CHASING SMOKESTACKS

In the 1990s I was a pretty staunch Republican. While I stuck with it until nearly the end of the decade, by the early Clinton years it was already becoming clear that the party and I were headed for divorce. Even as a college undergraduate with my head rooted firmly in my own ass I was somehow self-aware enough to notice that the party was being taken over by Southern voters, Southern candidates, and Southern ideas. Of course this process had started many years prior, before I was even born, but it did not come to fruition until the Gingrich-Armey-Gramm takeover in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Again, despite the fact that I was not exactly thinking clearly in those days this "Southernization" was both alarming and puzzling. Why, I often asked similarly skeptical Republicans, was the party being remade in the image of the shittiest part of the country? Why are we being lectured by people who live in Dogpatch? Granted I lived in the upper Midwest at the time and my knowledge of the South was based on a loose collection of macro-level statistics and popular stereotypes; luckily the point held.

Fast forward 15 years and I find myself living in the Deep South. The South, in a word, blows. Yes, it has mild winters, some nice people, the occasional nice town, and so on. But on the whole this region of the country is beyond backward. The quasi-feudal social structure, the proud ignorance, the crushing rural poverty, the crumbling infrastructure, the naked political corruption, the good ol' boy networks, the seething racism…it is not exactly the guiding light of the modern world. Yes, the South has lots of jobs these days – low paying, no benefit, at-will employment as far as your imagination can see. Most people don't realize until after they arrive that "Low cost of living" is newspeak for "Low costs resulting from low demand, as this place blows mightily and no one with alternatives wants to live here."

I emphasize this not to pick on the South – it is entirely possible that I will be stuck living here for the rest of my life, in fact – but to underscore the simple fact that America does not want to be taking its political and economic lead from the states that rank 47th through 50th in every metric that reasonably reflects social development and quality of life. Maybe, just maybe, it doesn't make a lot of sense to model one's public schools, correctional system, tax structure, and macroeconomic policies on those of Mississippi.

Mike brings our attention to a brief but excellent writeup on this point from Ed Kilgore. There's nothing being proposed in Wisconsin that isn't already standard operating procedure in places like Texas and Mississippi. What Scott Walker is essentially doing is attempting to turn Wisconsin into Northern Alabama. If any message is capable of cutting through the din of disinformation and faux-populist rhetoric coming from the far right it is this: This is the way the laws are in Mississippi. Do you want our state to turn into Mississippi?

The average – which is to say angry and scared – working or middle class voter on the Teabagging bandwagon isn't going to be persuaded by the rhetoric of fairness and retellings of the historical accomplishments of the labor movement; no, this kind of political attack is best countered simply, directly, and unambiguously: "This is the way things run in Alabama. What about living in Alabama is appealing to you? What has convinced you that we should be more like the Deep South? Perhaps the teen pregnancy rate? The high school dropout rate? The poverty? The empty libraries? The 49th ranked standardized test scores? Please, be as specific as you can."

Do Michigan, Illinois, and the others have problems? Maybe even huge problems? Yes. Following the trail blazed by America's loser states is hardly the solution.

88 thoughts on “CHASING SMOKESTACKS”

  • I was born here in Georgia (Atlanta still counts as Georgia, last time I checked), and I'm currently marking time until I finish my education here and get to move somewhere else. Thank Cod the field I want to go into doesn't have many job openings in the South.

  • Unfortunately, turning all of America into Alabama is the only strategy America has left after 30 years of Reaganoid offshoring and outsourcing and class warfare of the rich against the poor.

    The hard cold reality remains that as long as capitalism continues in its current form, America will be uncompetitive with the rest of the world economically until U.S. wages drop to the approximate level of the typical worker in Mumbai, India. Meaning, U.S. workers are going to have to live the way workers in Mumbai India do — in huts with dirt floors and no running water and no electricity. That's the only way America can compete economically with the rest of the world if we continue on with capitalism as it currently exists.

    There is no way on earth any corporation will pay an American MIT-graduate engineer $30 an hour when they can pay a Chinese MIT-graduate engineer or an Indian Caltech-graduate engineer $5 an hour.

    One of two things will have to happen: all of America will have to turn into Alabama, or capitalism as it currently exists will have to end. Since scientists currently predict that we're going to fish all sea life out of the oceans within 50 years and global warming is going to make 80% of the earth's surface uninhabitable to humans within 100 years if we keep on doing business as usual under the current form of capitalism, I'm betting that capitalism is going to end. But I could be wrong. The human species might simply go extinct.

  • The Man, The Myth says:

    What an awesome post. The south really is a terrible example of what America is doing wrong. If anyone has paid attention to the 2010 Census results you have noticed it is more bad news. States in the Southeast gained population and the corresponding electoral college seats (Florida, Georgia, Utah, Texas, Nevada, Arizona) – Democratic strongholds in the midwest and northeast will lose seats (Michigan is the only state to actually lose population, but Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts all lost electoral college votes for not growing fast enough).

    I'm infatuated with Urban Planning. Correct me if I'm wrong, but these states are the areas that are encouraging crappy suburbs that are soul-less and totally auto wastelands. They all have big grass front lawns, no sidewalks for pedestrians, streets wide enough to host Nascar races, and foolish single residential zoning requirements. Who doesn't want to walk to a neighborhood bar for a cold one after 5pm?

  • I hate to quote a certain idiot from the NY Times, but when (erg) David Brooks pointed out that a a who lotta people want to live in cities where the January mean temp is above freezing, I thought about my beloved Minnesota.

    And how the Republicans will fuck MN and Wisconsin up. Because on one level, (egad, I'ma gonna say it) Brooks is right: people want to live in cities where January isn't wretched. (He is of course wrong about so, so much else…)

    If you take away the fantastic public schools, the well-funded arts, the solid, dependable infrastructure, the innovation of research universities, you have a cold Charlotte. Really cold.

    Its as if the Republicans are ahistorical people. (They are). There was this thing called the Minnesota Miracle. Minnesota was a non-descript midwestern state with a dull, plodding economy. Something had to change, or we'd be the farm state that millions of people fled.

    Investing in equitable education, and raising taxes to invest in a future for all was the vision in Minnesota for a generation. Then asswipes like Pawlenty used resentment of taxes to dismantle the miracle (with an assist by Jesse the Body Ventura — TPaw was in the Lege at the time). They set up an elite class who used public education, the U of M, and many other public resources to get themselves educated and positioned for success — and now they've pulled up the ladder with them, dismantled the tools for success, and gated themselves in Kochified sanctuaries they can helicopter out of if they need to.

    A cold, shitty Hattiesburg is where we're headed here in the upper midwest. And I'm mighty pissed about it.

  • @The Man, The Myth: Funny thing about the Census results- a lot of the growth, particularly in Texas, was powered by Hispanics. Even if they don't tend to be as one-sided in their voting patterns as African-Americans, the current GOP doesn't see much use for "minority outreach". So there are people speculating that Texas could actually go blue, if current trends hold steady.

    Of course, if history shows us one thing, it's that trends generally don't hold steady. But still.

  • While I'm sympathetic to the outrage voice by folks like RalfW, and the twin cities are some of my favorite places in America, blaming the Republicans here misses the point. Yes, the Republican party is the focus of evil in modern America, and yes, they're stupid and sociopathic… But the fundamental forces that are turning all of America into Mississippi or Alabama aren't due to the Republicans.

    They're due to globalized vulture capitalism. As long as capital is free to instantly move overseas and hire workers in coastal China at 20 cents an hour to work 14 hours a days, 7 days a week, in locked corrugated-steel Triangle Shirtwaist-style factories with no benefits, American workers won't be able to compete economically unless the wages (and standard of living) of American workers plummets to unimaginably low levels.

    As the wages of American workers collapses due to globalization, the tax base plummets, and there's no money for infrastructure, no money for decent schools, no money for anything.

    RalfW talks about the "Minnesota Miracle" but what he doesn't mention is the brutal fact that in the fact of globalization, there's no longer any point in "investing in equitable education, and raising taxes to invest in a future for all was the vision in Minnesota for a generation."

    Investing in education in America is a waste of money because even the best-educated American kids are no smarter and no more skilled than the equally well-educated kids in China who will eagerly work for 1/10 the wage.

    Investing in the future by pouring money into America's infrastructure is a complete waste of money because Shanghai and Mumbai are buidling state-of-the-art infrastructure with brand spanking new fiberoptic broadband networks and state-of-the-art cellphone networks and cutting-edge maglev trains that are far far far more advanced than anything America could build without ripping our citties down to rubble and rebuilding 'em from the ground up…and even if we did all that, no one would hire American workers because American workers cost 10 times what a worker in Shanghai or Munbai costs.

    The Republicans are evil, but the basic problem is systemic. As long as the world continues to operate via cannibalistic globalized capitalism, America is headed for collapse and every state in the union is going to turn into Alabama. There are only two alternatives: either capitalism as we know it must die, or America as we know it will collapse.

  • @mclaren
    Alrighty then, I may as well flee this hopeless nation, buy a Palapa in some Latin hellhole and kill myself with pineapple daiquiris.

  • What say you to the theories of David Hackett Fischer as found in Albion's Seed:

    http://www.amazon.com/Albions-Seed-British-Folkways-Cultural/dp/0195069056

    === This cultural history explains the European settlement of the United States as voluntary migrations from four English cultural centers. Families of zealous, literate Puritan yeomen and artisans from urbanized East Anglia established a religious community in Massachusetts (1629-40); royalist cavaliers headed by Sir William Berkeley and young, male indentured servants from the south and west of England built a highly stratified agrarian way of life in Virginia (1640-70); egalitarian Quakers of modest social standing from the North Midlands resettled in the Delaware Valley and promoted a social pluralism (1675-1715); and, in by far the largest migration (1717-75), poor borderland families of English, Scots, and Irish fled a violent environment to seek a better life in a similarly uncertain American backcountry. ===

    Perhaps today we are re-fighting the American Civil War, which arose (in part) from tribal differences of our various English settlers.

  • You're on to something there in the last paragraph – Republicans could make themselves the party of the (rural) South because the Democrats were, by legacy, the party of the inner cities and Rust Belt factories, neither of which looked appealing or particularly uncorrupt at the time. And I guess you can generalize out to the rising suburban/exurban service industry way of life better from "the South" than there.

  • Thanks for this, Ed. Awesome.

    My favorite: "Granted I lived in the upper Midwest at the time and my knowledge of the South was based on a loose collection of macro-level statistics and popular stereotypes; luckily the point held." Frighteningly true.

    Please continue to kick butt.

  • I've been making this argument since I moved to Wisconsin in 2003. At the time, the Republicans held the legislature while Jim Doyle (D-Baldy) sat in the executive seat. And he was the only thing (well, he and his veto pen) keeping the state GOP from turning this place into North Mississippi.

    I would know. I lived in Mississippi for over 20 years. That place fucking blows. And yeah, Januaries in the upper Midwest suck balls, but May-September in the Deep South is a special kind of hell. Only the rise of air conditioning allowed all of that inmigration to the southeast. So let's not act like the climate there is somehow superior. It just sucks in a different way at a different time of year.

    That said, I'm way past ready for this fucking winter to be over.

  • I had nearly those exact sentiments about my time in Georgia, Ed. I spent several years in Dahlonega and later Columbus. I've long said that Georgia is where civil planning goes to die. It's truly amazing to watch a large section of American society whole-heartedly believe that rural poverty and illiteracy are sources of pride. When the kind of legislation introduced by Walker is introduced in the south, it pretty much passes unopposed and the people actually the reelect politicians because of it. Like I said, amazing – in the sad, head shaking way.

    However, the thing that Wisconsin has, that you will never see in the South, is 70,000+ people occupying the capitol building and marching through the streets to protest the "Southernization" of our state. So at least some of us get it and are willing to do something about it.

  • mclaren:

    The trends you talk about make it all the more important that state and federal governments don't act like Mississippi (I love the idea of using "You want to do things like they do in Alabama?" in political discussions). We need a government capable of shaping an economy that will be resistant to outsourcing and provide quality opportunities for those whose jobs are outsourced.

    That's not gonna happen under people like Walker, who is eliminating the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, transferring the economic development programs to an opaque quasi-public corporation, and giving it $200 million with no guidance on how to spend it.

    There are hard times a'comin, but they'll be much worse if our politicians' conception of managing the public good is to shovel cash to business interests.

  • @McClaren

    Why won't the increased education and productivity of Chinese and Indian workers lead to them earning more money? Why won't they use that money to start their own firms catering to all the newly middle class Chinese and Indian engineering grads who are getting huge inflows of money from all the exported jobs? Why won't the cheapness of Indian and Chinese labour cause prices of products to drop, keeping real wages constant? Why are you making points so overworked and so conventionally wise that Paul Krugman wrote a whole damn book to dismiss them?

  • anotherbozo says:

    Ed's analogy is one I can relate to. I was a visiting faculty member in North Carolina in the late 80s and discovered that the much-touted "New South" was just the Old South with a veneer. I'll spare you the racist anecdotes, observed paternalism and xenophobia. I did enjoy the economy–on my salary I could afford the Hilton buffet, a banquet for $10. NYC would have charged $60.

    Admittedly I choose my news outlets but I'm daring to hope that the Wisconsin/Ohio/Indiana standoffs will force a turning point, finally wake up the hypnotized middle class to the fleecing. Is there any basis for this hope? Like hoping the airbags release during a 90 mph collision, I guess. So much seems already Sorry, Too Late.

  • Thanks for another thoughtful post. The lack of water may be the determining factor in the future as it relates to the southern US:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101213184436.htm
    Water, which is abundant in the upper midwest, will attract mfg, and likely another reverse migration. With the speed with which we are using up our resources, it will likely happen quite swiftly, relatively speaking.

  • @anotherbozo

    "I'm daring to hope that the Wisconsin/Ohio/Indiana standoffs will force a turning point, finally wake up the hypnotized middle class to the fleecing. Is there any basis for this hope?"

    From personal, anecdotal experience, I kind of think not. Where I work – a mid-sized software development company in the blue Northeast – I overheard a couple of cubemates discussing the Wisconsin situation. These are reasonably well-educated (college educated, at least), middle-class folks in their early 30s… and they went on for something like five minutes about how the Wisconsin 14 (the Dem state senators that fled the state to deny quorum) weren't doing their damn jobs. They were missing the point entirely, of course… and I just didn't have the energy or social tact to correct them without causing a scene.

    So, no, I don't think the middle class in America are finally going to wake up with this. I don't think they wake up until it's far, far, far too late.

  • I grew up in Montana and it was always refreshingly Libertarian, true Libertarian not the Tea Bag idea. It was conservative, but there was always the notion of "Do you what you want and I'll leave you alone unless you step on my property unannounced and then we're gonna have issues." I enjoyed that.

    Then I lived in Louisiana while earning my Doctorate at LSU. Part of me loved Louisiana, I loved Baton Rouge and I loved New Orleans. The summers are every bit as vicious as a Montana or Wisconsin winter. But Ed is right about the strange social structure. If you weren't reared in the South, you'll never really be from the South. And Louisiana consistently ranks 49th or 50th in K-12 education. Private schools and charter schools and vouchers are the rule, public school is the exception. My students at LSU wrote (I'm in English) so poorly that at times I thought they weren't native speakers.

    Now I live in Wisconsin where I'm an Asst. Prof in General Studies at a private engineering college. I was stoked to finally live in a blue state. Now I'm watching Walker make all the same lame-brained mistakes that I've seen in both Montana and Louisiana. Fire sales of energy–Montana did that 10-12 years ago. Rates have done nothing but go up. Gut public schools and put the money into charter schools where your kids will be taught by BA holders without certification–refer to Louisiana, please.

    Why anyone in Wisconsin would look to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas and say "Yeah, that's what we want to be in education," is completely beyond me.

    But if the Missouri senator gets the child labor laws revoked, then I suppose all the poor kids who can't afford an education can go get jobs in gas stations, janitorial services, and other areas.

  • Dude, you used to be a GOPer? Holy Shit! I hope you are actively involved in therapy. I was raised to hate Ronald Reagan. Big suprise there. So, I can't say that I was ever a syth lord but I will say that I came to develop my current deep hatred for Repuplicans not because of the South, although my current level of hate depends upon the southern idiocy notion, but because the jesuit highschool I went to in DC was filled with conservatives. By far, the biggest cocksuckers were the brainwashed kids who's parents were Reagan accolytes. Needless to say, before blowing up your school became fashionable in the late 90s I used to fantasize doing so in the 80s. With regard to your post, let's not forget that the marshalistic (not a word; I know) culture of the South has foisted the Pentagon on the rest of us. That is the primary reason I fucking hate the South other than the fact that it is probably, from a cultural standpoint, the most backward place on this here Earth. I know from experience when I used to live in Atlanta. Yessiree.

    Good post. I was wondering when you were going to get to this topic. The South is an abomination and a blight upon this country.

  • shouldbegradingpapers says:

    Wow. Angry sreeds against the South, anyone? I find it hard to begin response…

    You people sound like fucking REPUBLICANS, harping on stereotypes and bashing an entire subset of Americans.

    Ed, I get it. Ahtens is full of obnoxious, drunk yuppie rednecks (in Georgia these often go together). But all big-money universities across the country have assholes (rioting in the street because you won/lost the NCAA tourney comes to mind).

    I have lived in this state my entire life. I have lived for short periods of time in four other states and visited many more. I am well-read and intelligent. I can, if you need, find plenty of assholery from across our fair nation. But that isn't the point. People everywhere are the same.

    But the South was always behind in the matters that counted most to create a well-rounded populace. The original settlers brought the English caste system and cemented it in an agricultural setting. Then they married themselves to slavery as a means to enrich the upper classes. After the Civil War, Johnston let the South go down the toilet, and the good-ol-boy network rose up to consolidate power. The boll weevil kicked the South in the balls, and while squirming in pain, the Depression kicked it in the head. We've been poorer than the rest of the country for 150 years (and I don't count Texas).

    Every problem you point out with the South is real. And since every one is tied to economics, we won't come out of them, ever. But this wholesale bashing rankles me.

    Enough. Before I say something rude.

  • How about we call them BananaRepublicans?? They want to turn this country into a third-world banana republic. That would remind people what they are doing to this country.

    The South used to be solidly Democratic until LBJ pushed thru the civil rights laws. LBJ apologized for it when he said that he lost the South for the Democrats for several generations. How many generations remain to be seen!!

    In the past I've gotten e-mails about dividing the country. The conservatards would take the South from the Carolinas to Texas and the areas where there are more cattle than people. The libruls would get the Northeast, Mid-West and the West Coast. I could live with that. Like several commenters have said, the weather sucks at different times of the year in different parts of the country.

    I am currently in GA, but plan on moving back to the States soon!!

  • Best entry ever, and that's a pretty high bar to clear given how consistently good this blog is. Thanks so much from Madison, WI!

  • I live in Pennsylvania, famously described as "Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Alabama in between." Let's stop the South bashing. It's really a question of ignorance. With the corporate control of information, at almost all levels, ignorance is becoming more rampant in all parts of America. How else to explain the concept of demanding less taxes while fighting 2 wars. Last I looked, Dancing With The Stars' popularity was not restricted to the South.

  • Holy crap, Ed, but I so totally agree with this post. I've been a lecturer here in Unnamed Southern State University here in Georgia since last summer, and holy crap, this part of the world is disturbing. Moreover, I'm from Texas, and I thought that I knew the South. How wrong I was.

    Random things that appall me:

    –That white collar professionals don't send their children to public school. Full stop.

    –The co-existence of affluence and third-world living conditions. Multi-million dollar stately homes of a white aristocracy mere miles away from third world squalor.

    –The racial stratification. Holy crap the racial stratification. But also the class stratification.

    –"Sidewalks? What are those? Sounds like Communism!"

    –When I renewed my car's registration, I quite naturally asked about the safety inspection. The nice people at the registration office informed me that Georgia doesn't require a safety inspection.

    On the other hand, the developed world part of Unnamed Southern City really is quite lovely.

  • The Moar You Know says:

    @shouldbegradingpapers:

    I was born in the South, and come from an unbroken line of Southerners that goes back to before when there was an actual "South". I was fortunately enough to be born to parents that, because of the Vietnam war, had to leave the area when I was only two and settle in California.

    Your point about assholery being universal is true. For passive-aggressive shit behavior that is precisely calculated to make your blood boil, Californians are king. We do asshole better than anyone. We are shitty jerks and we are proud of it.

    That being said, the real problem with the South, and I can say this with confidence since most of my extended family still lives there, is not that they are assholes. They are – world class in fact – but they have a refreshing honesty about it that I like. The problem is their astonishing pride in their ignorance and stupidity. I have had Southerners tell me to my face that they didn't need any book learning and didn't see why I should have a fancy-boy college degree. This, to me, is mind-boggling. That my parents, who both have college degrees, see it as normal Southern behavior and don't seem to have too much of a problem with it, is even more mind-boggling.

    Pride in your own ignorance is lethal. The American south has paid the price for it for generations, and yet still don't see the cause. Hell, they don't even see it as a problem. I don't know how a civilized society can deal with that.

  • Fifth Dentist says:

    Shorter the Moar you Know: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."*

    * And down here we have special gathering places for those people; they're called "SEC football games."

  • The good people of Alabama are not content with doing things the way they do them in Alabama and have elected super-majorities of republicans in both houses of the legislature. As they say down here before removing themselves from the gene pool, "Hey Bubba, watch this!"

  • @Lecturer – multimillion dollar mansions mere miles from squalor? How about across from each other on the same street? I've been living in Atlanta for going on 4 years now, and have days when I feel like when I left Omaha, I moved to Haiti.

    And, yes, there are historical reasons why Georgia and the other southern states are crapholes, but that doesn't mean we should want the rest of the country to be equally shitty.

  • johnsmith1882 says:

    @shouldbegradingpapers

    Born-and-bred Chicagoan here, and I have no qualms about saying I have a Big problem with the South. Sure, you yourself are well-read and educated. Sure, there are assholes everywhere, in all corners of the country. Absolutely. Still, I doubt that you can deny that someone like myself would be instantly despised by 90% of the Southern population because a)I'm a Yankee, b)I'm a liberal, and c)I have a college education. One or another of these three reasons would likely be enough, but put all three together and it's a guaranteed no-win situation. You are the exception that makes the rule, you know that right? Is it relying on stereotypes to point out that the poorest, least-educated, and most-backward places in this country are in the South? Statistics support this notion, visiting the South cements it. And all that is fine, really, with me. Do what you will, live and let live. But that viewpoint is not reciprocal. The South wants to force its views and morality on the rest of the country. And because these states consistently vote Republican, for oh the last 50 or so years, they wield an inordinate amount of ability to do so.

    So, really, save the hand-wringing. You admit that what Ed wrote is rooted in fact. You live in Athens, GA, a college town. A liberal enclave in a sea of backwards assholes. Just like pretty much every other city in the country. Go outside the Chicagoland area, and it's corn and soybeans as far as the eye can see. Get away from the coast of CA, and it's cowboy country. The difference between IL or CA and the South, and what Ed is pointing out, is that your sea of assholes consistently wins elections. Which pulls down the rest of you. Which is pulling down the rest of us. And that's the problem.

  • @shouldbegradingpapers

    First you say you've lived in the same Southern state all your life, and then you say you've lived in four other states. Which is it?

  • What bugs me about all of this "blame the South" business from liberals is pretty well summed up right here:

    The difference between IL or CA and the South, and what Ed is pointing out, is that your sea of assholes consistently wins elections. Which pulls down the rest of you. Which is pulling down the rest of us. And that's the problem.

    Okay, so the South is electing people to office that we liberals don't like. If we agree on that, what is the *solution* to this problem?

  • Great essay. Ive bounced around a lot…..folks are more than smart enough. but they often arent brave enough, and they might comment, they dont move as the water gets hotter.
    "The first compromise is terrible in its consequence"- Raoul V- and how MANY compromises do we all see, looking back on yesterday and figuring tomorrow.
    Explaining the obvious has proven to be a very tough thing to pull off. Orchestrated fear has a back stage pass. We have a soap box in the park.

  • johnsmith1882 says:

    @ Pee Cee
    You're missing the point. It's not that the South is electing people that we liberals don't like. As stated in my post, that's fine and dandy, do what you want. The problem is that live-and-let-live attitude is not reciprocated, and the South pushes a national agenda that threatens to bring the whole country back 100 years. To put it succinctly, the South is a Big Fucking Anchor on the rest of the country. Abortion rights, worker's bargaining rights, evolution, you name it, the South wants to get rid of it. On a national level, via the Republican party.

    I could not give a shit about how people want to live down there. But when the Republican party pushes a national agenda with their Southern morality and laws, and those laws and morality adversely affect all the rest of us, then I care deeply.

    And the solution to the problem is education. That's it. And that's why it looks like we are screwed. Millions of people in this country are proudly ignorant. Race to the bottom. Lowest common denominator. That's what the South "adds" to our country.

  • @Mclaren
    I think a little too much is made of outsourcing and discrepancies in wages between the US and India/China. The US is still the world's largest economy, still growing, and the average US citizen has a very comfortable standard of living. Even with the potential for outsourcing, the US could ensure a solid standard of living for the vast majority of its citizens if there was less inequality. So while I initially find myself sympathetic to arguments about China and India providing cheap labor, then remember that those countries each have more than three times the population of the US and their people are benefiting far more from their economic growth than Americans are suffering from it.

  • Excellent post, great points.

    A friend forwarded your site to me, thankfully. This is so good, I reposted part of it–the end, mostly–on my own blog, crediting and linking you, of course.

    When will middle- and lower-class Americans learn? It's already late in the game.

  • Oh, and Eric Titus, above, isn't aware of the many thousands, at least, of Americans who haven't got good-paying jobs any longer, don't have or are losing their health care because it's too bloody expensive and who are falling in socio-economic position in our society. I'm from Missouri and I can tell you it's happening here, along with much of the US. We have problems, as a country.

  • One thing I find stunning is that some demagoguic representative in Washington doesn't propose doing away with all tax cuts and deductions for taking any manufacturing offshore.

    Who wouldn't support that, other than the corporations themselves and the already-wealthy?

  • 2011 version

    "Why all we have is cotton and (former) slaves and arrogance."

    Rhett Butler (via Margaret Mitchell in GWTW)

    //bb

  • As stated in my post, that's fine and dandy, do what you want. The problem is that live-and-let-live attitude is not reciprocated, and the South pushes a national agenda that threatens to bring the whole country back 100 years.

    And we want to push a national agenda that brings the nation back to the 21st century – or at least back to the end of the 20th. That's not a "live and let live" attitude, unless you're seriously proposing to allow Alabama and Mississippi to officially re-implement "separate but equal". This is a national battle; "live and let live" is simply not on the table.

    And the solution to the problem is education. That's it. And that's why it looks like we are screwed.

    Until we fix how we fund education at a national level, I agree … nothing will change. Poorer areas (Most of the South and rural areas across the nation) simply don't get enough money from local/state funding to properly educate their students. It's too bad that Democratic education proposals are even weaker than their health care proposals. (Perhaps more frighteningly, many liberal/Democratic commentators have bought conservative education snake oil like "fire more teachers!" "bust unions!" "lower average salary by making teachers fight over merit pay!" "more high-stakes testing!" hook, line, and sinker.)

  • We Austin hippies tried and tried to warn y'all that Chimpy was a disaster as governor, and would be a disaster as President. But did y'all listen?

  • johnsmith1882 says:

    @Pee Cee,

    Um, what is your point. You agree with the conclusions, but don't like the way it's worded? Why do you keep picking out quotes to quibble over?

    Yes, I would be perfectly content to "live-and-let-live" with the South. If the whole group wanted to secede, that would be fine with me. Let's see how long Alabama and Arkansas and the rest make it without federal money. The Southern states consistently receive more money in federal funding than they put in, yet bitch about paying taxes and the federal government. Screw 'em.

    But that isn't going to happen. We are stuck with the South. And through the Republican party, the South is pursuing an agenda. So, no, it's not live-and-let-live. It is class warfare. Unfortunately, the dipshits in the South (and dipshits everywhere else) don't realize that they are fighting for the wrong team. They consistently vote against their self interest. The wealthy have pitted the have-nots against each other, divided by race, union and non-union, etc.

    No, the South is not the sole residence of dipshits, there is just a higher concentration there. And they hate your liberal guts, Pee Cee, just as sure as they want to pull everybody else down to their level. If liberals have an agenda, it's to pull the whole group up. Instead of seeing a union employee with a pension and wanting to pull him down to my level with no pension, I seek to pull those with no pensions up to the level of the union employee. What is wrong with that?

  • "Southern," in the popular imagination, equals "stupid." The GOP has discovered that the only way it can sell hardcore Social Darwinism on the mass market is to make people feel good about being stupid. The South has nothing to brag about, but I agree with whomever said: The problem is ignorance. And its bulletproof Q rating.

  • terraformer says:

    Born and bred Southerner, here. And yes, I recently (2008) escaped to live in the upper Midwest – and it's a damn sight finer here in just about every respect. (And the bit that winters here are as bad as summers there is so true; the way I look at it, it's easier to get warmer [e.g., a coat] than it is to get cooler [e.g., WTF you gonna do? Find A/C].) But the points made in the original post are so true. Some people call this bashing, but it's true. I knew I was out of my element for most of my life there. Why? I felt that I had empathy, whereas people around me did not. The people they called "niggers" were people that I dated and had relationships with. The people they called "liberals" were those that I felt most comfortable with, and were those with whom I shared a worldview. When I visit friends and family there today, I literally feel like I have time-warped. There is this general aura, an "anger" if you will, that seems to permeate everything. People are angry, scowling. They are judgmental. When my wife, a midwesterner who moved to the South to be with me while I finished my Ph.D., and I would go out on Sunday for brunch somewhere, we recall vividly the open stares and grimaces of people also standing there waiting for a table, who were dressed for their Sunday worship and were seething that we obviously were not doing the same, dressed casually and all.

    But I feel that that anger, and I think it's entirely due to a few, not altogether unrelated, things: 1) the economy sucks; there are no jobs, 2) the heat makes people angry – and the summers are HOT, 3) there is a realization of sorts that things aren't going well, but due to the aforementioned pride no one wants to admit that just about every facet of life is designed to keep the rich happy. And so the politics of resentment are embraced there. I am so glad to be where I now am, where people largely live and let live, are not judgmental (again, compared to the south), and where there are politicians who openly support goals and who have positions that would have them run out of town in the South had any of them been voiced there. The conservatives know this, and they knew it decades ago. Got to hand it to them in terms of their prescience and planning – they knew that the only way to keep themselves and their friends in lives of rich and plenty was to cultivate the politics of resentment that naturally evolved from a history of slavery and inequality. Let's hope that people catch on before it's too late.

  • As much as I love a good " piss-on- The- South " party, let's remember Virginia and North Carolina went to Obama in 2008 while outside of Dixie we have less- than- charming states like Oklahoma, South Dakota, Kansas, and Arizona.
    Even the good people of my home state of Minnesots were dumb enough to elect Tim Pawlenty ( R ) two terms as governor.

  • Gin and Tacos is one of the most insightful blogs I've read. With that being said, the only times Ed goes astray are when he bases his essays on broad generalizations. This isn't the first time this has happened and I'm willing to find other examples of this; times when his readers called him out on it, too. The only difference here is that this is a broad generalization that most of the readers believe in.

    Yes, the South has large swaths of rural desolation. The South also has some really nice, progressive places: Athens, Gainesville, Austin, the Research Triangle in NC.

    What most people here don't seem to realize is that there are areas of crippling poverty and ignorance in the North and West, too. *GASP!* I have spent quite a bit of time in rural Maine and I can assure you that it is as bad or worse than anything I have ever seen in the South. It's common knowledge that Indian Reservations have some of the worst poverty in the country. Places like Utah and Oklahoma are more reliably conservative than Georgia and North Carolina. And this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the Alaska crazies.

    The point of this post is to say that poverty and ignorance is bad, wherever it is. It's also not isolated to the South.

  • @shouldbegradingpapers

    I'm a fourth generation Texan who has traveled widely in the U.S. (42 out of 50 states) and traveled widely abroad. Right now, I have a full time staff job at a public university and I'm finishing a Ph.D. I used to be the first to spit in the eye of anyone who made blanket statements about Texas and Texans, and such blanket statements still rankle me. I've come around to a sad kind of understanding of where those blanket statements and their underlying sentiments come from, though, because I'm beyond frustrated with the situation here and see nothing on the horizon that will change it.

    For all the ultraconservative presents we've given the nation, we also have a rich, albeit smaller, history of progressive warriors. But those progressive warriors are just that: history. Contemporary Texas, like many conservative bastions to its east, is a cesspool of resentment, Fuck-You cronyism, and a voting population that is willfully disconnected from the outcomes their elected leaders produce.

    The resentment is the crucial dimension. In modern Texas, first it was resentment of African-Americans. When LBJ's decisions signaled the beginning of the end of this institutional racial resentment in the Democratic Party, it grew both wider and deeper. The 70s were the real turning point in Texas: Republicans honed their message, Democrats were too ossified and pissed away their electoral advantage, and we had the beginnings of explosive suburbanization around D/FW, Houston, and Austin. This was the decade where Republicans found the sweet spot of whitewashing racial resentment and focusing it on resentment of government. They've been banging the same drum with greater and greater efficiency ever since while the state Democratic Party couldn't navigate its way out of a paper bag.

    Now we're facing a biennial budget deficit somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-$27 billion dollars. This budget deficit began under the watch of the same Governor who was re-elected last November to an unprecedented fourth term in a landslide, in large part due to running on what an awesome fiscal steward of the state economy he'd been. And you know what? That blow dried cocksucker would win again if we had the same election today even though our Republican super majority State House is going to take the brunt of that deficit out of public education, right after they get done jacking off over sonogram legislation and sanctuary cities.

    A large part of our deficit situation was caused by Rick Perry and our Republican legislature cutting property taxes for school funding. That was 2005. You'd think any dim motherfucker with enough braincells to rub together to set a DVR could figure out the direct linear relationship between cutting property taxes, not replacing that lost revenue with another revenue stream, and kneecapping school funding. Nope, apparently not. This Legislature certainly isn't going to fix the problem, and with our already stressed education system in this state now being full-on dismantled, the last prospects for ever breaking out of this cycle will disappear.

    I love Texas, but a majority of the voting populace in this state are roadkill from the neck up. They want to live in a feudal system; they vote for it time and time and time again. All they care about is that their elected aristocracy fucks everyone else the way that they fuck them. This is it, this is the pure, uncut poison of resentment that conservatives have been working to perfect for 50 years. It might be the last thing we will ever be able to say is truly Made In Texas, and now they're going to try to export it to all the rest of you.

  • shouldbegrading papers says:

    I will start with an overall response: why the hell are so many of you so pissed off at the South?

    Do I buy this theory of Kilgore's that Ed supports? No. Yes, the South is dominated by Dixiecrats (now Republicans) who are intensely evangelical and hold the most horrendous views, but they haven't captained this journey. Fox News and talk radio have more to do with the resurgence of hate and division in America today. And this "Southernization" theory? Yes, the South votes majority Red, but there is no overwhelming change in the electoral numbers from 2008, and we don't have any numerical control in the Congress.

    @johnsmith1882: Hand wringing? Do not watch Gone with the Wind every time it comes on. Yes, I can deny that 90% of the population would despise your wonderful, glowing presence. Unless you're just a total asshole. Then, who knows?

    And I don't remember who shared this gem: the South has foisted the Pentagon on the rest of us. WTF does that mean? I thought the Pentagon's current power stemmed more from the Vietnam era military-industrial complex and has been maintained by the likes of Cheney and Rumesfeld.

    @Andrew: "Which is it?" Really? That's what you take away? I apologize if my inelegant sentence confused you. I have lived in GA most of my life, except for the 3-4 years living in other states. Is that better, you arrogant little stain?

  • Base realignment over the past 20 years has overwhelming favored the South. That's what I mean by foisted the Pentagon on the rest of us. Red states overwhelmingly are committed to maintaining an absurd imbalance in our federal budget in favor of the Pentagon. The South has a long and storied militaristic history that supports this trend.

  • displaced Capitalist says:

    To answer your question sbgp, I just use your own language:

    shouldbegrading papers said:

    Yes, the South is dominated by Dixiecrats (now Republicans) who are intensely evangelical and hold the most horrendous views

    America's conservative "majority" these days is intensely evangelical and holds the most horrendous views. QED.

    Need I cite them all?

    1. Birthers (a subset of southern racism)
    2. Birchers (anti-intellectual spun out of distrust of carpet baggers during reconstruction)
    3. Creationism (same)
    4. distrust of government (reconstruction)
    etc. etc. etc.

    It's been slowly creeping out of the south since 1945 and hasn't stopped. It's only a matter of time the US is renamed the Confederate States of America or the Civil War is refought.

  • @Displaced Capitalist – Wow, that is real Fox News style editing you did there! *slow clap* If you continued to quote SBGP, you would note that his point was the leaders of the new conservative movement are found on Fox and talk radio, not in the Alabama or Mississippi statehouses.

    Who are the leaders of this new intensely evangelical movement with the horrendous views most associated with the GOP? Arguably Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann, both of whom are from the farthest northern regions of the US. The South deserves as much blame as the rest of the country for the situation in which we find ourselves. Blaming the South for the country's problems is no better than Scott Walker blaming the greedy public sector unions for the deficit.

  • Ed, well put.

    It seems like politicians understand that financial incentives do drive entrepreneurship. However they never address the other side of the coin: that the disincentive to fail is a major deterrent to entrepreneurship. With better social services like health care you would see more entrepreneurship from the middle class instead of only from the wealthy class who currently are the only people able to survive if their business flops.

  • I think LBJ put it nicely when he said that what was holding back the South was that whenever someone tried to move the South forward, those who wished to stop it merely had to yell, "nigger, nigger, nigger". (Apologies for the n-word, but LBJ was also the guy who said that America had made three great contributions to world culture: the barbeque, toilet paper and finger fucking. He touched all the bases.)

    Hackett Fisher was clearly onto something in Albion's Seed. (I loved his book on inflation, The Great Wave.) Visit Williamsburg – Virginia, not Brooklyn – and you'll realize that the ruling class there took Sir Walter "Ivanhoe" Scott's fantasies seriously. They were living some kind of medieval fantasy. It was the pre-Civil War South that did all it could to hold back development in the US. They fought against railroads, against canals, against education, you name it. They're still fighting the fight today, and right now they're winning.

  • johnsmith1882 says:

    @shouldbegradingpapers
    @Scott

    Look up the Southern Strategy. There's a Wikipedia page about it, to make it easy for you. You just might learn something today. Hint: Fox News and Michelle Bachman are the symptom, not the cause.

  • @js1882

    The point I was trying to make (and you make a nice analogy for me to work with through your, ever so insightful Wikipedia reference) is that this can not be blamed completely on the South. Yes, the bad ideas that originated in the South not been so attractive to the rest of the country, the "Southern Strategy" would not have been so successful. There is a sizable population of this country that are racist to some degree, homophobic, and believe there is a war on Christmas. You can't tell me that everyone who lives in Wisconsin or Minnesota is a perfect progressive paragon?

    Also, "Southern Strategy" is not so myopic to deal with only issues of race. It deals with cultural wedge issues. These issues, as stupid and pedantic as they are, arise in all corners of the country, not just the South.

    All I'm trying to say is that the South is not entirely to blame for the problems we find ourselves in. Every region is to blame. For progressives to blindly adhere to the stereotypes that surround the South is to throw away the modest gains the Democratic party has made in the South in the recent years.

  • America has been held by the myth that we are the greatest nation in the history of the world for the last 30 years. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, we have been sold on the belief that when our ship comes in, we will be rich and goddamn it if I'm going to pay any taxes then.

    I do a lot of business in Latin America and every time I visit they talk about the vast salaries Americans make. Technically, it's true. I make what, in Peru, looks like an obscene amount of money yet I own a house in Seattle that was built in 1908 and occupied by a long line of loggers, fisherman, and day laborers. My car is almost 20 years old, and I can't really afford to hire anyone to do anything. I cut my own grass, tile my own floors and keep the aforementioned car running with my own hands.

    When I explain just how much it costs to go to college, to buy a very modest house and the fact that my wife also has to put in the same 60+ hours a week just to get by, they are flabergasted. The gold-paved streets kind of fade when you realize that high income and high expenses pretty much cancel out our advantages.

    To be fair, consumer goods are rediculously inexpensive in America. Everyone, even the lowest on the totem pole can afford an old car and a flat screen TV but day to day living is pretty grim. We pack our kids into some daycare unit, spend an hour a two a day with them and spend the weekends taking care of what we couldn't accomplish during the week.

    yeah… America… Fuck yeah! The richest nation on the planet and even the top 20% are on a treadmill that leads them to live in a state of permanent anxiety.

    The funny thing about admitting that your poor is that you are, in a way, free. Sure, food is scarce and any measure of financial security is non-existent but you also realize that you have very little to lose by walking away from that shitty job. You can take time to focus on your community and pool resources and free time to scratch out a living.

    I predict that American style vulture capitalism will die when most of us learn that it is a zero sum game and refuse to play. If you are going to give your most productive years to a company, it is their minimum obligation o provide a wage that lets you live with a modicum of comfort, support a child or two, and have a retirement when you can no longer work.

    The current state of this country pretty much precludes all of those things even for the highly educated. When I see people railing to bring down the last class in America (public, unionized workers) that still has those guarantees, I can't help but wonder what will happen to America. It's hard to give a shit about making your boss rich when you can't feed your children.

    Maybe hose 200Million guns in America will change the status quo some day.

  • i am reminded of Lewis Grizzard's suggestion to those who railed against the south: Delta is ready when you are.

  • mother earth says:

    Excellent post, Ed. Kudos also to @Patrick on his shared insights on Texas.

    Part of the homer in me wants to say fuck you all for piling on the South. Every region of this country has its problems and some kind of redneck class that says so the fuck what.

    But the South is certainly vexing to me and I live here (sorta – Arkansas). I don't understand people who keep supporting economic policies that are killing them to further their Old Testament agenda where everyone but themselves are smited by a fire breathing god.

    I guess the reality is that the southern states are India, cheap labor and a willing worker class willing to do anything for $10/hr and some benefits.

  • @tybee

    I was stationed in Columbus, Mississippi for 5 long years.

    When I transferred out, I literally stopped at the state line and laid rubber across it.

  • @Nunya

    “If you are going to give your most productive years to a company, it is their minimum obligation (t)o provide a wage that lets you live with a modicum of comfort, support a child or two, and have a retirement when you can no longer work.”

    I think your opinion is a clear separation point between many of y’all on the Left and many of us who are Libertarians and Conservatives.

    I worked for Corporate America for over 32 years. I freely entered the relationship in which the employer promised a certain pay rate, current benefits, and future benefits.

    The checks were good every month, but I was fully aware that the corp could snake out of their promises (still can) about the future benefits.

    I also recognized that (in Georgia) we work at will. I could be terminated at any time for almost any reason. Not bitching, just recognizing reality.

    Nobody forced me to do anything, but I was fully aware of the rules of the game.

    Nobody owes me anything (in my opinion) on the employment front.

    Sharing and charity are important to me. I believe that service to others is the best work of life.

    On the South: A friend of mine who was raised in Detroit, lived overseas, for awhile, and lived a few other places – and he is Black – says that he prefers living in the South because “You know who likes you and who doesn’t. Those that do are demonstrable about showing it and those that don’t – show it as well and get away from you.”

    //bb

  • My introduction to the South was this (coming from the PacNorWest) with a Canadian and Australian parent. We were with my mum's sister driving to Mobile, and my auntie was describing a shopping experience she'd had once.
    Her: Now Ah was searchin for some help and finally found this damn niggah sales girl… Now Geoffrey she said, you have to understan' somethin' in this world. In this here world there're 2 types of niggahs. You got your damn niggahs, and the you have yo' ***DAMNNNN!! NIGGAHS!!***
    I was looking at my mum with a WT…!!! Where the Hell did this come from, and just exactly how is it that I have to be related to her? The woman had married an Alabaman, and this is what we got.

    It's been said that one of the great problems of life is that we can't choose our relatives. However, often sometimes, agains all better reason and advice people go and choose your relatives for you.

    It's an interesting thing. 50yrs ago if one suggested that the South would align itself with the Rs, one would have been lynched by both sides of the aisle, cause that f-ah-st R prez ee dunt, was opposin States r-ah-ghts, w/ his Wah o' Nawthun Agresshun!
    It was the Civil Rights movement (with all those middle-class, university educated sons n daughters of the North – thanks to the unions) forcing desegregation etc. Then of course Ronnie's handlers spotted their opportunity with them.

    @Patrick, you reminded me of a very important and often overlooked fact about the pre-War South that we were taught in history. Though the simplistic explanation of cause has always been about slavery, the fact was that only the top 5% or so owned slaves.
    Everyone else was trying to do their best to compete against an unfair system and probably were often squeezed off arable lands by the class system. When we think share croppers we usually think black, but many were white too. Cotton, has always proved to be a crap crop. Look on the effects on the Aral Sea, not to mention how it depletes the soil.

    So they were being fisted, by this BS unfair system. Then along come these armies, and they get fisted because of the top 5%, and they're just pawns. Then off course the joys of reconstruction and having to pay the penalties back to the Fed because of the War, so they're getting fisted by the taxes, and having to try to feed themselves from depleted land and now have to compete for this crap land with former slaves.

    Quite frankly, maybe it's because Bubba just doesn't know any different. So having some dipshit on Fox tell them that it's hopeless anyways so listen to your masters brings comfort. But obviously, Bubba knows that it's not right so he's angry, but it's an impotent anger.

    Maybe this explains why they act like dogs in the manager, and the lack of aspiration that they have. The carrots are being dangled out of reach, and they know that they'll never get them. So instead of looking at the industrialised and *unionised* North and asking how they could get what they have, they take the: if I can't get them, then I'll prevent anyone else from getting them approach.

  • To one of the posters above, I've been to central Penn. and also NE Indiana, two parts of the North that closely resemble the South in terms of religion and politics, and trust me, they are not the same. The overwhelming racialization and class driven nature of southern society is simply appalling and shocking to an outsider. They may vote for the same party and go to church just as often as southerners but the worldview is something than can only be replicated in Dixie.

  • Ed – "I emphasize this not to pick on the South"

    Bubba commenters: "Hey! Quit pickin' on the South!"

    Sheesh…

  • Eau:

    Ed: "Hey Petunia, you don't sweat much for a fat girl!"

    Petunia's friend: "Hey, quit pickin' on Petunia!"

    //bb

  • bb: Huh? Isn't it more like –

    "I'm not picking on Petunia, but I don't think we should follow her diet."

    "Hey! Quit pickin' on Petunia!"

  • People who live up North have to put up with southerners being simultaneously hypersensitive about regional pride and insulting to outsiders. It's not a combination that wears well, and it's extremely common even outside of blogs. How many times are places like Massachusetts or New York "not the real America"? I grew up in Texas, and there are some deep-seated pathologies down there. Are people actually disagreeing with the third paragraph?

  • It doesn't seem to do any good to try to dissuade any of you of these stereotypical opinions you have of the South. I am from the South, but I have lived a large portion of my life in the Mythical Progressive Paradise in the Midwest. There is just as much latent racism and mistrust of the government there as there is in the South, but it's so much easier to hold on to our stereotypes.

    Some of you are no different than the hypocrites in the Tea Party. You say that you abhor stereotypes (of African Americans, of homosexuals, of Jews, etc.) except when you find one that you actually believe in and want to propagate.

  • Maybe if Southerners didn't spend so much time patting themselves on the back for being from the South we might cut them a little more slack.

    I've never seen anyone driving around the Midwest with a "American by birth, Northern by the grace of God" bumper sticker.

  • Why do you think we call the Midwest the "heartland"? It's because the brain isn't here. :)

  • Eau:

    You're probably right…but my comment is from the real America cuz I'm hypersensitive, funny, and Southern all at the same time :-)

    //bb

  • I have to state that Southern Exceptionalism cuts both ways: The homogeneity of social/cultural mores among the majority (geo- and demographic) in the deeper segments of the South (and by that I mean TX, LA, MS, AL, SC, TN, most of WV, rural VA, rural NC, and the FL panhandle) lends itself to a worldview hellbent on self-centered insecurities expressed as other-centered defensive arrogance. In other words, the more someone overstates their point, the more likely it is that they know damn well they are full of beans and are terrified that you will call them on their BS. It

  • …In other words, the more someone overstates their point, the more likely it is that they know damn well they are full of beans and are terrified that you will call them on their BS. It’s a tautological mindgame they play with themselves while those in power continue to exploit them.

    Of course they love themselves and their environs to distraction: They (believe they) have no choice. They are neither going to educated themselves nor be educated about the true nature of their place, they are not going to move, and they are intimidated by the same types of experiences that terrify most animals (bright lights, complexity beyond their comprehension, intellect, loud noises, change, honesty/frankness/reality, etc.). They are not willing to accept that they are capable of feeling empathy for anyone unlike themselves, much less to act on such perfectly unnatural animal/perfectly natural human motives.

    Hence prideful ignorance. Hence the willingness to live as a slave within a system rather than put in the effort to rebel against it. It's SO easy–and self-satisfying–to embrace the shackles, whereas it is excruciatingly difficult to work to change/fix/reinvent the status quo. Examples litter history of what happens to those who fight the good fight and in so doing make great sacrifices: Patrice Lumumba, anonymous resisters of police states who are disappeared, MLK, Dietrich Bahnhoeffer, Medgar Evers, Abraham Lincoln (“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."), et al.

    Having lived in TX for 4 years and visited LA, AL, MS, etc., I will say that the rule of thumb is that there is indeed a difference between, e.g., Alabama and the Alabama of the North (i.e., Indiana). It is almost as if the latter chooses to wear the blanket of ignorance/racism/schizoid lovingly self-loathing cloaked in phony pride, whereas the former is a morbidly obese shut-in whose very flesh has melded with a similar, older blanket made from the very tissues of their own misery and that they continue to knit in order to cover the monstrosity of the collective cognitive dissonance inherent in their own tiny hellish incapacity to cope with the hypocrisy and injustice they enable the plutarchs who flagellate them to exploit.

    I shudder to think where the 8-year-old girl I met in TX back in 1996 who was being home “schooled” by her Turner-Diary-loving gun-nut Texas Independence-advocating father but could not spell “cat” (I kid not) is now. Something tells me she almost certainly superficially proud of Texas/the South/NASCAR/her Freedom ™/etc., subconsciously terrified/confused/miserable, and surely nowhere near alone, especially on election days.

  • shouldbegrading papers says:

    Although this thread appears dead, I have to respond once again.

    I will attempt to group my thoughts, but I may ramble. I apologize.

    Ed and many of you do not like the South. This is your opinion to which you are entitled. But I reiterate my point from upthread: you sound like angry Republicans railing against some place or group with whom they disagree. Let’s look at your language.

    Let’s begin with this disclaimer, which several of you have mentioned. “I emphasize this not to pick on the South…”

    Preceded by “the shittiest part of the country” and “people who live in Dogpatch” and “The South, in a word, blows” and “America's loser states,” these statements clearly create a clear attitude that Ed holds about the South. He hates it here.

    And one reader asks if “people (are) actually disagreeing with the third paragraph?”

    “…some nice people, the occasional nice town, and so on. But on the whole this region of the country is beyond backward. The quasi-feudal social structure, the proud ignorance, the crushing rural poverty, the crumbling infrastructure, the naked political corruption, the good ol' boy networks, the seething racism…it is not exactly the guiding light of the modern world.”

    Yes, as a matter of fact, I do disagree. I pointed out before that much of the South lags behind the rest of the country, and our state house does have some idiots, but the naked vehemence in these lines isn’t productive. Are the prejudices of progressives as bitter and divisive as those that the right-wing zealots scream at us?

    And quite a few of you share this anger:
    “Bubba commenters”
    “I am currently in GA, but plan on moving back to the States soon”
    “Is it relying on stereotypes to point out that the poorest, least-educated, and most-backward places in this country are in the South? Statistics support this notion, visiting the South cements it.”

    Yes, those are stereotypes. If you research it, you can find plenty of current information about the economy and education in Southern states. And what I see is a region hampered by its history and pride that is overcoming many obstacles. But the South does have serious health issues, like the teen pregnancy rate. It isn't perfect. Please identify the perfect part of our country.

    Finally, I would like to again address this conspiracy theory about the South. johnsmith1882 states,“The South wants to force its views and morality on the rest of the country. And because these states consistently vote Republican, for oh the last 50 or so years, they wield an inordinate amount of ability to do so.”

    I did read the Wiki article on the Southern Strategy, but I don’t believe you did. The strategy was adopted by Nixon to create new Southern voters, not created by Southerners. And the articles continues by questioning the economic role and the continued power of this strategy. And our power to control the country through the voting process doesn’t hold water as an argument. While true that the South has gained 20 electoral votes since ’96, Obama managed 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173. Where was that overwhelming morality? And if you look at the Congressional apportionment figures since 1990, you do not see any overwhelming changes in representation that give the South this power. Currently, the South has more Red faces than Blue, but this happened across the U.S.

    I suppose I’m just “a morbidly obese shut-in whose very flesh has melded with a similar, older blanket made from the very tissues of their own misery and that they continue to knit in order to cover the monstrosity of the collective cognitive dissonance inherent in their own tiny hellish incapacity to cope with the hypocrisy and injustice they enable the plutarchs who flagellate them to exploit.”

    Or I’m just a typical Southerner who chooses not to judge the lot of you for your narrow perceptions and angry misconceptions.

  • tracy thompson says:

    A friend forwarded this rant to me, and I was grateful. I had thought that such virulent anti-Southern snobbery was a thing of the past–a figment of my (perhaps overly defensive) Southern imagination. It's a real thrill to find out I'm wrong, since I'm writing a book on the 21st century South, and was a little bit worried that nobody would be interested enough in the subject to buy it. I'm putting you on my e-mail list and will be sure to let you know when it comes out; please tell your friends.

    As one of the previous posters has pointed out, there's a lot of history behind the South's lagging numbers in your standard-of-living index. It's a complex history, brutal and tragic, and this is what makes the South such a fascinating place, even today. This history is also why it's the region of the country which has grappled most openly with the issue of race and which, I am prepared to argue, has made, by far, the most progress. For an educated person–a university professor, at that!–to demonstrate this kind of….well, words fail me. "Dogpatch"? "Beyond backward"? There are plenty of other places in the country which could illustrate your points (intractable rural poverty–the Midwest; political corruption–can we say "Illinois"?), but that's really beside the point. It's just fascinating to see how it's still okay to unapologetically display this kind of prejudice–to all appearances, to be oblivious to the fact that this is what you're doing. Wow.

    But, being a Southerner, my mama taught me to be polite, so here's a bit of comfort I can offer you when you feel like you can't stand another day in this benighted region: Delta is ready when you are. P.S. Southern does not equal Republican, hon.

  • Oh, you poor Southerners. I'm sure your region is frequently maligned for bad reasons, but coming from the Land of Fruits and Nuts I find it hard to sympathize, considering where most of the San Francisco and Hollywood haters come from, the same ones who so frequently pray that our state sinks into the sea with the next big quake. You're right, conservatards come from all regions, but Alabama is their Zion.

    That said, the South has produced much of America's great art, especially in music and literature. Thanks for that.

  • In response to Ben, you're absolutely right that we need to get rid of sociopaths like Governor Walker. Clearly his policies are not going to help states like Wisconsin. Don't imagine I'm trying to defend Republicans here — far from it. These people are pursuing a fundamentally destructive set of policies whose only discernible effect will be to turn America into a third world country.

    However, it's not clear that getting rid of sociopaths like Walker will improve business conditions in Wisconsin (or other states). Republicans are making things worse, and that doesn't change the fact that the fundamental problem isn't Republicans, it's globalized cannibalistic capitalism.

    Jack claimed:
    Why won't the increased education and productivity of Chinese and Indian workers lead to them earning more money? Why won't they use that money to start their own firms catering to all the newly middle class Chinese and Indian engineering grads who are getting huge inflows of money from all the exported jobs? Why won't the cheapness of Indian and Chinese labour cause prices of products to drop, keeping real wages constant? Why are you making points so overworked and so conventionally wise that Paul Krugman wrote a whole damn book to dismiss them?

    It's worth debunking these provably false statements in detail.

    Let's start with bogus claim number one, the classic macroeconomist's fallacy "rising productivity will lead to rising wages." This is provably false and has been shown to be false for 30 years. You're quoting David Ricardo's arguments for free trade but you're so ignorant of basic economic theory that you have forgotten to include the all-important caveat Ricardo included when he argued in favor of free trade: namely, that wages will rise provided that the factors of production are immobile. When it's difficult or impossible to transfer the essential factors of production from one country to another, then we can indeed show mathematically that free trade will produce rising wages and decreasing prices. The problem is that ever since the advent of robotics and computers and the internet, the essential factors of modern production have become entirely mobile. Once upon a time, essential factors like skills and knowledge couldn't easily be transported from one country to another. But today, skills are trivially embodied in robots and knowledge is trivially easy to download from the internet. As a result, constantly increasing productivity today does not lead to rising wages, and the statistics prove it far beyond any possibility of doubt.

    Take a look at this graph of wages vs productivity in America since 1995.

    As you can see, your claim that increasing productivity will lead to rising wages is clearly and obvious false, and it's trivially easy to prove that your claim is flagrantly false. The obvious reason why wages haven't risen in step with productivity in America since 1995 is that the productivity was obtained by outsourcing to much cheaper labor in the third world, and the employers simply pocketed the resulting profit instead of paying workers more. The same is obviously happening in India and China. This planet is full of billions upon billions upon billions of unbelievably poor people, workers who live on much less than a dollar a day, so if workers in India or China demand higher wages, the employers will simply shift their factories to even poorer countries like Haiti or the Sudan. There are so many billions of dirt poor people in the world eager to work for a couple of cents per hour that there's just no way for workers to gain traction.

    So that point has been completely debunked for many years, and requires no further rebuttal. It's clearly and obviously wrong, and the economic statistics show unmistakably that the claim that rising producitivity will lead to rising wages in a world full of robots, computers and the internet is 100% false, to the point where such a claim verges on a deliberate lie.

    Jack compounds his errors by continuing on:
    Why won't they use that money to start their own firms catering to all the newly middle class Chinese and Indian engineering grads who are getting huge inflows of money from all the exported jobs?

    As we've seen, there isn't more money in the form of rising wages coming into India and China — what we see is a handful of billionaires who got rich through outsourcing, without the wages of the typical Indian or Chinese worker increasing noticeably. The reason these workers in India call centers or Chinese slave-labor factories don't use their mythical "wealth" to start their own businesses is that the typical Indian call center worker is living at a sub-subsistence level, barely able to afford food, while the typical worker in a Chinese slave-labor factory lives locked into a corrugated steel barrack in hellish conditions. Kind of hard to start your own business under those conditions. And if you ask for more money? The billionaire fires you and moves his call center to Haiti.

    So once again, that claim has been thoroughly debunked and is systematically false and obviously untrue.

    Not content with making a fool of himself twice, Jack goes for the trifecta when he asks:
    Why won't the cheapness of Indian and Chinese labour cause prices of products to drop, keeping real wages constant?

    For the obvious reason that American billionaires pocket the difference twixt dropping labor costs and prices in Wal-Mart. If you haven't been living in a bathyspehere for the last 30 years, you will have realized that Nike charges $150 for sneakers assembled by some of the world's poorest workers. As you can see from this paper, it costs Nike $16.25 to manufacture a pair of sneakers that the company sells for more than $150. According to your bogus argument, this should be a good thing, because the cost of Nike sneakers will drop as the cost of labor decreases. But of course that's not happening. It's not happening because although it's become exponentially cheaper to manufacture Nike sneakers courtesy of globalization (by moving the Nike factory to a country where workers make $1.25 per day), this hasn't increased the ease of manufacturing a pair of Nike sneakers in the United States. You need to learn the difference between the cost of substitution goods and the cost of global wage arbitrage. Go back and take Econ 101 over again and post again when you've learned the minimal basics about macroeconomics.

    Jack continued on to make some irrelevant and baseless claims about a book allegedly written by Paul Krugman. Do you have any actual facts to back up your baseless claims here, Jack? Can you point us to any graphs supporting your assertions? Any charts? Any macroeconomic statistics? No?

    Of course not, since all the macroeconomic statistics over the past30 years have shown collapsing wages and rising prices in America. This is exactly what we would expect from global wage arbitrage.

  • tracy thompson says:

    McLauren, I would say amen to this:

    "The fundamental problem isn't Republicans, it's globalized cannibalistic capitalism"

    …and I will go further and say that one of the most insightful critiques of the effects of mindless economic growth, growing wealth inequality and rampant consumerism can be found in a collected of essays pushed by "12 Southerners" in 1930, entitled I'll Take My Stand. There's a whole bunch of racist crap and just plain hooey in this book, which is why it has fallen into disrepute in the last 50 years or so, but the gist of its message is anti-capitalist and very thought-provoking.

    To Zebulon: I'm not in favor of snobbery of any kind, so we are in agreement on that. As for Alabama being the Zion of "conservatards"…well, it is pretty darn Republican at the moment, except for the majority black counties (and there are quite a few) who voted overwhelmingly for Obama, and the younger white people who voted for him at levels similar to the national numbers. You can look it up! (See "A New South Rising" on the Facing South blog; pretty good analysis.) So let's not stereotype, shall we? (And maybe the "—tard" locution could be ditched, too.)

    Finally, if I may be so bold as to speak on behalf of William Faulkner 'n them: you're welcome.

  • Rumplestiltskin says:

    I'm a Navy brat and I've lived up and down the east coast. My family is from Buffalo NY & Worchester MA. The South is what it is today because the advent of affordable air conditioning didn't happen until the late '60s. This is why all the industry was up north – until the '60s the friggin' summers were oppressive. Atlanta went boom town because of air conditioning. The place is 1/2 transplants from the north now and I love the people I meet here, southerners and transplants. Race relations? Most black athletes who play for an Atlanta team keep their residence here even when they move to another team. You get all kinds. These same transplants by the way refuse to muck up the politics like the places they left. Now the politics may still get mucked up as they are prone to do but it will be in an entirely different way I'm sure. You talk about the suburbs and the lawns and how it's not like Milwaukee where you can walk a block from your house and be at the pub, well gas was cheap when the boom hit and the compromise between privacy and convenience was struck to the preference of the transplants who moved here as much as anybody. If you don't like Atlanta today blame yourself. As a matter of fact I'll quote Lewis Grizzard: "Delta is ready when you are."

  • lol, can't say nothing bad about the South, cause then you're just as racist/bigoted as those there Conservative uneducated blowhards. lol

    gosh, what a line to sell. works if you let it.

    I am from New Orleans and i can tell you somethings never change. lol.

    as if criticizing the South makes one a bigot, ignorant Liberal or whatever label you choose.
    the history of the South is what makes us different from the rest of the Country. lol and the scary part is the Southern/Republican mindset has been spread to the rest of the Country.

    it absolutely amazes me anyone would dare question the amount of hatred, bigotry and prejudice we White Southerners are raised with. it's just our history. to think otherwise is to believe in fairy tales. that Northerners have the same prejudices/or as ignorant is just proof of the shared stupidity/ignorance we all can take pride in. lol. Say what!!!

    how anyone can defend the South is way beyond me. i mean , does hatred, bigotry and learned willful ignorance excuse you from learning we are all in this together???
    what does it take to realize screwing your neighbor is also screwing yourself.

    some Christian society we Americans are/not!!! to have some people defend the South's pride of stupidity, ignorance and class warfare is way beyond my ability to understand. and i am willing to learn. educate me.

    it is just way beyond my comprehension that screwing everyone, like Gov Walker is doing up North, is good for anyone but the "winners" who sit at that table.

    the hatred fostered and inbred by this class division of race, class, and other "dividing lines" is the only end result of such a dystopian thinking.

    do you really want feudalism to return. well choose the Southern way and you will get it.

    that is what the South has been about since its' inception. Fuck you, i've got mine, now get out of my way, is the latest way to paraphrase the Southern "way."

    the South has many wonderful people and things that are worthy of pride and exultation. our class system, our society, our history, our willful ignorance is not one of them. unless you are in the "in" crowd, forget it honey!

    and i mean, forget thinking time heals all wounds, Not in the South. the us vs them thinking is what ignorance breeds here. and education is and never has been valued as education would break down the barriers the Good Old Boys created long ago.

    to see this Southern Strategy spread via the Republican party is the noose around America's future, and the noose has been tightened recently with the rise of Reagan,Bush/Obama's Corporate America.

    Defending the South is just not an "educated" and reasoned outcome if you expect or want a Middle Class America that arose after World War 2. sorry, folks. the power of money has corrupted America and the Southern Strategy has worked way too well as means to screw the Middle Class. the poor were always fucked, so that is irrelevant, anyway.

    by the way, my mother picketed integration here in New Orleans. i was with her as a child, couldn't leave me home alone. so i experienced the White Flight and watched George Wallace do his best to do what The Republicans later excelled at, Dividing and Conquering. I saw how well the FEAR worked with Southern Whites. Fear rather than fix what was broken.

    no to public education, no to public transportation, no to public anything. Taxes mean money for the Blacks, Taxes are anti white and pro Black.
    smart PR, and ta da! Government is bad/ Government gives our taxes/money to Blacks. St. Ronnie. and Government is the Problem!!!

    Brilliant strategy, cause it worked!!

    the only fortunate aspect of the South is the Major Cities are "liberal" compared to the burbs and the countryside. it just amazes me the Culture of Willful Ignorance could ever be "heralded" as anything GOOD! absolutely amazing.

    you can't change the wrongs if you don't admit there are any. and this pretension that the South is "special" because of this or that is why the Republican got the dumb white middle Class to shoot themselves in the own foot. the use of the hatred of the Black man was all it took in the South. and later, gays, immigrants, muslims, and especially educated "women."

    Women are meant to be breeders, only, according the Southern way. the whole abortion BS is to keep women barefoot and pregnant/in the kitchen.

    the Republicans are very smart and gifted at what they have been doing for the last 40 years. the Dumb White People let themselves be scared/Fear of the Blacks taking their "women/jobs/country" whatever "it" works to sell the Republican Big Lie.

    that the Southern Strategy worked so well and works all over the Country in times of economic hard times speaks wonder for the power of the "Boogie Man".

    Being uneducated makes Fear a wonderful tool. meanwhile lets have American Idol and the Demonization of the Brown/Black People to divert attention while the Rich steal it all.

    gosh, such willful ignorance is a wonderful tool.

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