Melissa Harris-Perry, 5/12/13, 11:53 AM ET

Remembering Huey Long’s populist vision for alleviating poverty

In her “Footnote” segment, Melissa Harris-Perry focuses on Huey Long, the former Louisiana governor who minced no words during the depths of the Great...

Remembering Huey Long’s radical vision for fixing poverty

Updated

If you are a regular viewer of this show then you know I harbor a particular distaste for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

We sometimes encourage viewers to use the #FBJ hashtag. F-B-J…”Forget Bobby Jindal.” Forget him, because even though Louisiana suffers with one of the nation’s highest rates of poverty, Governor Jindal’s education, tax, and health care proposals have demonstrated his absolute disinterest in alleviating the burden of poverty so many of his constituents bear.

But if we should be forgetting Governor Jindal, maybe we should be remembering another Louisiana governor, Huey Long.  The epic, bombastic, political personality of his age, Long articulated a breathtaking populist vision for alleviating poverty. He called it simply “Share Our Wealth”

Long, governing Louisiana during the depths of the Great Depression, minced no words.  The way to alleviate poverty was to take from the top and give to the bottom. He advocated a cap on the personal wealth of millionaires, proposed aggressive redistribution including a guaranteed income, and argued that a home was a basic human right.  During his tenure in office, Long made massive investments in public infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and roads.

And Long abhorred massive wealth inequality. In typical fashion, he used a barbecue metaphor to explain the problems wealth concentration created.

Long’s question:  “how ya going feed the balance of the people?”

Long was no angel–unrepentedly corrupt, deeply paranoid and personally ambitious to a fault, in the end he was assassinated by a political rival. But it’s worth doing for Long what we have done for many of America’s great politicians: looking beyond his personal failings to recall the genius of the political message he imparted. Forget Bobby Jindal, but remember Huey Long  because we still need to ask that question: “how are we going to feed the balance of the people?”

What are our nation’s creative, humane, enduring solutions to poverty? Seriously, what are they?

Remembering Huey Long's radical vision for fixing poverty

Updated