Economy in the South was run by rich white plantantion owners. Many white families were agraraians, people who base their lives on farming. Also, many white southerners worked on their own farms. Cotton was the most important crop from the South because the South was the perfect climate to grow it and it was the most exported good by 1860.
I think the rich white southerners are still like some billionares today. Some billionares do want to pay their workers anything more than minimum wage because they do not want anyone to get more power than they already do. Rich white plantation owners and some billionares today want to rule the government.