By Stephen Harris
March 3, 2014
As I scanned for stations on the car radio a few weeks ago I came across conservative TV and radio talker Sean Hannity louder than usual and raving about moving out of New York City. The night before, the governor there had said that conservatives (like Hannity) have no place in New York.
Hannity yelled through the radio that was it; he was leaving. OK, no big news there. Rush Limbaugh moved from New York a few years ago to flee high taxes. I made a mental note to check later and see if Hannity follows through on the bombast.
But then things started getting even more weird.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is among the Republican new guard in North Carolina, and it looks as if he’s trying to corner the most-conservative market — and that’s saying something these days here in Tarheel land.
Forest called Hannity’s radio talk show and on the air invited Hannity to move to North Carolina.
He then started an online petition again asking Hannity to move here. The petition got more than 500 signatures in the first day, according to “The News and Observer” newspaper in Raleigh. (However, enthusiasm waned as it’s only up to 715 signatures the last time I checked.)
But wait, as the excited pitchmen say on TV. There’s more.
The Tennessee House of Representatives did Forest one better. Lawmakers there moved the machinery of government and passed a resolution three weeks ago urging Hannity and other New Yorkers to move there.
“We would like to attract any individual … to a state that offers so much opportunity,” state Rep. Andy Holt explained during a committee meeting, according to the “Knoxville News Sentinel.”
Now, I’m waiting to hear from South Carolina. Whatdayasay, sandlappers? You gotta a bid, Governor Haley? Georgia? Virginia? Anybody else? Going once. Going twice …
Hannity has a prime-time weeknight TV show on the Fox News cable network and a nationally syndicated weekday afternoon radio show that’s picked up by our region’s FM conservative-talk station.
An interstate tug of war over a political talk-show personality is humorous and a bit silly. That is, until I came across a tidbit that hinted that something bigger may be afoot.
A team of three economists put out a report that asserted that conservative-led (read Republican-led) states, like ours, are doing so much better than left-leaning (read Democratic-led) states like New York.
“We are witnessing an economic ‘Balkanization’ between states in America,” according to the report written for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group for state legislators. “The steady movement of human and investment capital from high-tax states to low-tax states, which has been present for decades, will continue and likely accelerate.”
To back up their claim, the economists said eight of the top 10 growing state economies belong to conservative states while eight of the bottom 10 are liberal. North Carolina did not place in either group, resting somewhere in between.
The rankings were based on state GDP growth, population shifts and changes in non-farm payroll jobs from 2001-11, according to the report. So the report’s not just a piece of political propaganda, you see. Wink, wink.
Of course, competition among states is nothing new, dating back to Virginia and Maryland almost going to war in the 1780s over control of the Potomac River. That little spat helped doom the old Articles of Confederation and spur the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, which was designed to avoid such things with a strong federal hegemony.
In recent times states have battled each other with bidding wars for new industry and jobs. The interstate competition reached new heights in 1992 after South Carolina outbid North Carolina for a new BMW car manufacturing plant that ended up near Greer, S.C. The plant is running strong today.
North Carolina licked its wounds by stepping up its industry-recruitment efforts, so that today even counties have people whose jobs are to be on the prowl for new employers. Surry County recruitment, for example, helped land the Pittsburgh Glass Works plant for North Elkin in 2011.
Now we learn just how far interstate rivalries have heated up. The Associated Press reported last month that North Carolina more than doubled its old record and put in a bid of up to $683 million to get Boeing to place its next-generation 777X commercial jet factory here. But the bid was far too low. The winner, Washington state, anted up nearly $9 billion. Twenty-one states put in bids.
So now interstate competition has risen (or fallen?) to bidding over a political-show host. If Hannity the New Yorker can be lured to the South, what’s next?
If Tennessee steals Hannity from us, maybe Forest in retaliation could take a look at the Grand Ole Opry. That show’s been in Nashville for more than 88 years now, so maybe the Opry folks are ready for a change of scenery.
To get the Grand Ole Opry here in Elkin, we’d even fix up and reopen the Reeves Theater. How’s that for an offer? Anybody want to start a petition?
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.