Madison County Opinion...

March 13, 2002


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
March 13, 2002

Frankly Speaking

Lessons of history ignored
Do you remember the quote; “those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them”? Well, it has happened again.
Recently, our President announced a new round of protective tariffs designed to protect a northern industry. As a result, the South, especially Georgia, is being punished. Bush has placed a 30 percent tax on steel from a number of countries. His stated reason is to protect American steel producers, mostly located in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Among those being targeted by this action is Russia. The Russians immediately retaliated by blocking the import of American poultry.
I remind you that Georgia is by far the largest producer of poultry in the United States, and Madison County is among the leading producers in Georgia. More than 300,000 people are employed by the poultry industry, about 50 percent more than the steel industry.
Some figures: Russia buys $630 million in American poultry each year, or one half of all U.S. Poultry exports. Estimates are that the conflict will cost American poultry producers approximately $50 million each month until the dispute is settled.
I am pleased to report that our Congressman, John Linder, feels that the president’s steel policy is in error and he plans to express his concern about the action. However, he said that the problem was caused by the administration and will be solved by them.
Now why did I say that this is a repeat of history? We in the South have suffered this kind of economic abuse for many generations. In fact, we fought and lost a war over this question. That’s right, the War Between the States was about tariffs, not slavery. In the years leading up to the Southern Rebellion, the U.S. Government used high tariffs to protect northern manufacturers from British competition. The South was a major producer of raw products, and a major importer of manufactured goods. British goods were of higher quality and much less expensive than those made in the North.
Approximately 80 percent of all U.S. taxes in the 1850s were collected in Southern ports. Most of that money was spent on northern infrastructure.
Thus, the federal tax policy took money from the South and moved it North. Abraham Lincoln’s number one presidential campaign promise was to increase these taxes. The first thing he did as president was to push through the Morrill Tariff, doubling excise taxes to 47 percent on Southern imports. Immediately after this action, Southern states started seceding.
It is a shame that so few of our leaders really understand history. It is especially sad that our schools insist on teaching that slavery was the cause of the Southern rebellion when it was a tax war. The history of the Confederacy has been ignored or distorted to the point that few people are aware of the lessons it teaches.
We in Dixie have long been victimized by federal tariffs, and it is happening again!
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

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Column
B y Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
March 13, 2002

From the Editor's Desk

Madison County’s Gaza Strip
You might say Madison County has its own Gaza Strip, an 80-acre plot of land off James Holcomb Road.
And like the endless Middle East conflict, the war over the property is deteriorating into an emotional bully match.
If the first uppercut of the fight was a surprise land purchase by the industrial authority, the counter-punch has been a wave of hostile feelings toward those connected to the deal.
Rightly, park opponents said they’d had enough with the government secrecy, with being left out of the loop on decisions that will truly affect their lives.
That point has been well made and should be hammered home anytime there’s even a faint stink of secrecy.
And frustrations are certainly valid as long as the future of the controversial land remains hazy. The county has delayed a tough choice for now, giving the industrial park matter to a steering committee. But the tightrope walk will only last for so long. County commissioners will have to come down on one side or another.
In the meantime, a hostile climate at commissioners’ meetings does little to foster solutions for truly difficult growth issues.
It’s obvious. The IDA embraced secrecy and paid dearly. Their methods undermined their plans. The establishment of an industrial park on the proposed property seems a long shot now. The IDA has even backed off the park proposal, amending its primary focus from attracting industry to the property to securing a second well for the Hull water system, an obvious attempt to mollify the outraged.
And the park committee, which was established to study the possible development of the property, seems destined for division between those with a broad “we need industry” outlook and those with a “wrong place, buddy” approach.
Just as secrecy hurt the IDA, the burning hostilities of the park opponents risk undermining their cause as the issue drags on, reducing the debate to a war of personalities.
Intimidation tactics, talk of “snakes needing their heads chopped off” and threats of lawsuits may cause some to cower, but they only work for so long. Before you know it, a bully approach usually backfires, increasing the resolve of the bullied to carry on with twice the gusto of before.
You see it everywhere, from school yards to warring nations. It’s human nature to want to stand back up and fight after you’ve been kicked. Park opponents did just this after they felt wronged by a secretive deal.
But even justifiable fights require good judgment.
And for weeks now, John Scoggins, the IDA, Wesley Nash and others connected to the deal have been met with a stiff middle finger from many. Yes, criticism was warranted. But the tenor of the industrial debate is deteriorating into character bashing, simply aimed at making someone look bad to please an applauding crowd.
Remember, we’ve seen how productive grudge matches are in this county. We’ve had plenty of ugliness, plenty of lawsuits, all of which made everyone in Madison County feel so good about the place they call home, right?
Isn’t it imperative that all rise above power posturing as the county grapples with perhaps the most difficult growth issue it has faced?
Or will the county truly have a Gaza Strip mentality?
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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