The Automakers Bailout Debate: The New Civil War

It’s no longer Blue versus Gray but rather Blue versus Red. And although the colors may be different, the northern and southern states still remain at odds. The American automakers’ crisis just may be another salvo in the war between the states.


The debate over the federal government’s involvement in assisting Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, has degenerated into yet another stage act in the theatrics of politics. I have blogged about the bias towards the automakers in the past. This time, besides the Democratic-Republican ideological differences, a geographic factor can be added to the political equation. It appears that it boils down to sympathetic pro-labor politicians in the North versus staunchly conservative anti-bailout politicians from the South. And to a certain degree, some believe that the economic glue that holds this country together is endangered by the potential demise of the Big Three automakers. There appears to be very little interest or concern over this by those who represent states and districts south of the Mason-Dixon Line.



 Last month, Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican senator denigrated the notion of Alabamians helping out fellow American citizens in Michigan and Ohio. Fellow Republican Alabama Senator, Richard Shelby, is rabidly opposed to any help for the automakers. Senator Bob Corker (R) from Tennessee also is against the needed measures.

While the nation agonizes over its financial future, these southern politicians continue to grill the automakers’ brain trust on such important things like their mode of transportation to Washington D.C. for the hearings.


Not surpisingly, the crisis has also managed to dredge out the anti-union sentiments held by many Republican and other politicians. There are a number of southern Democrats who share the same contempt as their Republican brethren.


In all of this, it is important to note that states such as Tennessee (Nissan) Alabama (Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai), Texas (Toyota) Mississippi (Nissan) are homes to foreign automobile manufacturing plants. Georgia will soon have a Kia plant. Volkswagen has announced future plans to build an assembly plant in Tennessee. There are other foreign assembly plants in Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and California. The one thing that they all have in common is that their labor pool is NON-UNIONIZED. We all are aware of the type of labor pool the South prefers and given the investment that foreign automakers have made in the region, it is not surprising that there is absolute disdain for approving loans to the Big Three. Any future calls to “buy American” from these politicians and their constituents should be taken for what it’s worth… purely hypocritical. While the southern states bemoan their obligation to the union and continue their idyllic seperatist ideology, little attention is paid to the fact that the share of federal funds they receive per tax dollar collected is consistently higher than their northern counterparts.


If you listen closely, you’ll hear those opposed to the bridge loans refer to the Big Three as simply “Detroit” in a subliminal attempt to identify the American automakers with the North thus playing into the north-south division card. What they fail to realize is that allowing the automakers from the north to fail will have devastating ramifications for ALL the states including their own.


As President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis once said,


“The principle for which we contend is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form”.


Given the current crisis, these may prove prophetic words indeed.



Note: The author was born in the Northeast and has lived and worked in the southern state of Florida for almost three decades.


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