By Peter Galuszka

Virginia is my state of choice although I am hardly a Virginian and have long had a hate-love affair with the Old Dominion. It is a beautiful state and well located, but there can be a certain problem with some of the people, especially in the capital area, who may think a bit more highly of themselves than they should be entitled to.

Another state that is much like Virginia in beauty is its southern neighbor, the Tar Heel state of North Carolina, which has long been called a “vale of humility between two mountains of conceit.” One mountain, of course, is Virginia.

My family and I have lived off an on for years in N.C. and one of my takeaways is just how wonderful and unassuming the people area, with the possible exception of John Edwards.

So, it is with sadness that I note the passing of two prominent Tar Heels who went far to promote the the talent and down-home friendliness common to the area.

The first is Doc Watson, the blind pioneer of finger-style guitar playing who died May 29 at age 89. I first heard Watson’s music back in the 1960s and have heard him perform several times. Nothing was too complicated musically for the man from Deep Gap and he defined the movement towards roots, bluegrass and Old Time country music.

Yet Watson could come up with some powerful blues as well and tempered all with his humble personality, which seemed in marked contrast to Bill Monroe, the patrician-acting, so-called “founder” of bluegrass.

The second man was Andy Griffith who died a few days ago. He was native of Mount Airy, which he helped recreate in the fictional Mayberry of his hit TV shows which I watched religiously as a boy. The cornball humor went over the top, but Andy was always there handing out wise and steady advice that was eminently marketable for decades to come.

Griffith was a serious actor who had performed on Broadway and had his start in The Lost Colony on the Outer Banks, where he had retired and died of a heart attack.

To be sure, there are many parts of Virginia that have some of the same values that both men projected. But they can never be Tar Heels.

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  1. DJRippert Avatar


    Your comparison of NC to VA is apt. These are two states using very different approaches to government and economic development.

    North Carolina has relatively high taxes. The highest marginal income tax rate is 7.75% in North Carolina while it is 5.75% in Virginia. North Carolina has the second highest gas tax in the US while Virginia has the fifth or sixth lowest.

    So, how have these different approaches worked?

    As recently as 2005 VA had a higher Gross State Product (GSP) than Virginia. However, starting in 2006 North Carolina moved ahead. In the seven years from 2005 to 2011 North Carolina’s GSP grew by 24% while Virginia’s grew by 20%.

    However, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

    The amount spent by the federal government by state is updated slowly. The most recent statistics are from 2009.

    Subtracting federal spending, North Carolina’s GSP grew 11% from 2005 – 2009. Subtracting federal spending from Virginia yields a NEGATIVE 5% growth over that period.

    Yes, you read that right. Unless I am really botching the numbers – Virginia’s Gross State Product excluding federal spending has been shrinking.

    It seems the Best State for Business led by the Descendants of Pocohontas is in deep, deep kim chee but for the ever growing Largess of Uncle Sam.

    Please check my numbers and tell me I am wrong.

  2. larryg Avatar

    well NC has higher gas taxes, no question about it but NC is also one of the 4 states where the DOT maintains ALL roads including county roads and NCDOT is broke also and seeking toll roads for new construction. For instance both Raleigh and Charlotte have planned toll and HOT lanes just as Va does and NC wants to toll I-95 just like Va does.

    My take away is that no matter what the gas tax rate – if the State Transportation agency is operating a state-wide fund for new construction for counties and basically allows those countries to compete for new construction on economic development grounds – it’s a endgame loser.
    It’s the same basic state level slush fund for local developers to access for their projects and ultimately no matter what the level of gas tax is – it will be sucked dry and then some.

    I WILL agree with DJ about how their economy has evolved so that they have the Research Triangle and the Charlotte Banking industry but would also point out that rural/small town NC that used to have textile, wood, and other plants is just as much a zombie as the parts of Va that also had those same industries.

    but here is a telling data point:

    Household Income:

    Virginia $59,330
    North Carolina $43,674

  3. DJRippert Avatar


    Your point about household income is a fair point. However, I wonder how that number would look if federally funded jobs were taken out of both states and the number recalculated.

    I think the vulnerability of Virginia to reduced federal spending has been vastly under-estimated.

    From 2005 through 2009, Virginia’s percentage of GSP provided by federal spending increased from 26.6% to 38.4%. North Carolina’s percentage increased from 16.7% to 20.6%.

    From 2006 to 2009, Virginia’s total GSP would have shrunk by $11.9B without the GROWTH in federal spending. In other words, if federal spending had stayed flat Virginia’s GSP would have shrunk.

    From 2006 to 2009, North Carolina’s GSP would have grown by $31.2B without the GROWTH in federal spending. In other words, if federal spending had stayed flat NC’s GSP would have grown.

    From 2005 to 2009, federal spending in the state of Virginia grew by 64%. For the same period, NC’s federal spending grew by 43%. And … Virginia started with a much higher base in 2005 ($95B vs $59B).

    I believe the incompetence of the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond is on the verge of being clearly exposed as the federal government stops at least the runaway growth in federal spending.

    It would be a tedious but interesting exercise to calculate where the “Best State for Business” would have finished in GSP growth without federal spending (for any state) and without the increase in federal spending (fro any state) from a “set point” like 2000.

    I suspect that the results would be truly horrifying.

  4. larryg Avatar

    re: the “Imperial Clown Show”.

    I agree in general about the relative competence of the VA GA but having looked around at the antics of other states legislatures, I’ve seen a lot of the same and some a lot worse and few that are head and shoulders better.

    it’s just the nature of those bodies that they do, in fact, “represent” the diversity of the state which includes some real dunderheads, Neanderthals, and just downright dolts.

    I still think that states that permit their citizens the right to initiate referenda and recall tend to have a higher level of accountability than Virginia.

    Even though Walker survived a recall.. lesser reported, Senators were recalled and he lost the Senate.

    No matter which side you might be on with that issue – the bigger point is that the people have a way to seriously challenge if the govt goes in a direction they don’t like.

    In Va, we have butkus and it’s clear the GA and the Gov know it.

  5. Many state legislators are simply representing the best interests of their constituents. They receive buckets of money from NoVA taxpayers to run their schools and traffic congestion doesn’t exist. It’s not their fault our local governments have approved so much real estate development that traffic congestion has crushed the roads. It’s not their fault that the combination of Dulles Rail and Tysons development has created a need to set more than $2 million each week to fund more roads and bus transit to handle the added automobile and truck congestion.

  6. larryg Avatar

    ” It’s not their fault our local governments have approved so much real estate development that traffic congestion has crushed the roads.”

    Well, in 46 other states, NoVa could not complain about their roads because they would have been responsible for them at the time they approved growth.

    Significantly, in Va, every city and town and 2 counties already has that responsibility and most of them from Arlington to Henrico to Charlottesville to Harrisonburg to Roanoke – don’t have the Clown Show to blame for their own excesses and irresponsible planning.

    If VDOT had proposed to run a 29 bypass through Fairfax/NoVa like they are planning through Charlottesville – all heck would break loose.

    Both places took a State Road and co-opted it for local development to the point where both roads have been seriously degraded for the original purpose of allowing people to travel between locations.

    The politics of bypasses and especially ones going through already-developed residential areas – aside – the COSTs of the bypass is one reason why our transportation dollars are scarce.

    building by-passes has been a popular locality “priority” as long as VDOT was willing to provide the funding.

    we’re still wanting to build “bypasses’ , eh?

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