Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sectionalism in Auto Bailout Debate

Last night, while the House of Representatives was taking a vote on a procedural matter on the automaker bailout legislation, CSPAN played a clip of Republican Senators denouncing the possible bailout. The Senators who spoke were Shelby from Alabama, DeMint from South Carolina, and Coburn from Oklahoma. All three states were part of the Old Confederacy.

Sectionalism is nothing new in American politics. Since the beginning of the United States, there have been sectional disputes centered around the economy. During the Jefferson Administration New England politicians debated the idea of secession. During the Jackson Administration South Carolina talked about secession. Obviously, during the Lincoln Administration secession became a reality.

All of these disputes centered around economic issues, including slavery. While slavery was a moral issue for abolitionists, it was a big economic issue in the South. A lot of Southern plantation owners had wealth tied up in owning slaves.

So sectionalism in American politics is nothing new, and sectionalism based on economic issues is certainly not new. Given that fact, then how do you rise about sectionalism? You rise about sectionalism by pointing out how interconnected the American economy is and how that what happens to one section hurts all sections.

What those of us in Northern states need to point out is that millions of Americans losing their jobs hurts all of us. Interestingly, there is an article on the Forbes website that points out that Southern auto workers realize this fact. Here is a quote from the article:

"If they go under I don't know what's in store for us," said the 41-year-old employee at Nissan Motor Co. (nasdaq: NSANY - news - people )'s Smyrna assembly plant. "Everybody at Nissan is scared."

The worker being quoted works at a Nissan plant in Tennessee. She realizes that the failure of GM and Chrysler would cripple auto production because of the effect on suppliers.

There is also the fact that bankruptcy of Chrysler and GM would actually cost more than the cost of the bailout being debated. If there is a bankruptcy, then literally thousands of jobs will be lost, leading to an increase for things like unemployment, medicaid, and a loss of tax revenue for local and state governments.

Southern politicians need to understand that poking the Yankees in the eye may lead to vision problems for residents of their states as well.

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