Southernomics as a model?
By Joe Atkins, Labor South
A recent cover story for the Austin, Texas-based Progressive Populist, headlined "Southern Poverty Pimps," describes in detail how "the 'original sin' of the Southern political class is cheap, powerless labor.”
In his article, writer Michael Lind details what this blog and its author have been decrying for some time, a Southern economic model increasingly adopted beyond the South that preserves the wealth and power of an entrenched oligarchy at the expense of workers and ultimately the nation as a whole.
"Southernomics is radically different," Lind writes. "Southern economic policymakers have sought to secure a second-tier role for the South in the national and world economies, as a supplier of commodities like cotton and oil and gas and a source of cheap labor for footloose corporations. This strategy of specializing in commodities and cheap labor is intended to enrich the Southern oligarchy. It doesn't enrich the majority of Southerners, white, black or brown, but it is not intended to."
Southern "pimps" -- Lind's term for the region's conservative leaders -- threaten non-Southern states by seeking to strip them of "their best companies and industries" and thus cripple their economies. They do this through cheap labor and other repressive means at home.
Another interesting read is Katherine S. Newman’s analysis of tax policies in the South and West, part of a series about inequality called "The Great Divide."
In her article "In the South and West, A Tax on Being Poor," which appeared in the New York Times last month, the Johns Hopkins University sociologist outlines the dependence on regressive taxes -- like the sales tax -- in the South and West, a dependence that certainly has long characterized the South. The rich and corporations get the breaks at the expense of the working class and the poor.
Meanwhile, Southern states like Mississippi look to the federal government to fill the gaps they refuse to fill (see map above, from Mother Jones magazine). "The Southern states reap more tax dollars in federal benefits that they pay in taxes," Newman writes. Mississippi "saw a net gain of $240 billion between 1990 and 2009," while states that do more to care for their people "lose out for every dollar they pay."
Joe Atkins is a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi and author of "Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press." A veteran journalist, Atkins previously worked as the congressional correspondent with Gannett New Service's Washington bureau and with newspapers in North Carolina and Mississippi.