Trump and GOP Tax Cut Is Handing Corporations Like Ford a Giant Incentive to Move Offshore Giant corporations got what they wanted out of Republicans on taxes, now they’re lobbying the Trump administration hard to retain their NAFTA privileges.

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Ford hit Michigan and its auto workers with some crappy holiday news. Instead of building a $700 million electric vehicle factory in Michigan as promised in January, Ford will construct the plant in Mexico.

Ford reneged on its promise to Michigan workers just days after the Senate passed a tax plan intended to end levies on corporate profits made at factories offshore – in places like Mexico. News of the letdown also arrived just days before new negotiations on a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are to begin in Washington, D.C.

Ford and other giant corporations got what they wanted out of Republicans on taxes, dramatically lower levies on domestic profits and total elimination on foreign profits. That makes Mexico an even more attractive manufacturing site for them than NAFTA did. So now they’re lobbying the Trump administration hard to retain the privileges that NAFTA bestowed on them. If they win that argument, they’ll have secured double incentives to offshore.

Trump administration officials don’t sound like they’re buying the corporate line, however. And they shouldn’t. NAFTA has cost Americans nearly a million jobs as thousands of factories migrated to Mexico. As he campaigned, President Trump promised untold numbers of factory workers and their families across the nation’s industrial belt that he would fix or end NAFTA to keep jobs and industry in America. He needs to keep that promise.

That means elimination of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) scam that allows corporations to sue governments in secret courts presided over by corporate lawyers when legislatures pass laws corporations don’t like. That means standing strong on the Trump administration demands that the new pact expire in five years if it’s not working and that a substantial portion of automobiles – including Fords – be made in the USA to attain duty-free status. It means strong protection for workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain. It means substantially raising the Mexican minimum wage, which now stands at $4.70. That’s for a day, not an hour.

What it really means is prioritizing the needs of workers over the demands of corporations, something that was not done the first time around by NAFTA negotiators. As it stands now, NAFTA places all of the jeopardy on the shoulders of workers and communities while substantially eliminating normal business risks for corporations.

The jeopardy NAFTA created for workers is that its corporate-friendly provisions prompt employers to close American factories that sustain both workers and communities and move them to Mexico. This exodus of American manufacturing to Mexico has continued apace this year, even as the Trump administration began renegotiating NAFTA, probably because corporations assume they’ll get everything they want in the end. They have, after all, always done so in the past because they are, after all, massive political campaign donors and lobby firm patrons, while hourly workers are not.

Bloomberg reported in October, for example, that firms whose function it is to help corporations move factories from the United States to Mexico had a boom year in 2017, with one reporting it had done more offshoring this year than in any during the previous three decades.

Mexico is alluring because of its dirt-cheap wage rates, the paucity of environmental enforcement and the ISDS scam that lets corporations sue the government if Mexico would regulate in a way some CEO claims would crimp his profits.

The ISDS along with NAFTA’s unlimited lifespan reduce risk for corporations. Normal business decisions in capitalist systems involve some jeopardy. A chemical company could, for example, invest in developing a new pesticide, but then lose when the government bans the product after determining it kills babies as well as bugs.

NAFTA provides corporations with investment protection because it ensures they’ll get their profits even if a government changes regulations. ISDS enables corporations to sue to recoup money the corporations supposedly would have made if the government hadn’t issued new laws or regulations. The corporate-run court can order a country’s citizens to pay tens of millions to the corporation.

Some say this government-financed investment insurance corrupts capitalism. Among the significant people who have is U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. He said corporations are insisting the government absolve CEOs of political risk. CEOs are using ISDS as a guarantee rather than buying risk insurance or factoring political risk into economic decisions about whether to move.

Lighthizer said businessmen have literally told him the administration cannot change ISDS because corporations wouldn’t have invested in Mexico without it. “I’m thinking,” he said, “‘Well, then, why is it a good policy of the United States government to encourage investment in Mexico?’”

These are the same corporate honchos who object to a five-year sunset clause for a new NAFTA, he said. They want a free eternal warranty on the provisions of a deal they describe as the world’s greatest. Lighthizer’s response is that if the deal is so great, why would the government choose to end it after five years? What are they really worried about?

The worry may be that those CEOs know NAFTA is great for their bottom line but not for the workers who elected Donald Trump President.

They know NAFTA was drafted by CEOs for CEOs. Its priorities were determined by corporate bigwigs behind doors closed to the public. Corporations designed it at the expense of workers and ordinary citizens, Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist, said in an op-ed in the Guardian newspaper this week.

It often seems, he wrote, “that workers, who have seen their wages fall and jobs disappear, are just collateral damage – innocent but unavoidable victims in the inexorable march of economic progress. But there is another interpretation of what has happened: one of the objectives of globalization was to weaken workers’ bargaining power. What corporations wanted was cheaper labor, however they could get it.”

U.S. corporations like Ford got it by writing a trade deal that gave them market-distorting profit protections, then abandoning their dedicated American workers and moving to Mexico where they could pay $4.70 a day and pollute unfettered.

President Trump has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if his negotiators can’t get new reasonable terms that protect American manufacturing and American workers.

That is right. It’s appropriate that corporations like Ford sustain the actual risk of offshoring rather than workers bearing it all.

By Leo Gerard / AlterNe

Posted by The NON-Confomist


Why the Republicans’ Tax Proposal Will Disproportionately Harm Black Families

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Following the Democrats’ unexpectedly thorough victory this past election day, where the party won almost every competitive race, the congressional Republicans found themselves in an unexpected position, of losing part of their base. Desperate to pass their first major piece of legislation before the 2018 midterm election season begins, the congressional Republicans are eyeing an aggressive tax reform package as their key to validating the Right’s faith in them.

The competing versions of the tax proposal — the Senate version was released on November 9, with the House version being released a week prior — will both reduce taxes on average for all income groups, per analysis by the Tax Policy Center. However, with the top two quintiles by income receiving 78.7 percent of all total federal tax and those in the bottom two quintiles seeing less than a 1 percent change in their average after-tax income, the House proposal is specifically designed to appease wealthy and corporate campaign donors. The House tax proposal will yield $6.2 trillion in tax savings over the next decade, with 47 percent of this going to the top 1 percent.

In contrast, the tax proposal proposed by 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would have raised taxes $1.4 trillion over a decade, with the wealthiest 1 percent — those with cash income in excess of $699,000 — paying for 92 percent of this. The lowest two quintiles would have received the greatest benefits under this plan.

African-Americans — particularly, poor African-Americans — are likely to be hit hard by these tax proposals. While the impact will be less than that of the proposals Donald Trump originally called for in 2016, the effect of these possible changes stand to exacerbate poverty rates, increase the wealth disparity gap, and stop Black post-Great Recession recovery dead in its tracks.

The House and Senate plans both call for deep cuts to the corporate tax rate. Republicans have for years made the claim that the corporate tax rate is too high and that it is strangling the nation’s competitiveness in world markets. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development argues that it is true that the United States does have the highest corporate tax rate, but only if you are looking at the statutory rate.

As the United States uses a deductions-based tax system, the statutory rate represents only the most one can pay, without fine or other penalties. In reality, the average effective corporate tax rate, per OECD, is only 18 percent — below Argentina, Japan, and the United Kingdom and two percent lower than the twenty percent rate proposed by the Republican proposals.

A key philosophy in Republican tax bill writing is “broaden the base, lower the rate,” which can be translated into a push to lower the statutory rates while limiting or closing loopholes that affect the effective rate. In other words, the strategy behind the Republican proposals is to have those that would pay the 20 percent statutory rate actually pay 20 percent corporate income tax — which would be a tax increase for most businesses.

This push to bring the statutory and effective rates in line extend to income taxes, as well. The Republican proposals opt to eliminate most deductions, including elimination of the state and local tax deduction, a reduction of the mortgage interest deduction (the House limits it to the first $500,000 of a property’s cost, the Senate to the first $1 million), and an elimination of the dependent deduction (this will be met with an increase in the child tax credit and the standard deduction). Also to be affected is the estate tax (the House wants it fully eliminated, the Senate wants to double the threshold for the tax). Since the bill was introduced, the House bill has undone the elimination of the adoption tax credit.

Beyond the obvious that such proposals would punish those that itemize their taxes in states with heavy state tax burdens — which are typically blue states, like New York and California — and taxpayers that have more than two children (African-American families are more likely to have four or more children than white families), these deduction eliminations may have a deeper implication

Take renting, for example. African-Americans outpace all other races in regards to households that pay rent for their primary residence. As of the third quarter 2017, 42 percent of African-American households owned their home, compared to 72.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 46 percent of Hispanics, and 57.1 percent of all other races, per the U.S. Census Bureau. Aggressive home lending policies and a post-Great Recession recovery have had minimal effect on increasing the home purchasing rates for Black homeowners over the last ten years.

This is troubling when taken with the news that the average African-American household in 2016 paid 44 percent of their take-home income in rent, a four-point increase from five years earlier. A study by Zillow showed the average income for Black households over the same period of time only increased by 2.9 percent, compared to a 5.4 percent rise in white communities. In white communities, the average cost of rent is about 31 percent.

This is causing an affordability crisis. As more African-American families must pay more for housing, they can save less to actually buy their own homes. This ensures that more Black households stay renters longer. “African-American and Hispanic renters find themselves in a catch-22 situation — while owning a home is a great way to build wealth, you need to save up some cash to be able to buy. If you’re spending close to half of your income on rent, saving up that down payment is going to be incredibly difficult,” Dr. Svenja Guedell, chief economist for Zillow, said in a press release.

Per Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, more than 11 million American households spend more than 50 percent of their take-home income in rent.

A little-reported element of the Republicans’ tax proposal threatens to exacerbate this problem. The Senate bill seeks to protect the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit that the House bill seeks to limit. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit is singularly the nation’s chief engine for affordable housing investment. The credit gives a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for the development of affordable housing for Americans with low incomes. Roughly 90 percent of all affordable housing construction in the United States is funded in part through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

The push for a 20 percent corporate statutory tax rate will effectively dry out the low-income housing funding industry. The House bill eliminates the tax exemption on private-activity bonds — the primary way municipalities and states pay for LIHTC projects. These are tax-exempt bonds that can be offered by a governmental agency to a private developer for qualifying projects. The elimination of these could mean the elimination of 60,000 affordable houses built or rehabilitated per year.

Even though the Senate bill protects PABs, the 20 percent corporate tax rate still hinders the effectiveness of LIHTC funding. “It would be a catastrophe,” Bob Moss, principal and national director of governmental affairs at CohnReznick, told Affordable Housing Finance. “In New York alone, housing advocates project that [the state] will lose $4.5 billion in affordable housing investment, 17,000 affordable homes, and 28,000 jobs annually. The national impact of losing 50 percent of production is devastating, at a time when an estimated 25 million Americans are paying more than 50 percent of their monthly income in rent.”

This push to curry political favor before the midterms bears the potential of causing economic calamity for millions. Peter Schaeffing is the president of High Impact Financial Analysis, a top-five national community development finance consultancy. In conversation with Atlanta Black Star, Schaeffing explained that the tax proposals not only have the potential to stop new low-income housing development but slow the purchasing of existing properties for conversion to low-income housing rentals due to the mortgage interest deduction limitation.

“The tax reform bill would reduce the supply of affordable housing, and slow other development in low-income, distressed neighborhoods,” Schaeffing said. “People of color will be disproportionately affected by the elimination of the historic tax credit, the new markets tax credit, and private activity bonds (which facilitate 60 percent of affordable housing developments using the low-income housing tax credit). These changes would have a devastating impact on communities’ ability to meet the increasing demand for affordable housing, further increasing the rent burden on minority families.”

In real terms, the Republicans’ tax plans have the potential to raise the rent burden on low-income African-American households. This can create a cash crunch that would limit the ability to buy food and other essentials and to have any discretionary spending. This could crater the economy of the Black community, creating a sectored economic depression. Such a scenario would not only make the wealth disparity gap worse but would endanger the health and well-being of millions.

“Americans are especially likely to face a tax increase if they have a smaller family, have mostly wage income instead of investment income, or claim some of the many deductions that the bill repeals, like those for state and local taxes and employee business expenses,” Lily Batchelder, a professor and tax specialist at New York University Law School who worked on economic policy in the Obama administration, told the New York Times. “They are increasing taxes on many in the middle class while concentrating their tax cuts on the wealthy.”

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitting that the Senate’s tax proposal will raise taxes for some in the middle class, and with most conceding that the Senate bill is the more compassionate of the two towards non-wealthy taxpayers, one must ask who exactly do the Congressional Republicans serve?

“If the tax proposals go through, it will lead to stagnation in low-income housing construction, among other things,” Schaeffing added. “As the demand forlow-incomee housing has not been met, this can lead to increases in poverty and homelessness, with the most at-risk populations being the first to lose.”

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The NFL Wants to Block Tax Reform Because It Would End a Common Stadium Subsidy Cities have issued more than $13 billion in untaxed bonds for stadium projects since 2000, and the NFL wants to keep the cronyism flowing.

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The tax reform bill unveiled this week by House Republicans would do away with the federal tax exemption for municipal bonds, commonly claimed by states and cities to subsidize the construction of stadiums.

The National Football League is gearing up big time to lobby against it, The Wall Street Journal reported this week.

Municipal bonds were made tax exempt in 1986 as a way to encourage investors to buy them at lower interest rates, saving cities money when they need to build new infrastructure or make expensive repairs. While the bonds are designed for building roads, sewer systems, and schools, cities have issued more than $13 billion in untaxed bonds for stadium projects since 2000, according to a recent Brookings Institute estimate.

That tax break is “an unseen subsidy,” according to Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross, who is critical of using public money for stadiums. “It’s a tax break that we never get to vote on, and it’s one that don’t even think about and don’t see,” he told Reason in June.

There’s bipartisan support for directing the exemption specifically for public infrastructure, rather than multi-billion dollar playgrounds for multi-millionaire athletes and billionaire franchise owners. Sens. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) and James Lankford (R–Okla.) in June introduced an independent piece of legislation to prohibit local officials from using municipal bonds for stadium projects.

If that prohibition becomes law—either on its own or as part of a revamped federal tax code—those “unseen subsidies” would go away and the cost of those projects would increase. So, too, would public opposition to spending public money on stadiums.

“It’s something that the NFL will oppose because we believe that the construction of new stadiums and renovations of stadiums are economic drivers in local communities,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart tells the Journal‘s Andrew Beaton.

The 32 team owners who make up “the NFL” in this context are allowed to believe whatever they want, but the idea that new stadiums or renovations are economic drivers is not supported by facts. A landmark study published in 2000 by the Journal of Economic Perspectives reviewed 36 major metropolitan areas that had built stadiums for professional sports teams and found that, on the whole, they represented a drag on the economy.

More recently, a 2015 study by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, found that “NFL stadiums do not generate significant local economic growth, and the incremental tax revenue is not sufficient to cover any significant financial contribution by the city.”

Local governments, however, continue to put taxpayers on the hook for football stadiums. In his book The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America, Gregg Easterbrook, a journalist and longtime critic of taxpayer subsidies for the sport, says taxpayers have covered more than 70 percent of the total cost of NFL stadiums built in the past two decades.

Maybe we’re heading toward the end of that tradition. President Donald Trump, in between tweeting criticisms of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police abuse, has whacked the NFL for taking advantage of special loopholes in the tax code.

“Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!” Trump tweeted in October.

Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!

President Barack Obama proposed eliminating tax exemptions for municipal bonds attached to stadium projects as part of his 2015 budget plan, but Congress didn’t bite. Maybe, as part of a comprehensive tax reform bill, that component has a better chance of reaching Trump’s desk.

For decades, the NFL operated as a tax-exempt entity—insert joke here about football being a religion in much of America—because it was technically registered as a nonprofit. It got nonprofit status from the IRS during World War II, even though no one seemed to know exactly what the league’s “nonprofit mission” actually was, because (and this is true) the IRS said it had misplaced the NFL’s application and the NFL said it, too, had lost those records.

The loophole for municipal bonds is also kind of an accident, created in the 1980s when Congress voted to close a previous loophole for federal tax-exempt private revenue bonds that had been used to fund stadium projects. Local governments simply turned to tax-exempt municipal bonds instead, as Patrick Hruby of Vice Sports has pointed out.

The league voluntarily gave up its nonprofit tax status in 2015, partially because the special tax status required the league to disclose how much it was paying top executives, but mostly as a public relations maneuver.

When it comes to get subsidies for new stadiums, though, don’t expect the crony capitalist NFL give up that easily.

By Eric Boehm/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Senate GOP Health Care Bill Would End Obamacare Penalties and Taxes

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(WASHINGTON) — Senate Republicans would cut Medicaid, end penalties for people not buying insurance and erase a raft of tax increases as part of their long-awaited plan to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional aides and lobbyists say.

After weeks of closed-door meetings that angered Democrats and some Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned to release the proposal Thursday. The package represents McConnell’s attempt to quell criticism by party moderates and conservatives and win the support he needs in a vote he hopes to stage next week.

In a departure from the version the House approved last month, which President Donald Trump privately called “mean,” the Senate plan would drop the House’s waivers allowing states to let insurers boost premiums on some people with pre-existing conditions. It would also largely retain the subsidies Obama provided to help millions buy insurance, which are pegged mostly to people’s incomes and the premiums they pay.

The House’s tax credits were tied to people’s ages, a change the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would boost out-of-pocket costs to many lower earners. Starting in 2020, the Senate version would begin shifting increasing amounts of tax credits away from higher earners, making more funds available to lower-income recipients, some officials said.

The emerging Senate bill was described by people on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Facing uniform Democratic opposition, the Senate plan would fail if just three of the chamber’s 52 Republicans defect. More than half a dozen GOP senators have expressed problems with the measure, and a defeat would be a humiliating setback for Trump and McConnell on one of their party’s top priorities.

“We have a responsibility to move forward, and we are,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

GOP Senate leaders were eager for a seal of approval from Trump, who had urged them to produce a bill more “generous” than the House’s.

“They seem to be enthusiastic about what we’re producing tomorrow,” No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said Wednesday of White House officials. “It’s going to be important to get the president’s support to get us across the finish line.”

Democrats say GOP characterizations of Obama’s law as failing are wrong, while the Republican effort would boot millions off coverage and leave others facing higher out-of-pocket costs. The budget office said the House bill would cause 23 million to lose coverage by 2026.

The sources said that, in some instances, the documents McConnell planned to release might suggest optional approaches for issues that remain in dispute among Republicans.

That could include the number of years the bill would take to phase out the extra money Obama provided to expand the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor and disabled to millions of additional low earners.

The House-passed bill would halt the extra funds for new beneficiaries in three years, a suggestion McConnell has offered. But Republicans from states that expanded Medicaid, like Ohio’s Rob Portman, want to extend that to seven years.

The Senate proposal would also impose annual limits on the federal Medicaid funds that would go to each state, which would tighten even further by the mid-2020s. Unlimited federal dollars now flow to each state for the program, covering all eligible beneficiaries and services.

The Senate would end the tax penalties Obama’s law created for people not buying insurance and larger employers not offering coverage to workers. The so-called individual mandate — aimed at keeping insurance markets solvent by prompting younger, healthier people to buy policies — has long been one of the GOP’s favorite targets.

To help pay for its expanded coverage to around 20 million more people, Obama’s law increased taxes on higher income people, medical industry companies and others, totaling around $1 trillion over a decade. Like the House bill, the Senate plan would repeal or delay many of those tax boosts.

The House waiver allowing higher premiums for some people with pre-existing serious illnesses was added shortly before that chamber approved its bill last month and helped attract conservative support. It has come under widespread criticism from Democrats and helped prompt some moderate House Republicans to vote against the measure.

Conservatives like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have warned they could oppose the bill if it doesn’t go far enough in dismantling Obama’s law. Moderates including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have expressed concern that the measure would cause many to lose coverage.

From Alan Fram & Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar / AP/Time

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump promised he’d make Carrier ‘pay a damn tax.’ Instead he’s doing the exact opposite

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Image: Fifth Column

On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence plan to hold a news conference touting the deal they struck this week with United Technology to keep fewer than 1,000 Carrier jobs in Indiana.

In exchange for not outsourcing some jobs, United Technology, which made a profit of $7.6 billion last year and owns Carrier, will reportedly receive $7 million over 10 years in state economic incentives. The company was also assured the Trump administration will lower corporations’ federal tax burden and ease regulations.

In a Wednesday press release, Carrier acknowledged both the federal and state incentives.

“Today’s announcement is possible because the incoming Trump-Pence administration has emphasized to us its commitment to support the business community and create an improved, more competitive U.S. business climate,” it says. “The incentives offered by the state were an important consideration.”

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Posted by Libergirl

John Kasich’s not-so- great Ohio Recovery

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As the primary rolls into Ohio where Gov. John Kasich might finally be able to overcome Donald Trump, the traditional media is taking a closer look at his tenure back home—and that great recovery he’s always boasting about.

Ohio has indeed gained several hundred thousand jobs since Mr. Kasich took office, and he turned an imposing budget gap into a surplus while also cutting income taxes, all accomplishments that back up his boasts.

Image: Daily Kos

But a closer review of his record shows the reality is more complicated. Other states recovered from the recession more quickly than Ohio did. He closed the budget shortfall in part by cutting aid to local governments, forcing some of them to raise their own taxes or cut services. And increasing sales taxes helped make the income tax cuts possible.

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Posted by Libergirl

Five myths about why the South seceded

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One hundred fifty years after the Civil War began, we’re still fighting it — or at least fighting over its history. I’ve polled thousands of high school history teachers and spoken about the war to audiences across the country, and there is little agreement even about why the South seceded. Was it over slavery? States’ rights? Tariffs and taxes?

As the nation begins to commemorate the anniversaries of the war’s various battles — from Fort Sumter to Appomattox — let’s first dispense with some of the more prevalent myths about why it all began.

1. The South seceded over states’ rights.

Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states’ rights — that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.

On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina’s secession convention adopted a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” It noted “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” and protested that Northern states had failed to “fulfill their constitutional obligations” by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states’ rights, birthed the Civil War.

South Carolina was further upset that New York no longer allowed “slavery transit.” In the past, if Charleston gentry wanted to spend August in the Hamptons, they could bring their cook along. No longer — and South Carolina’s delegates were outraged. In addition, they objected that New England states let black men vote and tolerated abolitionist societies. According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.

A Confederate flag is still flying on the grounds of South Carolina’s state capitol, even after a white gunman was accused of killing nine black churchgoers at an AME church in Charleston, S.C. Here’s a closer look at why the flag isn’t at half-staff or even off the grounds completely. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

Other seceding states echoed South Carolina. “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world,” proclaimed Mississippi in its own secession declaration, passed Jan. 9, 1861. “Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. . . . A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

The South’s opposition to states’ rights is not surprising. Until the Civil War, Southern presidents and lawmakers had dominated the federal government. The people in power in Washington always oppose states’ rights. Doing so preserves their own.

2. Secession was about tariffs and taxes.

During the nadir of post-civil-war race relations — the terrible years after 1890 when town after town across the North became all-white “sundown towns” and state after state across the South prevented African Americans from voting — “anything but slavery” explanations of the Civil War gained traction. To this day Confederate sympathizers successfully float this false claim, along with their preferred name for the conflict: the War Between the States. At the infamous Secession Ball in South Carolina, hosted in December by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, “the main reasons for secession were portrayed as high tariffs and Northern states using Southern tax money to build their own infrastructure,” The Washington Post reported.

These explanations are flatly wrong. High tariffs had prompted the Nullification Controversy in 1831-33, when, after South Carolina demanded the right to nullify federal laws or secede in protest, President Andrew Jackson threatened force. No state joined the movement, and South Carolina backed down. Tariffs were not an issue in 1860, and Southern states said nothing about them. Why would they? Southerners had written the tariff of 1857, under which the nation was functioning. Its rates were lower than at any point since 1816.

3. Most white Southerners didn’t own slaves, so they wouldn’t secede for slavery.

Indeed, most white Southern families had no slaves. Less than half of white Mississippi households owned one or more slaves, for example, and that proportion was smaller still in whiter states such as Virginia and Tennessee. It is also true that, in areas with few slaves, most white Southerners did not support secession. West Virginia seceded from Virginia to stay with the Union, and Confederate troops had to occupy parts of eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama to hold them in line.

However, two ideological factors caused most Southern whites, including those who were not slave-owners, to defend slavery. First, Americans are wondrous optimists, looking to the upper class and expecting to join it someday. In 1860, many subsistence farmers aspired to become large slave-owners. So poor white Southerners supported slavery then, just as many low-income people support the extension of George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy now.

Second and more important, belief in white supremacy provided a rationale for slavery. As the French political theorist Montesquieu observed wryly in 1748: “It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures [enslaved Africans] to be men; because allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christians.” Given this belief, most white Southerners — and many Northerners, too — could not envision life in black-majority states such as South Carolina and Mississippi unless blacks were in chains. Georgia Supreme Court Justice Henry Benning, trying to persuade the Virginia Legislature to leave the Union, predicted race war if slavery was not protected. “The consequence will be that our men will be all exterminated or expelled to wander as vagabonds over a hostile earth, and as for our women, their fate will be too horrible to contemplate even in fancy.” Thus, secession would maintain not only slavery but the prevailing ideology of white supremacy as well.

4. Abraham Lincoln went to war to end slavery.

Since the Civil War did end slavery, many Americans think abolition was the Union’s goal. But the North initially went to war to hold the nation together. Abolition came later.

On Aug. 22, 1862, President Lincoln wrote a letter to the New York Tribune that included the following passage: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

However, Lincoln’s own anti-slavery sentiment was widely known at the time. In the same letter, he went on: “I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.” A month later, Lincoln combined official duty and private wish in his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

White Northerners’ fear of freed slaves moving north then caused Republicans to lose the Midwest in the congressional elections of November 1862.

Gradually, as Union soldiers found help from black civilians in the South and black recruits impressed white units with their bravery, many soldiers — and those they wrote home to — became abolitionists. By 1864, when Maryland voted to end slavery, soldiers’ and sailors’ votes made the difference.

5. The South couldn’t have made it long as a slave society.

Slavery was hardly on its last legs in 1860. That year, the South produced almost 75 percent of all U.S. exports. Slaves were worth more than all the manufacturing companies and railroads in the nation. No elite class in history has ever given up such an immense interest voluntarily. Moreover, Confederates eyed territorial expansion into Mexico and Cuba. Short of war, who would have stopped them — or forced them to abandon slavery?

To claim that slavery would have ended of its own accord by the mid-20th century is impossible to disprove but difficult to accept. In 1860, slavery was growing more entrenched in the South. Unpaid labor makes for big profits, and the Southern elite was growing ever richer. Freeing slaves was becoming more and more difficult for their owners, as was the position of free blacks in the United States, North as well as South. For the foreseeable future, slavery looked secure. Perhaps a civil war was required to end it.

As we commemorate the sesquicentennial of that war, let us take pride this time — as we did not during the centennial — that secession on slavery’s behalf failed.

James W. Loewen/Opinion/washingtonpost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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