I imagine some of you will be entertained by Goldbergs’ writing on Father Coughlin, the wildly popular priest of the Great Depression who was pushed into obscurity when he thought he had more power than he did.
This is as good a place as any to tackle the enduring myth that Long and Coughlin were conservatives. It is a bedrock dogma of all enlightened liberals that Father Charles Coughlin was an execrable right-winger (Long is a more complicated case, but whenever his legacy is portrayed negatively, he is characterized as right-wing; whenever he is a friend of the people, he’s a left-winger). Again and again, Coughlin is referred to as “the right-wing Radio Priest” whom supposedly insightful essayists describe as the ideological grandfather of Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, and other putative extremists. But Coughlin was in no meaningful way a conservative or even a right-winger. He was a man of the left in nearly all significant respects. ….[page 137]
…In October 1931, in a fiery speech against laissez-faire economics, Coughlin declared that America’s problems couldn’t be solved “by waiting for things to adjust themselves and by eating the airy platitudes of those hundreds of so-called leaders who have been busy assuring us that the bottom has been reached and that prosperity and justice and charity are waiting ‘just around the corner.’” His favorite villains were “international bankers” and similar ilk. Donations and letters poured in.
He excerpts more of his views on Coughlin at the link above. I offer below an excerpt from one of Father Coughlin’s radio broadcasts:
Establishing my principles upon this preamble, namely, that we are creatures of a beneficent God, made to love and to serve Him in this world and to enjoy Him forever in the next; that all this world’s wealth of field, of forest, of mine and of river has been bestowed upon us by a kind Father, therefore I believe that wealth, as we know it, originates from natural resources and from the labor which the children of God expend upon these resources. It is all ours except for the harsh, cruel and grasping ways of wicked men who first concentrated wealth into the hands of a few, then dominated states, and finally commenced to pit state against state in the frightful catastrophes of commercial warfare.
Following this preamble, these shall be the principles of social justice towards the realization of which we must strive:1. I believe in liberty of conscience and liberty of education, not permitting the state to dictate either my worship to my God or my chosen avocation in life.
2. I believe that every citizen willing to work and capable of working shall receive a just, living, annual wage which will enable him both to maintain and educate his family according to the standards of American decency.
3. I believe in nationalizing those public resources which by their very nature are too important to be held in the control of private individuals.
4. I believe in private ownership of all other property.
5. I believe in upholding the right to private property but in controlling it for the public good.
6. I believe in the abolition of the privately owned Federal Reserve Banking system and in the establishment of a Government owned Central Bank.
7. I believe in rescuing from the hands of private owners the right to coin and regulate the value of money, which right must be restored to Congress where it belongs.
8. I believe that one of the chief duties of this Government owned Central Bank is to maintain the cost of living on an even keel and arrange for the repayment of dollar debts with equal value dollars.
9. I believe in the cost of production plus a fair profit for the farmer.
10. I believe not only in the right of the laboring man to organize in unions but also in the duty of the Government, which that laboring man supports, to protect these organizations against the vested interests of wealth and of intellect.
11. I believe in the recall of all non-productive bonds and therefore in the alleviation of taxation.
12. I believe in the abolition of tax-exempt bonds.
13. I believe in broadening the base of taxation according to the principles of ownership and the capacity to pay.
14. I believe in the simplification of government and the further lifting of crushing taxation from the slender revenues of the laboring class.
15. I believe that, in the event of a war for the defense of our nation and its liberties, there shall be a conscription of wealth as well as a conscription of men.
16. I believe in preferring the sanctity of human rights to the sanctity of property rights; for the chief concern of government shall be for the poor because, as it is witnessed, the rich have ample means of their own to care for themselves.
These are my beliefs. These are the fundamentals of the organization which I present to you under the name of the NATIONAL UNION FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE. It is your privilege to reject or to accept my beliefs; to follow me or to repudiate me.