What is it about the far right and its longstanding infatuation with the Deep South? Hardly a day goes by in which some right-wing think tanker isn’t lambasting North Carolina for somehow failing to “keep up” with the tax-slashing or anti-environmental policies of one of its southern neighbors.
Pardon me, but have any of these guys ever been to Alabama? Or Mississippi? Or Louisiana? Frankly, it’s hard to believe that they would really think of those states as models of progress if they ever had.
Now, today, the Pope-Civitas Institute is lauding Alabama’s anti-immigrant hate law (the one that led to the detention of Mercedes-Benz exec ) and attempting to argue (albeit unsuccessfully) that it is somehow responsible for a miracle turnaround in state employment statistics in the Heart of Dixie. In support of the claim, Pope-Civitas cites the anti-immigrant, hate group FAIR  — an organization that has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center  as follows:
“The founder, chief ideologue and long-time funder of FAIR is a racist. Key staff members have ties to white supremacist groups, some are members, and some have spoken at hate group functions. FAIR has accepted more than $1 million from a racist foundation devoted to studies of race and IQ, and to eugenics — the pseudo-science of breeding a better human race that was utterly discredited by the Nazi euthanasia program. It spreads racist conspiracy theories. Its political ads have caused numerous politicians, Democratic and Republican, to denounce it.”
According to Pope-Civitas and FAIR, Alabama’s unemployment rate has been “dropping like a stone” since the state enacted its “show us your papers” law.
Uh, guys, we hate to break it to you, but the drop in unemployment is a national phenomenon . Several states without anti-immigrant hate laws have also seen big drops in the unemployment rate and have even lower unemployment rates. Minnesota — hardly a roiling hotbed of anti-immigrant fever — has seen just as big of a drop during this period. It’s also worth noting that the rate in Arizona — birthplace of the “show us your papers” movement — has also more or less followed national trends (i.e. dropping in recent months after staying stubbornly high after the passage of HB 1070).
Moreover, Alabama’s rate drop (which is only preliminary according to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics)  does not appear to be the result of a big drop in the labor force. Both the state labor force and the number of employed people are higher than they were a year ago. This was the same story in Minnesota and several other states. Add to this the complaints from the Alabama agricultural industry that have followed in the wake of the law’s passage and you really have to wonder if the Pope-Civitas people have any idea what it is they’re peddling.
The bottom line: So long as North Carolina looks to states like Alabama (or Louisiana or Florida) as its role models for development, it is sure to remain mired in the past; trailing the rest of the modern, integrated, outward-looking world.
But, of course, given that it is the chief mission of the Pope groups to repeal much of the 20th Century, it’s no particular surprise that they would promote such a path.