and the more people should own more.
But such things were said at a time before the money masters had muzzled the public journals and before they had stifled the agencies of our government’s research and publicity. Here is what the government report rendered to Congress in 1916 by the Industrial Relations Commission said (quote):
The sources through which industrial unrest springs are, when stated in full detail, almost numerous, but upon careful analysis of their real character, they would be found to group themselves almost without exception under four main sources which include all the others. These four are: 1. Unjust distribution of wealth and income.
Now the United States Industrial Relations Commission said this thing further (quote):
The rich two percent of the people own 60 percent of the wealth. The middle class, 33 percent of the people, own 35 percent of the wealth. The poor, 65 percent of the people, own five percent of the wealth. This means in brief that a little less than two million people who would make up a city smaller than Chicago own 20 percent more of the nation’s wealth than all the other 90 million people
But at about this time of 1916, when these studies were being made, our country was thrown into the European war in the next year 1917. And when the shades of 1919 were lowered on the Peace Conference in Paris, the billionaires and multi-millionaires of our finances had begun to apply their pressure throughout America. They sought to it thereafter that nothing more was said about too few people owning too much or about too many people owning too little. They muzzled down on everything as tight as a drum.
From 1920 to 1929, they changed businesses and banks and roped in all the businesses and institutions of this country four times as tight as they had ever held them. In the first year of Hoover’s reign with more food stuffs and more wearing apparel, more manufactured articles, more houses, and more of everything else than this country had ever seen in all of its history, notwithstanding all our abundance of everything for which our people had any need, there began to come about the first wave of our greatest hunger, nakedness, homelessness, and destitution in this land where there was too much of everything.
Why was that? It was because of the fact that in spite of those conditions of too few owning too much as we found to exist in 1916, that is a matter of fact in the 14 years time which followed from 1916 to 1930, those conditions grew to be two times as bad as they were when they were complained about in 1916.
The study of the Federal Trade Commission made in 1930 said this (quote):
The foregoing table shows that about one percent of the estimated number of decedents owned about 59 percent of the estimated wealth and that more than 90 percent was owned by about 13 percent of this number.
So you will see from a comparison, ladies and gentlemen, of these two government reports, one in 1916 and one in 1930, 14 years apart, that one percent of the people owned as much in 1930 as two percent of the people owned in 1916.
So it proved that the government was correct in 1916 when it warned that too much of the wealth in the hands of too few people was bringing on calamity. For when we reached 1930 with the conditions growing from bad to worst, the whole country collapsed and misery was brought about upon the population in the land that was flowing with milk and honey.
From the studies which I have made, I charged in the United States Senate along about 1933 and 1934 that four percent of the people owned 85 percent of the wealth and that 96 percent of our people owned less than 16 percent of the wealth. I charged that 70 percent of the people of the United States didn’t own enough to pay their debts. There was considerable ridicule made against the figures which I gave. During the last month of April of this very year, about three or four weeks ago, the newspaper in New York City with the largest daily circulation called The Daily News announced that it would send a special representative to Washington to investigate the figures that I’d given out.
So it sent here a gentleman named Lowell Limpus and in the issue of The Daily News of Monday, April 8th, 1935, just three weeks ago, here is what that great newspaper said. I quote, I now quote their own words (quote): “Four percent own 87 percent of the United States, News Survey Shows” (end quotation). Now that is the headline of this newspaper.
I will read you from the article of this newspaper of April 8th, 1935, three weeks old. This biggest paper of the world (quote):
The News recently suggested editorially that figures quoted in current discussions on the distribution of wealth ought to be proved or disproved by an official survey. No figures being available, The News instituted a survey of its own. The results are covered in a series of articles of which this is the first.
Now I continue to quote from this article of The Daily News. Here is what they said (quote again):
The News survey simply brings a picture up to date or as nearly so as figures permit. It reveals the following facts: Less than four percent are getting 38 and a half percent of the aggregate national income. They, this four percent own and control more than 87 percent of the national wealth. The poor are getting poorer. The national income is steadily draining into fewer and fewer pockets. The nation’s wealth is rapidly coming under the control of a mere handful of men.
(End quotations from that newspaper.)
Now I’m going to quote further from this same article in The Daily News. I start again (quote): “The facts were there but they were ignored. It remained for Senator Huey Long….” Now notice — this Daily News has ridiculed me for all these many years — what it says:
The facts were there but they were ignored. It remained for Senator Huey Long and his ilk to force them to the attention of the public. Huey Long opened books….
— I’m still quoting this paper —
He adopted a technique which had never occurred to the students. Huey mounted a soapbox and beat a bass drum. The public stopped to listen. The News survey reveals that he knew what he was talking about but so did the students who preceded him.
Yes, my friends but if you knew the mire and the ridicule and the — and the distress that I had to come through in order to get those figures before the people, you’d know what a public life might mean. But now I will not take the time to read you further what this big newspaper which checked up on my figures had said, but it took the time to write a big editorial and here is an editorial of April the 11th, 1935 that they addressed to the balance of the newspapers of the United States to say this. Quote — it’s April 11th, 1935:
When Huey Long in his Share the Wealth reply to General Johnson said that one percent of Americans own 59 percent of America’s wealth, while four percent own between 85 percent and 95 percent of the wealth, we knew he was a liar. We intimated as much and added that somebody ought to look into this question and get the true figures on American wealth distribution in order to refute this demagogue Long.
The News then assigned one of its most competent investigators Lowell Limpus to the job of digging up the figures. And so Lowell Limpus went to Washington and worked for weeks in the Library of Congress and elsewhere to root up the true figures with which to confound Long.
The results of that research are now being published in The News and to the consternation of many people (including ourselves when we first heard of them), the results of that research show that Long had essentially the correct dope. The gist of the Limpus finding is this, more than 96 percent of the workers in the United States receive less than the two thousand dollars a year which is regarded as sufficient only for bare necessities.
According to the United States Federal Trade Commission, in 1926 one percent of the people dying did own 59 percent of the wealth reported and since that time the rich have been getting richer in proportion and the poor have been getting poorer.
When Limpus discovered that such was the picture of wealth distribution in the United States, he wired The News that his data would prove very startling and that probably his findings could not be published.
It was decided after some deliberation to publish them nevertheless.
In other words, they decided to tell the truth in spite of themselves. I continue to quote:
That decision was made on the ground that the ostrich act of sticking our heads in the sand, blinding ourselves to facts will only do us harm in the long run. To suppress these facts might dampen down some unrest for a while. But it is these facts which are causing the unrest. The eventual kickback would be much more serious if the facts continued to be kept under cover. And they are ominous facts.
This is still quoting:
It has happened time and again that when a nation’s wealth has become concentrated into too few hands and ways of redistributing part of it peaceably have not been worked out —
Hear that? They say:
It has happened time and again that when a nation’s wealth has become concentrated into a few hands and ways of redistributing part of it peaceably have not been worked out, ways of redistributing it by violence have been adopted in time as in France and Russia. That’s why you better pay attention to what I’m advocating, ladies and gentlemen. I’m trying to do it peaceably.
This newspaper says it’ll be done otherwise, if you don’t do it. Quote again from The New York Daily News editorial:
And as long as mass purchasing power stays down and continues to shrink, there will be over productions of bathtubs, cars, radios, and so forth, which we like to think are elements in the American standard of living.
Will the balance of the newspapers do what this newspaper has done now? I’ve finished quoting from it. Or will they continue to be blind and lead the balance of the blind into the mire of distress and ruin. The brave journalistic souls of the present day refuses to see the light.
The Saturday Evening Post of this week dated May 4th, 1935 has an editorial about me as follows. Headline says: “Facts are Stubborn.” “Rarely does any subject receive so much attention as Honorable Huey Long,” they say. Continuing to quote:
There’s grave discussion as to how he will affect the fortunes of both the New Deal and the Republican Party. Everyone has an opinion as to whether he is a menace or not, the view taken depending on many different factors. The core of Senator Long’s plan is to take away from all persons such wealth as they have in excess of one million dollars giving them the right to choose what particular kinds of property they would keep within the maximum permitted. Of the total wealth that’s appropriated he suggests that something less than half be used to educate young people and that something over half be used to bring families having less than five thousand dollars of property up to that figure.
I’m continuing to quote from The Saturday Evening Post editorial (quote): “This country has no official figures or even accurate estimates concerning the distribution of wealth.” Now that’s what The Saturday Evening Post said.
Well now I’m going to read to you from the same Saturday Evening Post of September 23rd, 1916. They say we have no figures on it. Now let me read to [you] from the same paper 19 years ago, September 23rd, 1916 (quote): “The man who studies wealth in the United States from statistics only,” — quoting The Saturday Evening Post (quote further) — “will get nowhere with the subject because all of the statistics support only an inconclusive suggestion. Along one statistical line you can figure out a nation bustling with wealth. Along another a bloated plutocracy comprising one percent.” Listen to that:
Along another line a bloated plutocracy comprising one percent of the population, lording it over a starveling hoard with only a thin margin of merely well-to-do in between.
What is the matter with The Saturday Evening Post? Here it is saying there are no figures to show any such thing as I am saying. And yet 20 years ago, when you were allowed to be honest, Mr. Saturday Evening Post, you told the people that one percent of the people had a stranglehold on nearly everything the country had in it. Why this magazine doesn’t know that I was its scholar in 1916. That magazine taught me to make this fight in part and now after 20 years of effort it has failed to remember what it knew way back yonder which everybody else has begun to find out at this late date.
Now my friends you have heard me read how a great New York newspaper after investigations declared that all I have said about the bad distribution of this nation’s wealth is true. But we have been about our work to correct this situation. That is why the Share our Wealth societies are forming in every nook and corner of America. They’ll be meeting tonight. Soon there will be Share our Wealth societies for everyone to meet. They have a great work to perform.
Here is what we stand for in a nutshell.
Number one: We propose that every family in America shall at least own a homestead equal in value to not less than one-third the average family wealth. The average family wealth of America at normal values is approximately 16 thousand dollars. So our first proposition means that every family will have a home and the comforts of a home up to a value of not less than around five thousand dollars or a little more than that.
Number two: We propose that no family shall own more than 300 times the average family wealth. Which means that no family shall possess more than a wealth of approximately five million dollars. None to own less than five thousand. None to own more than five million. We think that’s too much to allow to own, but at least it’s extremely conservative.
Number three: We propose that every family shall have an income equal to at least one-third of the average family income in America. If all were allowed to work there’d be an income of from five thousand to 10 thousand dollars per family. We propose that one-third would be the minimum. We propose that no family will have an earning of less than around two thousand to 25 hundred dollars and that none will have more than 300 times the average less the ordinary income taxes, which means that a million dollars would be the limit on the highest income.
We also propose to give the old age pensions to the old people — not by taxing them or their children, but by levying the taxes upon the excess fortunes to whittle them down and on the excess incomes and excess inheritances so that the people who reach the age of 60 can be retired from the active labor of life and given an opportunity to have surcease and ease in the balance of the life that they have on earth.
We also propose the care for the veterans including the cash payment of the soldiers’ bonus.
We likewise propose that there should be an education for every youth in this land; and that no youth would be dependent upon the financial means of his parents in order to have a college education. But the children will have as much right to claim an education in order that they can be trained to do their full service in this life through college as they have the right now to claim through grammar school and through high school; and that includes the living cost, that children’s education shall not depend upon the financial capacity of their parents, but it shall depend upon their own energy and upon their own ability to consume what they’re taught in these schools and which they need to have taught to them.
My plan is that our government should call in this surplus wealth above a few million to any one family and then distribute out to those who have the need of the same. Some criticize that plan but it is — but it is prescribed by the Bible. I read you the words of the Scripture (quote):
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul. Neither said any of them that all of the things which he possessed was his own. But they had all things common. Neither was there any among them that lacked. For as many as were possessors of land or houses sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them down at the Apostles’ feet and distribution was made unto every man according as he had needs.
See Acts: chapter 4, verses 32 to 36.
Now you may criticize what I’m saying but there it is written in the Bible. It is our purpose that every man should pursue a calling that means a living to himself and his family in peace and comfort — that the shelter and home of every family should be every man and his family. That is as the Bible says it should be. I read to you the words of the Scripture again (quote):
And they shall beat their swords into plow-shares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not lift up a sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree and none shall make them afraid.
That’s from Micah: chapter 4, verses 3 and 4.
We also say that none shall be too rich and none shall be too poor. That’s the philosophy of our Share our Wealth societies. The Bible says that such is as it should be. I read you the words of the Scripture (quote):
Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with food convenient for me lest I be full and deny thee and say, who is the Lord. Or lest I be poor and steal and take the name of my God in vain.
That’s from Proverbs: chapter 20, verses 8 and 9.
And we say that if the statutes of God are observed our people shall live in peace and in comfort forever, and that in this land of plenty none will sorrow. The Bible says so. I read you the words again (quote):
If ye walk in my statutes ye shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your lands safely and I will give peace in the land and ye shall lie there and nothing shall make you afraid.
That’s from Leviticus: chapter 26, verses 3 to 17.
Now my friends let no one tell you that it is difficult to redistribute the wealth of this land. It matters not how rich or how great one may be. When he dies his wealth must be distributed anyway. If Rockefeller died today, they’d had to distribute his wealth. The law of God shows how it has been done throughout time. See Nehemiah: chapter 5.
Nothing is more sensible or better understood than the redistribution of property. The laws of God command it. It is required of all nations that are permitted to live under the laws of the Lord. See Leviticus: chapter 26.
Today our nation is cursed with an overload of debt. Public and private debts aggregate 262 billions of dollars. That is more than two thousand dollars to every person that they never will be able to pay. Under the present set up this burden of debt can never be paid. It will forever condemn our people. The laws of our Lord command that such burden of debt must be wiped out of existence, so that a people may have a fair chance of life. See Deuteronomy: chapter 15, verses 1 and 2.
So let us be about our work. It is simple. Why lie ye here idle? There is enough for all. Let there be peace in the land. Let our children be happy. Our fight is old!
Here in the United States Senate we’re trying to pay the soldiers’ bonus. It is a debt which is due the soldiers who fought our wars. We’re fighting to keep the Patman Bill2 which actually pays this bonus from being sidetracked. The bill is already passed in the House of Representatives. Maybe you would like to wire your United States senator tonight to ask him to stand for the Patman Bill tomorrow morning.
I would like to hear from any of you if you wish to concern yourself with the work that we have in hand, the Share our Wealth society. If you want a copy of my speech I will send it upon request. You can write to me here in Washington D.C., care of the United States Senate.
Well my friends how wonderful and how great. How fruitful to all this great American land of ours can actually be. We only have to eliminate useless greed and provide that none shall be too big and none too small. Beautiful America can rise to the opportunity before it. It means to us all, every man a king.
I thank you.
Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)
1 A reference to choreia, a neurological disease symptomized by involuntary movements of the body, especially of the hands and feet. Outwardly, the effects of the disease produce the appearance of spasmodic dancing which lacks discernible pattern or purpose. Rhetorically, Long uses the reference as a counter-analogy in an effort to undermine Roosevelt’s analogy comparing his national welfare program with the building of a ship. Long then offers a second counter-analogy, comparing Roosevelt’s program with the dismantling of an otherwise perfectly good automobile, and leaving, for all rhetorical intents and purposes, Roosevelt’s ship-building metaphor dead in the water.
2 A bill providing for the immediate payment of bonus money to veterans of World War I.
Research Note: Transcription by Diane Wiegand & Michael E. Eidenmuller
Image Source: Senate.gov
Copyright Status: Text = Uncertain. Image = Public domain.