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Do Southern Senators Really Want to Start a New War Between the States?

01/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When my Southern pals used to say "The South is gonna rise again," I doubt this is what they had in mind: A cadre of Southern Senators, heavily financed by foreign automakers and special interests, declaring war on the American Dream of good wages and decent benefits. When did they decide that hard-working people trying to make a better life for themselves are the enemy?

These Senators may want to think twice. Southern states have been benefiting from Northern taxes for years. If they start another War Between the States, the Federal gravy train might suddenly stop at the Mason-Dixon line.

Studies by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation have consistently shown that these Senators' states receive far more from the Federal government than they pay back in taxes. That's an irony that could lead to some Blue State bitterness: They love to preach about fiscal responsibility and lower taxes, but they keep dipping their beak into the Federal trough.

I believe the applicable Southern phrase is "a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged."

The numbers in the Foundation's most recent study (warning: pdf) speak for themselves: Mitch McConnell's Kentucky took in $1.45 from the Feds for every dollar it paid in taxes. That's a 45 cent free ride. Bob Corker's Tennessee received at 30-cent Federal giveaway. And Richard Shelby's Alabama extracted a whopping 71-cent subsidy from Northern taxpayers.

What about Michigan? They lost 31 cents for every dollar they paid. In other words, McConnell, Shelby, and Corker have been skimming a percentage off these autoworkers' taxes for years on behalf of their constituents. Now, when the same Michigan taxpayers need help, these Senators are telling them to get lost.

It may not be wise for these Senators to push Northern voters too far. Taxpayers in Michigan, New York, Illinois and the other "donor states" may decide thay can't afford to keep subsidizing their Southern counterparts in a time of crisis - especially if all they get in return is "Drop Dead" on a Christmas card.

These are tough times. We should be pulling together, not exacerbating our divisions. And nobody would win a new War Between the States: Not the Democrats, whose 50-state strategy is just beginning to pay off. Not the Republicans, who Dick Cheney rightly noted are at risk of becoming the "Herbert Hoover Party." And probably not these Southern Senators, either. They could go down in history as the guys who killed a mighty sweet deal.

RJ Eskow blogs when he can at:

A Night Light
The Sentinel Effect: Healthcare Blog

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