Saturday, March 6, 2010

Where left meets right: Outsiders? They've always been in

Chicago Tribune opinion "Where left meets right: Outsiders? They’ve always been in" (March 7th, 2010) offers a political analysis as asinine as it is sophomoric. The article compares Huey Long's policies to Sarah Palin's policies.

She was beat to that I'm-just-plain-folks posture three quarters of a century ago by Huey Long, FDR's detractor. When patrician opponents said Long, the governor of Louisiana, lacked dignity, he embraced the put-down for all its political worth. "This state's full of sapsucker, hillbilly and Cajun relations of mine," Long responded, "and there ain't enough dignity in the bunch to keep a chigger still long enough to go brush its hair."

That kind of industrial-strength rabble-rousing got Long elected governor at the age of 35. He went on to be a U.S. senator and, by 1933, Long considered FDR vulnerable. He toyed with making a run for the White House, just as Palin is now.

Long didn't get a chance to make a decision. He was gunned down by an assassin in 1935. But his Share Our Wealth movement - a recipe for ending the Depression by soaking the rich - survived as one ingredient of a political stew similar to the one now bubbling over.

Huey Long, a U.S. Senator from Louisiana from 1932-1935, wanted to tax wealth above $8 million dollars at 100% (approximately $124 million today). He wished to tax income above $7 million dollars at 64%, and the remainder at $100%.

The individual and political movement the Tribune is referring to, Sarah Palin (in some vague sense, the doyenne and the Tea Party, while populist insofar as it purports to

The Tea Party is defined by its Tax-Day Protests, Taxpayer March on Washington, and were, in Correction's memory, ignited by Rick Santelli's haranguing of the government on CNBC in February 2009. It is composed of, according to CNN's survey, individuals with above median education and above median income.

In economic terms, these are individuals who wish to avoid the redistribution of wealth through taxation and medicare. As much as a factional group like the Tea Party can be, they are diametrically opposed to the economic fatuity a boor like Long represented. Comparing the two is not to compare two ends of the same spectrum, but two orthogonally motivated groups.

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