It seems to be all the rage these days, the shiny new toy of Democratic Socialism. We saw it in 2016 with the Bernie Sanders revolution. Now we are seeing it anew with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the movement’s newest darling after her stunning defeat of longtime Congressman Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th congressional district.
Appearances, though, can be deceiving. Recent reports from college campuses show a movement without much reach, consisting of just 57 actual campus chapters in operation, even though the Young Democratic Socialists of America claim more than 250 chapters. What’s worse, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who has been accompanying Sanders on political junkets around the country, campaigning for fellow Democratic Socialists, saw every single candidate that she, and Bernie, endorsed lose on Tuesday. The whole thing is a “smoke and mirrors” campaign.
As our history shows, though, this is nothing new for America. We’ve had our own bouts with this stuff, and not just with loudmouth, empty-headed agitators, but with the implementation of outright socialism and even communism. The original colonies of Jamestown and Plymouth both flirted with a communal system, which worked out exactly the way all such systems eventually do, with idleness and starvation, corrected only when a system based on private property was adopted. But the most well-known example came from the efforts of a charismatic leader in the state of Louisiana during the late 1920s and 1930s, an unfortunate episode that began even before the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression.
Known as the “Kingfish,” he ruled the state with an iron hand. Huey P. Long served as governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932, then in the US Senate from 1932 to 1935, yet he still maintained a tight stranglehold on the state from Washington. Long’s Louisiana was the closest America has come to a true dictatorship. Even FDR, who imprisoned over 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent in concentration camps by executive order, called him “one of the most dangerous men in America.” Long controlled virtually every governmental entity in Louisiana, “the largest concentration of political power in one man’s hands the country had ever seen,” noted David McCullough.
Like all socialists, even “democratic” ones, Long was merciless with his enemies. If they got in his way, he destroyed their political careers, had them fired from state jobs, or their relatives fired from theirs, wrecked their businesses with special taxes that applied only to them, and even had some kidnapped before his crucial Senate election in 1930. At a time when the Democratic Party was all there was, Louisianans divided themselves into two rival camps: “Longs” and “Anti-Longs.” And the “Anti-Longs” were virtually eliminated.
Long used his power for personal gain, as all socialists do. They never seem to “walk the walk.” Bernie Sanders makes over $1 million a year and has three homes. But, to listen to their rhetoric, they support socialistic programs to help the poor and the downtrodden, who are being ripped off by the rich. Long’s campaign slogan, and the title of his autobiography, was “Every Man A King,” made into a song that captured the socialist mantra:
Why weep or slumber America
Land of brave and true
With castles and clothing and food for all
All belongs to you
Ev’ry man a king ev’ry man a king
For you can be a millionaire
But there’s something belonging to others
There’s enough for all people to share
When it’s sunny June and December too
Or in the winter time or spring
There’ll be peace without end
Ev’ry neighbor a friend
With ev’ry man a king
Long’s program in Louisiana, begun in 1928, preceded FDR’s New Deal by five years. It was essentially a massive program of public works projects and government jobs, where employees were forced to give ten percent of their wages to fund Long’s political machine, cash kept in his infamous “deduct box,” which was supposedly never found. He built thousands of miles of paved roads, hundreds of bridges, and numerous educational facilities, including a new campus for LSU. He had a “free” textbook program, “free hospitals,” and a literacy project. He built the current capitol building in Baton Rouge and a new governor’s mansion that resembled the White House.
By the time Long’s spending spree ended, Louisiana’s taxes and debt surged. The state had very few taxes when Long became governor, mainly a local property tax and an inheritance tax, but by 1935 there were 45 separate taxes to bring in revenue for Long’s program. But when that wasn’t nearly enough, he used borrowing, skyrocketing the state’s debt from $11 million to $150 million, causing the state’s bonds to become virtually worthless. Louisiana’s economy was wrecked as a result.
As a US Senator, Long set his sights on the national treasury by espousing a plan to deal with the raging depression. Under Long’s “Share Our Wealth” program, personal fortunes would be capped at $50 million (around $750 million today); annual income would be limited to $1 million per year and inheritance at $5 million. The rest would be confiscated through a progressive tax system and re-distributed to the poor via government benefits and public works projects. “Share Our Wealth” clubs began popping up all over the country.
Planning a run for President in 1936, most likely as an independent candidate, Senator Long was cut down by an assassin’s bullet while in the state capitol building in Baton Rouge, thus initiating one of the great “what ifs” in American political history. “What if” he ran against FDR in 1936? “What if” he had won? Could he have enacted his “Share Our Wealth” plan? Would America have become Venezuela as a result?
Today, though, we have new Huey Longs to attempt it all once again. Bernie Sanders wants to massively raise taxes and spend it on everything he can think of. He has a “Medicare For All” plan, which one study revealed would cost $32 trillion over the next ten years; that’s $3.2 trillion per year, while current revenues are $3.4 trillion. Ocasio-Cortez, along with Sanders, is pushing a socialist plan for “free” healthcare, “free” education, and guaranteed jobs for all at $15 per hour and benefits, which would cost $42 trillion, and that’s just to start. In her brilliance, which she displays on an almost daily basis, she claims all this will be cheaper than what we are spending now, particularly in terms of healthcare. This is the same young woman who believes unemployment is low because “everyone has two jobs.”
But taxes alone won’t do it, not for Long then nor for Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez now. Taxing the income of everyone making $1 million per year at 100 percent would raise, by some estimates, less than $1 trillion, far less than what’s needed to fund these socialist schemes. And Bernie Sanders once advocated just such a tax, remarking in the 1970s that “nobody should earn more than $1 million,” even though he does today. But as John Stossel has pointed out, the whole thing “is absurd. Rich people wouldn’t work if government takes all their earnings.” Exactly.
Why Americans continue to espouse such lunacy is puzzling. But the horror show that is Venezuela, with its suffering millions, should be a wakeup slap across the face to every socialist in the world, and perhaps that’s why Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are failing so miserably. Working Americans are much smarter than the socialists give us credit for.