Saturday, May 22, 2010

The truth behind anti-tax sentiment in the South

Taxes are at historical lows in the United States right now. Not since before the Great Depression have taxes been so low. Yet you have the Teabaggers ranting about taxes. Why?

Historically, the American South in the period from around 1920 to 1965 was characterized by populism. A series of charismatic progressive governors was elected in most Southern states during this time period who brought their backwards states up to then-modern standards in many ways. Public education had been crippled for decades by barriers that prevented most poor kids from advancing past the 6th grade, especially the cost of textbooks. Those barriers were removed and poor kids for the first time had the opportunity for a high school education. Public universities were vastly expanded and tuitions cut to zero for poor kids in many cases, allowing access to higher education for many for the first time. A road network that was primarily rutted dirt roads in 1920 was by 1965 as good as any road network anywhere in the nation. Taxes on the wealthy that basically didn't exist in 1920 were at national norms by 1965. In 1920 most Southerners had no electricity, indoor plumbing, or telephone service, by 1965 those were at national norms. Manufacturers noted the new infrastructure and the newly-educated work force and flocked to the South in droves. Decrepit cities like Houston and Atlanta started throwing up modern skyscrapers and becoming thriving metropolises.

Yet this burst of modernization basically had slammed to a halt by 1975. Instead of electing progressive governors, the South started electing regressives, people intent upon rolling back the reforms instituted by the progressives. When progressives did get elected, like Edwin Edwards in Louisiana during the late 1970's, they found themselves fighting holding actions, basically trying to keep government services from being gutted by a populace increasingly hostile to government. City parks and recreation programs were gutted and closed, city bus services were cut back or eliminated, and the roads and schools started to deteriorate. A few cities fought back and managed to become isolated islands of progressivism and prosperity, but most Southern cities started a long slide to ruin.

What happened? Why did the South go from being a hotbed of progressivism to being a hotbed of Republican regression? Uhm, dude. What happened in 1965? Hint: Civil Rights Act of 1965, which forced government services to be provided equally to both blacks and whites.

And that is the truth behind the anti-tax anti-government sentiment in the South: It is 100% motivated by racism. Southerners were quite content with progressivism as long as its benefits were limited to white Southerners. But the moment they were forced by the courts to share city swimming pools and schools and buses with blacks, they suddenly abandoned progressivism. This wasn't motivated by a sudden discrediting of progressive thought. This wasn't motivated by an intellectual awakening. This was 100% pure, unadulterated racism.

As a youngster growing up in the South, I saw this first-hand in the gritty industrial city where I was born. Municipal swimming pools that I had swam in during my childhood were closed because "if we gotta share swimming pools with niggers, we just ain't gonna have no swimming pools at all." The school district's budget was gutted and what had been ultra-modern schools with the best facilities in 1960 became, by 1975, run-down hellholes where the science labs were filled with obsolete equipment, the swimming pool was filled in, the track was overgrown with grass and barely visible, and the tennis courts had no nets, not to mention the holes in the walls, the dirty and disintegrating asbestos tile floors, the leaky roofs... you get the point. When the desegregation orders came down and they were forced to share the schools with blacks, the white majority suddenly became anti-public-education regressives where previously they had been rabidly pro-public-education progressives.

In short, anti-tax sentiment in the South -- and the teabagger movement as an extension -- is 100% motivated by spite and hate and bigotry against black people. "If a nigger is going to get some benefit from a government service, we don't need that government service, even if I benefit too" has become the predominant line of thinking in the South. And thus Huey Long's Big Charity in New Orleans stands vacant and empty, waiting for the wrecking ball, and his promise of free medical care for any Louisianian who needed it has become as much a thing of the past as the once-modern roads and infrastructure that have turned into decaying potholed embarrassments.

-- Badtux the Southern Penguin


  1. Having lived in South Carolina for 16 of my adult years after college (1/2 during Republican, and 1/2 during Democratic administrations), I can second your diagnosis. Spot on, sadly.

  2. It wasn't just the Civil Rights Acts. Nixon's Southern Strategy, and Reagan's Philadelphia Mississippi "states' rights" speech were the mobilizing factors.

    I'm not a huge LBJ fan, but he saw what needed to done, did it, and damn the consequences. Repugs grabbed that opportunity, and began their descent into deceit and cynicism.

    How can anyone take seriously a party that seeks to put vacuous no-nothings like Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin a heart-beat from the presidency?

    Never mind. I think I know.


  3. Come to think of it, Reagan was damned close to a vacuous no-nothing, and Bush II was the poster child.

    bother (the wv - no foolin')

  4. You know sometimes it's hard to hear the truth. I lived in Ocean Springs Mississippi back in 1969. I don't have to tell you how it was. I remember way back then thinking in time this would all change. I couldn't have been more wrong. The one thing that might change things is education and even that is being trashed by the Christian Right. While it fills me with rage, it also makes me sad for our future.

  5. my mother was one of those ladies who march against integration here in New Orleans. I was too young to stay at home alone.
    the whites here hate blacks to such a degree and i sense the feeling is mutual after all this time.

    the whites left this city to decay and moved out to the now called suburbs.

    i was sent to a private school that my mother and other white parents build from their own money. they built from their own sweat and labor and hiring those to do the rest.

    the spite and jealousy of giving money to the Blacks is so endemic of the South as a whole.

    and now the Republicans have mobilized that hatred/fear mostly of being second class citizens, since there were more blacks in some states than white. a holding action, and LBJ blew it up in their faces.

    so now it's payback time.

    don't wonder why! the Civil Rights movement is now being overturned and is being led by the Republicans.

    problem is that the Republicans are screwing all the white people who aren't rich. they are making sure the Blacks get screwed as they go about undoing the Civil Rights Movement, they are also screwing the rest of the white middle class as well

    and the white middle class has been such a happy camper helping the Republicans do this.

    ignorance is not bliss, i can tell you that.

    the South is hell, i sure hope the Final Days comes so these religious lunatics who helped the Republicans screw us all will meet their maker.

    if only

  6. Yeppers, racism is the truth that dare not speak its name when it comes to tax policy. Racism was also the driving force between 1978's Proposition 13 in California... white Californians saw that California was quickly becoming a majority-brown state (it is now), and did their best to knee-cap the government fiscally so that their tax money wouldn't benefit those darned darkies. But this is a truth that dare not speak its name in California, just as it's a truth that teabaggers deny about their own movement.

    So it goes, in the United States of Liars...

    - Badtux the Disgusted Penguin

  7. I grew up in the northern half of the Florida peninsula which, if you know Florida, is actually part of the Deep South. (South Florida is northern; North Florida is southern.)

    My parents had a neighbor who always voted for Democrats. His rationale: Lincoln was a Republican.

    Talk about not getting the memo ...

    While I question the bases of many conservative ideals, I would disagree with the contention that they all spring from racism. Considering what conservatism has come to stand for, though, I couldn't call myself one.

    Comes right down to it, I'm closer to left-libertarian. Which, in the USA, is one of the many synonyms for "politically irrelevant".

  8. Having lived in the South, and seen the conditions prior to desegregation of schools and the rage afterwards...yeah, another saying "spot on"...and so sadly so. I was a youngster hoping to see that hatred end. No, it has gone guerrilla as "patriotism" now.

  9. Jbrock, I wouldn't say that all conservative ideals stem from racism. Not even all anti-government/anti-tax sentiment does. However, I was *there* when the South switched from being pro-government progressive to anti-government regressive, and I heard from the *horses' mouth* exactly why -- "I ain't gonna have none of my tax money go towards services for niggers, even if that means I go without those services too."

    - Badtux the Southern Penguin

  10. The salient fact in American politics is that there are always enough people to swing an election who would volunteer to move with their family to a cardboard box under a railroad bridge, and toast sparrows on an old curtain rod over an open fire, provided you guarantee them that a.) the people in the next box over -- black, gay, foreign, liberal, different -- don't even get the sparrow and b.) they can watch them not-getting the sparrow.

    The long-term prospects for any political party or philosophy that hasn't come to grips with the fact that most people, au fond, are shits, are not good. Democrats in particular don't want to go there.

    One of the strengths of The Federalist Papers is the authors' unjaundiced view of mankind.

  11. What's really ironic about this whole thing is that the overriding sentiment of "those people aren't any good" is a direct paraphrase of Romans 3:10..."There is none righteous, no, not one." I think that Lex Luthar said it best in the 1978 version of Superman: "People are no damn good."

    So, they're calling themselves Christians and hating people of color because those people are "no damn good" and their own dogma (mine, too by the way) states that NONE are any damn good.

    None of us.

    That means that I suck just as much as the next guy. I guess I'm a traitor to the conservative cause because I recognize that I'm not any better than the next guy.

    Very sad.

  12. I, too, grew up in the South. As for progress, don't forget air conditioning. It is THE miracle that made the unbearable heat here bearable and opened the floodgates to folks from other cooler regions.

    As for anti-tax = racism. It's a fair reading of the history. But there's more; there's a sense of regionalism (xenophobia) in there as well. With some notable exceptions, blacks and whites mingled more easily in the desegregating South than in, say, Boston. Don't kid yourself. While there was hatred among some, there was acceptance by others here.

    Rather, the sense that tax monies were going off to help, yes, inner city minorities and others in the North was simply too much. It was a hangover of one of the same economic problems that animated the Civil War: our resources (cotton/tax money) being exploited by unscrupulous mercantilist Northerners.

    Also, Southerners (for the most part) gladly fought the Vietnam police action thingy. When they saw their taxes going to places that coddled protestors and unpatriotic sorts in other regions, why they wanted to have none of that either.

    There was a religious component as well. Liberal religion didn't work down here; so the Conservatives monopolized it. Their sense of victimization and moral ressentiment easily translated into anti-tax, anti-Fed sentiment.

    Also, don't neglect the weight of just plain selfishness, especially in benighted rural pockets.

    Granted, racism cuts across most of these categories, but I don't believe it is solely explanatory.

    Jim H.

  13. The problem with the regionalist explanation, Jim, is that the South receives far more tax money from the Federal Government than it receives from the Federal Government -- and furthermore, it wasn't just federal government that suddenly became "The Enemy", it was local and state governments too, where regionalist explanations simply don't apply. Like I said, I was *there*. I *saw* the swimming pools where I swam closed because once black people were allowed (via court order) to swim in them, white people didn't want to do so -- and weren't going to pay taxes to keep them open, nosiree. Same deal with many other government services and facilities. The white flight to the suburbs to get away from blacks in the newly-integrated schools turned thriving neighborhoods into empty shells within only a few years time, and then the school budgets were gutted. I go back to the neighborhood where I was born, and it's like someone flew over it in a B-52 bomber and dropped a whole bellyful of bombs on it... most of the homes are just *gone*, leaving holes behind, and the remaining few are lonely in the midst of ruins.

    So no, I don't buy the regionalist explanation. And no, I don't accuse Southerners of being the *only* racists in America -- the Boston Southies should have put the lie to that one, and I've mentioned many other cases of non-Southerners being racists here on this blog -- but I'm saying that the South's sudden switch from progressive pro-government populism to regressive anti-government Republicanism was almost 100% motivated by racism. Granted, I can't prove that. But the coincidences -- and the things I heard during the time it happened -- sure seem to add up for me.

    - Badtux the Southern Penguin

  14. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 did not automatically end all racism, and everyone wasn't singing Happy Day the next week and all the problems were solved. I know you did not say this in your blog, but it is an underlying meaning when describing the the date and actions of those immediately around the implementation of the act.

    White people who had grown up in the era of government sponsored racism now had to abide by the law that ended the government sponsoring of it. Do you think minds that have spent a life time of being told that blacks can not be as smart or as civilized as whites can change on a dime? Hell no.

    Most of the blatant racism that was standard in 1964 does not exist today. Now there are those that were taught by their parents(imagine parents actually teaching their kids - another blog) racist beliefs. These have slowed down over the years, but a small percentage of families still do teach that blacks are not smart, or civilized, or capable of being normal.

    I tend to believe that the Tea Party is upset because they know the Bush tax cuts will expire next year, and hopefully be known as the Obama Tax Increase of 2011. Those who have ideas for products or services, those who are able to make a product better or a service more efficient - those are the ones who provide jobs.

    No one has ever worked for a poor person. It is those who are successful and make money that are able to hire more and contribute more to the community. The ones you see are the ones who either have a small business and know where every dime of their business income is going, or those who work for said business, or those who want to create a business to be successful with their ideas.

    I've done the math, and there are way too many taxes to just start a business that requires a few employees without a good amount of liquid capital to overcome the tax burden until a decent amount of money is made.

    These people I have described above are sick and tired of constantly paying taxes and the government giving to people who do not want to work - ever. These welfare kings and queens are not only black, but white and brown and green.

    So it's not about racism, its about getting of your ass and getting to work. The government has become the church of the liberals to force people to give to help others. Where churches now help people, imagine what would happen if we did not have welfare and the taxes were reduced. More money would be given to the churches to help, more money would be spent on products creating the need for more jobs.

    I hope that someday you will see that the forced help in the form of taxes will not bring about a better life for your community.

  15. If you've "done the math", then you musta flunked math in high school. By *every* measure, by every number we have from all credible sources, the United States is the least-taxed OECD nation other than Mexico and Turkey -- and surely you're not saying that Mexico and Turkey should be the models for America? I mean, even Japan and South Korea now pay more taxes than Americans! And BTW, I've started a business before. Taxes did not even enter into the equation. The only taxes I paid as a small business owner starting out was a small license fee (I think it was $350) and sales taxes on the things I sold (which I charged to the customer, doh). I didn't start paying income taxes until I started having actual income, and while I paid property taxes, they were pretty minimal on the small space I had (something like $500 for the year). My biggest issue with money was rent and meeting payroll, not taxes. If your numbers added up to something different, you need to go back and take remedial 6th grade math, dude.

    Your attempt to claim that "welfare queens" are causing "too many taxes" is just utter balderdash and complete right-wing liar fare. The non-Medicare non-Social Security social services budget in the United States has accounted for less than 10% of government spending since Bill Clinton (the best Republican President of the past thirty years) slashed social services spending to the bone with his "Welfare Reform". If you want wasteful spending, look at defense spending, which accounts for over 50% of the discretionary budget of the USA.

    Face it: Your problem is that blacks are getting ANY money at all, not taxes. You're a fucking bigot and you try to hide it under that "taxes are too high" line of reeking bullshit. Well I'm calling you out, mister. Come back here and spew that line of lies and bull again, and I'll say the same fucking thing: There is no -- *ZERO* -- evidence that the United States is overtaxed, and your objection to the pitifully tiny amount that goes to social services in the United States has *nothing* to do with the existence of "welfare queens", and *everything* to do with the fact that niggers as well as whites get money from those social services. Just like my home city cut taxes and services to the bone because the white population didn't want to swim in the same swimming pools as niggers, you say the same thing about all other social services. At least be honest about your objection, instead of cloaking it in lies about "high taxes".

    - Badtux the "Better idiots, please" Penguin

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  17. Okay, all you did was repeat the talking points, insults, and stupidity from your first post. If you have something new, other than the same spew of lies, you're welcome to come back. Until then, you are *GONE*.

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  19. I've been mulling this over since you first posted this entry and I think that you are both right, but that you are also underestimating the darkness in the souls of many people.

    There is an old Russian story about a peasant who finds a magic lamp. When he rubs it, a genie appears. The genies says that he will grant the peasant any wish he desires, but that the wish will apply twice over to his neighbor.

    The peasant thinks for a second and asks the genie to remove one of his testicles.

    I cannot tell you how many times I've seen people in litigation choose courses of action that will hurt them financially, if only because the guy on the other side of the case will be hurt even worse.

    So yes, I think you are right that racism is a part of this. But I also think that the darkness goes deeper into the souls of people than just racism. There is an element of tribalism or just pure meanness of spirit in a significant percentage of humans.

  20. So bring some facts to the table -- such as some evidence that taxes are NOT the lowest that they've been since before the Great Depression -- and you have an open table for discussion. Until then, you're not discussing. You're just crapflooding, attempting to bury the discussion under piles of reeking bullshit and talking points. "Arguing" that way is not discussing, it's intellectual thuggery.

    The fact that you see no difference between intellectual thuggery and fact-based discussion doesn't surprise me. I haven't met a right-winger yet who was capable of bringing anything but talking points fed to them by their Party commissars at Faux News and Hate Radio to the table. So where are your facts? You don't have any, all you have is the same tired old talking points that you want to pretend are facts. And the fact that you don't appear capable of telling the difference just goes to show the intellectual bankruptcy of the current right wing in America. Somewhere the ghosts of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley are groaning in pain...

    - Badtux the "Bring facts, not talking points" Penguin

  21. FACTS:
    Year 1980:
    Top Income tax rate: 70%
    Richest 1% paid only 19% of all income taxes.

    Year 2004:
    Top Income Tax Rate: 35%
    Richest 1% paid 39% of all income taxes, up 2% from when President Bush took office.

    Top 50% of income earners paid 97% of all taxes. Scroll down to row 154 and read from there.

    NYT Article

    "The top 1 percent of income earners paid about 36.7 percent of federal income taxes and 25.3 percent of all federal taxes in 2004. The top 20 percent of income earners paid 67.1 percent of all federal taxes, up from 66.1 percent in 2000, according to the budget office.

    By contrast, families in the bottom 40 percent of income earners, those with incomes below $36,300, typically paid no federal income tax and received money back from the government. That so-called negative income tax stemmed mainly from the earned-income tax credit, a program that benefits low-income parents who are employed."

    Now tell me how I'm wrong about those who pay have a right to be mad about those who don't pay. Tell me how that's a talking point.

    I'm glad I saved my last post, though wish I had save the second one. I've been looking for the talking points, but I didn't find any. I told how I provided examples of how I'm not a racist, and mentioned the Fairness Doctrine and how it would apply to your blog if enacted.

    So your response to these facts would be appreciated.

  22. Wow, so many out-of-context statistics, so little time. You've motivated me to put a detailed debunking later on this evening (I'm in the middle of building a PBX at the moment) and I will do so with full numbers and links to the actual statistics, but anyhow:

    1. Federal income taxes are just *one* tax, one tax that you're cherry-picking for your own political purposes. The janitor who just vacuumed my office will be very surprised to find out that he doesn't pay taxes. He paid a 9% consumption tax on the food he bought today, he paid a similar tax on the gasoline he bought to drive here today, his paycheck is going to have around 8.5% missing out of it to pay mandatory SSI, Medicare, and disability insurance, in short he's paying around 16% of his income in taxes just right off the bat. That's not including the property tax he pays that's built into his rent at the apartment he lives in, which is another significant chunk of money, and it's non-deductible for him. The non-partisan Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy said ten years ago that the average state and local tax on the richest families is only 7.9%, while the poorest families pay a whopping 12.5% of their meager incomes in state and local taxes. States nationwide have hiked their sales tax rates since then, so it's probably even higher today. Add in the fact that the richest families pay almost nothing as a percentage of their income in payroll taxes (because of the payroll tax cap at $120,000), and suddenly things don't look as clear as you say.

    2) You ignore the role of income inequality and that the rich have gotten richer over the past three decades, while the poor and middle class have pretty much tread water. The rich are paying more in taxes today because they're *making* more. As a *percentage* of their income, however, they're paying *less* today. For example, the California Franchise Board recently released statistics on California income taxes today as vs. 30 years ago. What they found was that income tax collections have gone up significantly over that time... but incomes have gone up even faster, so that as a *percentage* of income, they're collecting less money today than they collected 30 years ago.

    More on that later, but you'll find selling the notion that rich people pay too much taxes is a hard sale, given that yes, they pay a lot of taxes compared to 30 years ago, but their income has risen even faster than their tax burden -- *way* faster. I'll give you the statistics in the full post.


    This kind of out-of-context lying with uncomparable statistics is typical of right-wing "discourse". For example, right-wingers are fond of saying that the Reagan tax cuts increased the amount of money collected by the federal government. However, if you look at the actual numbers, no they did not. Income tax collections fell dramatically, and did not recover until the Tax Reform Act of 1986 created a hidden tax hike to make up for the loss. So why do right-wingers claim "the amount of money increased"? Well, because the Social Security tax was hiked from 9% to 15% during that time -- and they're counting the Social Security tax collections as money collected by the federal government, but they're NOT COUNTING IT AS A TAX! That sort of dishonesty is typical of right-wingers because the plain fact is that the facts are not on their side -- so rather than argue based on the facts, they argue based only upon out-of-context numbers that in many cases *aren't even comparable* (clearly a 6% hike in the SS tax is a tax hike, but by claiming it's not but also claiming that the money that it brings in is revenue, you can claim that tax cuts increase revenues! Wow, what cool lie to spread!).

    - Badtux the Busy Penguin

  23. See my demolishment of the "the rich pay too much taxes" nonsense. I especially love one of the sources of data I used there -- that notorious liberal, Rush Limbaugh :). Note that effective tax rates have fall for *ALL* Americans over the past 30 years... except for the very poorest. More on that later, but the fact remains that high taxes are not the motivation behind the "Tea Party", because we don't have high taxes, just a lot of people using "taxes" as an excuse for their anti-government agenda -- an anti-government agenda that, I hold, is more than a little tinged with racism, since it is government that is forcing racists to do the "immoral mixing with other races" that they hate.

    I.e, take any further discussion of taxes to the new thread. Thank you.

    - Badtux the Back-on-point Penguin

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  25. My blog isn't a place for you to advertise links to tools spewing talking points, that is the same as posting the talking points directly. See the comments policy that appears when you post a comment.

    Lest you say, "but... but... a black teabagger!", dude, nobody ever accused the Tea Party of being the KKK. They don't go around wanting to lynch people or something. They just don't want government spending money on those people -- you know, those people, who, like, aren't like us? Everybody's definition of those people is different, and digging up a couple of black teabaggers whose definition of those people undoubtedly is Mexicans (as I've previously pointed out on this blog, whites have no monopoly on racism) does not change the overall picture IMHO.

  26. Again, W O W!!!!!

    Your complete lack of thought is absolutely amazing.

    You: Make a point Tea Partiers are racist.

    Me: Counter point with personal examples.

    You: Stop using talking points.

    Me: Counter with real examples.

    You: Stop using talking points:

    Me: Counter with video proof.

    You: Stop using talking points your still racist.

    Who is the racist here? You claim the Tea Party is because you have NOTHING ELSE to say.

    I think you made your point quite clear, that no matter what I or anybody else says to prove the Tea Party is not racist, you will say it is. That is the only defense you have because it still stirs up emotions instead of thought.

    I encourage others to search for examples on how the Tea Party is or is not racist. I'm sure they will find more examples of the latter and very few and rare of the former.

    Just because ONE black congressman said somebody called him a name without proof, you will stick to that.

    I am left to only believe that you are the one who cannot deviate from your talking points, maybe I should call you a name that stings with emotion that is not relevant to the topic so I don't have to argue my points anymore.

    That sounds fair.


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