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The Gunbelt's Existence in American Economy

One reason might well be that the authors want to attribute the decline of the manufacturing sector in the American economy to the pattern of armaments spending over the past four decades.

The federal emphasis on defense spending has been a culprit in the decline of American manufacturing because it diverted some of the country's best minds toward armaments production and away from civilian manufacturing. This phenomenon occurred without respect, however, to the geographic location of the armaments industry. Thus, the authors could have discussed the outcome just as well in the context of the overall impact of armaments spending on the American economy. By emphasizing the socalled "gunbelt," however, the authors were able to demonstrate that an entire geographic region became the victim of armaments spending decisions that directed money away from that region. This approach simplified their argument, and made it easier to justify. The approach, however, did not strengthen their argument in theory.

The authors also appear to have overlooked the impact of political coincidence on the location of the armaments industry during the "Cold War" period. The South, as a region, had a long tradition of returning incumbent U.S. senators and representatives to Congress. These Southern members of Congress, thus, gained the seniority to be able to dominate committee chairmanships. Thus, when the military planners and armaments industrialists desired a new weapons program, one of the best ways to assure a favorable outcome was to promise to locate the plants in the home areas of these committee chairmen.

In the same vein, the Democrats, for the most part, controlled both houses of Congress in the 1950s and 1960s. Ambitious and energetic senators and representatives from the "sun belt," Northwestern states, and Massachusetts, such as Lyndon Johnson were assuming leadership positions in both houses of Congress. At the same time, the...

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