Father Coughlin and the Power of Money

Reverend Charles E. Coughlin’s 1934 lecture on money, credit, and the corrupting power of the banks

The following is a transcript of a lecture first delivered by Reverend Charles E. Coughlin on December 30th, 1934, titled ‘Money is No Mystery.’ Coughlin in many ways was a pioneering figure in American history – one of the first true mass media figures, he laid the foundations for modern talk radio and demonstrated the enormous power of mass broadcast media. Father Coughlin’s radio program, operated out of his parish in Michigan, was at its height listened to by roughly 22% of the American population – possibly the largest audience any single figure has ever had in all history. Coughlin also headed a political movement, founded in 1934, named the National Union of Social Justice; through the NUSJ, his radio program, and his journal Social Justice, Coughlin propagated a massively popular, populist set of ideas consisting of a mixture of isolationism, American nationalism, anti-capitalism, anti-communism, and Christian values. Much of Coughlin’s appeal came from his often vicious critique of the American capitalist system, such critiques proving especially popular during the midst of the Depression and the controversial policies being pursued President Franklin Roosevelt. Coughlin saw in American capitalism, and particularly in its banking structure and treatment of money, many of the root causes of modern society’s ills. The lecture below is a typical example of Coughlin’s denunciation of the destructive financial system of the United States.

I

Since the year 1929 America has been in a state of transition. Slowly but certainly with every other civilized nation we have been passing from the age of modern capitalism into a new era of communism, of Fascism, of socialism or of Hitlerism. We, in America, have one choice, namely, to follow the course of one of these or else to construct a new system founded upon social justice. Still, withal, those who prospered most and produced least under the old system are battling fiercely to maintain their privileges and their functions of legislation.

Certainly, during this coming year and the years immediately following, we will witness the total dissolution of modern capitalism. It is advisedly that I use the adjective “modern,” because capitalism, as we knew it in the past twenty or thirty years, differed almost substantially from the capitalism which was originally conceived. Today it is more renowned for its vices than for its virtues.

Those who are fighting so relentlessly to preserve its poverty-breeding corpse refuse to face the pressing problem of squaring production with distribution. They are those who, during the coming years, will continue to oppose the restoration to Congress of its right to coin and regulate the value of money. They still believe that all wealth should be identified with gold: That is the basic thought behind the gold standard. They still believe that the debts of the farmer, of the merchant, of the municipality, of the state which were incurred through the operation of an insane credit inflation, of manufactured bookkeeping money, should be paid back to them in honest currency which does not exist.

They still labor under the delusion that the factory worker is so ignorant that he is willing to starve or, at least, recede to a lower standard of living, despite the plenitude of capital wealth which surrounds him – factories, fields, mines, forests – all of which are idle, because the banker controls the coinage of money and issues it on the same basis as he did before we underwent an unreal, psychological revaluation of our gold.

They still believe that the American people will become accustomed to bread lines, to forced idleness and to cut wages. Continue reading