As if on cue, amid my re-watching of Ken Burns' "The Civil War," Salon.com runs a piece today about how the Southerners in the Senate are selling out the country to foreign automakers for the sake of sticking it to the north and that such behavior had been SOP for Southern politicians throughout the 20th Century. Motivations vary, but the result is always the same:
In the early 20th century, the Southern states were the first to adopt conscious statewide economic development policies, which then as now meant poaching industries from New England and the Midwest where wages and public spending and regulation were greater. That's how the South took the textile industry from New England, before losing it to lower-wage Asia. Now with the help of Nissan, Toyota, and BMW, the South is trying to replace Detroit as the center of U.S. automobile production, using low wages, anti-union laws, and low taxes to benefit from the outsourcing of industry from societies more advanced than the South, like Japan and Germany. The economic Axis is collaborating with the neo-Confederates against their common opponent -- the American Union. If they succeed, the losers will be not only non-Southern regions in the U.S., but the majority of Southerners of all races, whose interest in decent wages, good education, and adequate public services have almost always been sacrificed to the greed of the well-connected few by Southern statehouse gangs.The past is present. Once severed from The Union, the unruly confederate states couldn't short-term sacrifice for the long-term greater good long enough to gel into a coherent nation and would have thus lost the civil war sooner had the men in gray not been so ferociously committed to "The Cause," whatever that actually is. And so, now, today their descendants continue to fight those meddling Yankees by gladly selling out the greater good of the nation (for which they believe they have the greater claim to patriotism, backed by God himself) for the strictly small-time and narrowly local economic gain of their region or state. More more to the point, for the strictly small-time and narrowly local gain of the few people at the top of the economic and social ladder of their region or state while the rest of the population sees ever lower wages and standard of living.
It is no wonder why they hate unions so much. Organized labor gives the workers a voice when the "Culture" of The South has trained their ruling class that everyone who is not one of them are to be exploited and sold-off once no longer useful. Once a plantation culture, always a plantation culture. All the little people need to just sit down, STFU and be grateful for the scraps massa lets drop from his table.
This is no way to run a modern industrial country or even a political party, but then that's Today's GOP: yesterday's Democratic Party.
Again, Michael Lind:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." At each of the defining crises in American history, a major expansion of federal authority was necessary to overcome a division between North and South that threatened the future of the U.S. as a democratic, middle-class nation. The division between slave and free states was overcome by the defeat of the Confederacy and the Reconstruction amendments that abolished slavery and established national citizenship for the first time. During the New Deal era, the enormous gap between the agrarian South and West and the industrial Northeast was overcome by federal programs like rural electrification and highway building, federal regulation, and federal social insurance.Reconstruction, however imperfect, was about re-stitching the slave and free states back into a whole nation and was largely successful despite later social lapses, best embodied in the rise of the KKK. Much of the policy of FDR's New Deal was about bringing the South's infrastructure into the 20th Century, material improvements that paid dividends in the post WW2 economy. The Civil Rights era was about forcing their social norms and standards to adhere to 20th Century standards, for the sake of the country. The two latter forced-improvements culminated in the sleek, shiny New South of the 1980's & 1990's, for the world would not have paid such economic attention to the poor, ignorant, violent backwater the South would have otherwise been without the continual intervention of the Civil War's victors and their descendants in the affairs of the region.
Today the division is no longer between slave and free states, or agrarian and industrial states, but between two models of industrial society -- the Northern model, based on adequate public service funding and taxation and unionization, and the Southern model, based on low-tax, low-service government and low-wage, non-unionized, easily exploited labor.
So, Michael Lind cogently argues for a new Reconstruction to keep the rest of the country from becoming a low-wage sewer like the South:
The Southern conservatives of the GOP are not irrational when they denounce the very idea of a national economic strategy as "socialism" or "industrial policy" while each of their states pursues its own "socialist industrial policy" within its state borders. They are being strategic. They understand their interests, as they define them. A U.S. economic development strategy would make it more difficult for individual state governments and their crony capitalist allies to engage in the beggar-thy-neighbor policies that the Southern elites have specialized in for nearly a century. And a national economic development system would thwart the ultimate goal of the extreme right in America -- the leveling down of the entire U.S. to the South's inhumane and primitive standards.I think he makes good points. Go read the whole thing.