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North vs. South


To the Editor of the CRIMSON:

The editorial "Futile Bluster" blithely dismisses the New England textile problem by advising New England to "transfer its capital and labor into other fields of industrial activity." Conceding the superficiality of the rumpus over the processing tax and Hearst's Japanese situation, we find that this problem presents many difficulties not covered by the editorial.

It may be well to point out that the cotton textile industry as a whole is not in a healthy condition, and its welfare is one of the administration's chief worries.

The principal reasons for New England's textile decline are:

(1) The docility of the southern labor force, resulting in lower labor costs and fewer labor troubles there.

(2) The technological and managerial advantage of new southern plants as against obsolescent northern plants.

(3) The very low property taxes in the south. The proximity of southern mills to raw materials is of negligible importance and is balanced by the proximity of northern mills to the market. The NRA is working to overcome the labor differential, and time is decreasing the technological differential.

The important reason is that the New England textile cities, building upon the growth of their industry, have an overhead which necessitates a forty dollar tax rate. As the competition of southern mills, unhampered by heavy taxes, made itself felt, northern taxable values declined as mills closed or moved out. Since the tax rate was already as high as was practicable, municipal expenses had to be reduced accordingly, and over since have been chasing down after valuations. But municipal debt burdens will decrease slowly, while relief expenditures will increase as years go on. No new industry can take advantage of the idle labor force because of the prohibitive tax rate, and a collapse is inevitable. Then who will feed the workers, and who will pay the cities' defaulted obligations? The "transfer" of capital and labor is a process depending upon the mobility of the capital and labor force. The removal of several good sized cities will take a long time, and the shorter the time, the greater the pain of adjustment. In the south, if a mill closes, the operatives go back to the farm in the hills; in New England the majority of them have no place to go and no farm but their front yards. The southern mill has no city to support--it is the city itself. The lower cost and standard of living in the south present the North with problems like those presented by cheap foreign imports.

This letter cannot attempt to go into all the many problems presented by the textile situation, but it tries to show that the difficulties are far greater than yesterday's editorial implies. Robert I. Cummin '35.

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