“This is an example of the banality of evil.”
(This is a series of excerpts from The Progressive magazine in the 1930s that are especially relevant today. You can find other delectable items in the current issue of The Progressive, which commemorates the magazine’s 100th anniversary.)
The Long Plan for Recovery
By Senator Huey P. Long
April 1, 1933
With the one law which I propose to submit, I think most of our difficulties will be brought to an almost immediate end. To carry out President Roosevelt’s plan as announced in his inaugural address for redistribution and to prevent unjust accumulation of wealth, I am now drawing a law, but without consort with the president, for the following:
A capital levy tax, principally on fortunes above $10 million graduated so that when a fortune of $100 million is reached, the capital tax levy will take all the balance above that sum. This will not prevent aggregated capital, that is, several persons combining their wealth in one big enterprise, but will prevent only one man owning from $10 million to $100 million without paying the government a substantial part and will further prevent any man from owning anything at all above the value of $100 million.
An inheritance tax, heavier in the higher brackets than at present, graduated so that no one person can inherit more than $5 million, the balance to go to the government.
An income tax about the same as now exists except that it shall be heavier in the higher brackets and finally providing that no one will be permitted to keep more than $1 million from earnings of one year.
Because of the fact that in some cases it would be difficult for large property to be sold at a fair value to pay the inheritance and capital levy taxes, the proposed law will provide that such taxes may be paid in a course of several years and that in case a fair price for the property cannot be obtained in that length of time by the tax debtor, that the government will take its percent of the property and market it along such lines as may be best for general welfare.
This proposed legislation will operate to down the big fortunes so that they cannot be so powerful to crush out the little men and little businesses. It will mean the solution of the problem of financing all such things as the guaranteeing of bank deposits and the public construction works, including roads, navigation, flood control, reforestation, unemployment, farm relief, canals, irrigation, etc. And with this law passed, no one can ever again say that our government has not a satisfactory basis for an adequate and sufficient currency. All such can be amply financed by the government without any burden on the common citizen at all and in a manner that accomplishes the still better object of the decentralization of wealth. Such public works of the government will provide employment for everyone in the country not otherwise gainfully employed, and it will so stimulate all private endeavors and business that little additional legislation will be necessary.
Isn’t $10 million to $100 million enough for any one man? What’s he going to do with anymore?
Isn’t $5 million enough for one child to inherit, who never hit a lick of work for it?
Isn’t $1 million enough for any one man to make in one year?
Decentralize wealth, is the command of the Lord. See Leviticus, chapters 24 to 27; St. James, chapter 5.
Let your president, your two U.S. senators, and your congressman know how you feel about this plan. Why starve while our food rots for lack of a place to sell it?