I knew that a lot of people in Illinois shared my desire to move elsewhere. I had no idea that it was every other resident.
That sobering fact comes from a trio of Gallup poll results released last month that reveal that my company numbers in the millions when it comes to disgust with what has become of the Land of Lincoln courtesy of taxes, corruption, debt and unemployment.
Polls found that one in four residents think Illinois is the worst state in which to live. Only one resident in four trusts the state government. And the cherry on the PR nightmare is the fact that half of Illinois residents want to leave. Look around you – every other person wants to get out.
By the way, the polls were taken during the second half of last year, so you can’t use the soul-crushing winter we just survived to write off the results.
Studies from the U.S. Census Bureau and moving companies have repeatedly put Illinois near the top for more people leaving than arriving. Newspapers are full of stories of businesses leaving or threatening to leave. And the governors of other states are doing their best to gobble them up and add them to their tax rolls.
But this got me thinking about what will happen to these job-creating, forward-thinking states once they have enough former Illinois residents to screw up their new home as badly as their old one.
As fashionable as it is to blame Illinois’ sorry excuses for leaders for the state’s sorry state of affairs, these leaders don’t fall from the sky or spring forth from the ground. They’re popularly elected by the state’s sorry excuses for voters.
So if I were a Gov. Rick Perry of Texas or a Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin or a Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, I’d be worried about what will happen once enough Illinois refugees take root to demand the budget-busting government services they love so much, and elect the idiot officials who will promise them.
Maybe an education campaign is in order. If my town can mail me a welcome packet when I move in reminding me of trash day and how tall my grass can get, why can’t a state do that?
Seeing as how people are fleeing for southern and western states, I imagine a welcome letter along the following lines:
Dear Illinois Refugee:
Thank you for relocating to the beautiful State of [insert state name here]. Your decision to leave Illinois, a state whose best years are clearly behind it, is a smart one.
But speaking of smart decisions, we can’t completely trust your capability to make them – after all, look what you did to Illinois. So before you unpack anything, you need to evaluate whether you’re going to fit in here. Some helpful tips:
• If you plan to make this state as much of a train wreck as Illinois, get out. We’ll spring for your moving expenses.
• If you want some kind of service that your local or state government doesn’t provide, open up your wallet and pay for it yourself. You moved here because the taxes and regulations are lower, so don’t you go trying to raise them.
• Make fun of our accents and wardrobe choices if you like. At least we haven’t sent four of our past eight governors to prison.
• Don’t be the person who buys a dream home in the middle of nowhere and then complains about the smell of manure or the slow-moving logging vehicles. Close your windows and plan for a longer commute. The farmers and the lumberjacks were here first.
• The Founding Fathers gave us the Second Amendment as a check on government power, not so government can give us permission to bag a deer. If you can’t handle the fact that many of us own and carry firearms, then go back to Chicago – gun control has been working out just great there.
• Always remember this – your job is to adapt to us, not the other way around. We were doing just fine without you.
In the name of full disclosure, I have a personal interest in making sure departing Illinois residents get set straight at their new destination.
Five years or so from now, my family and I plan to settle in a state where we won’t be ashamed to live and where the government doesn’t treat taxpayers like ATMs. I’m partial to Montana or Idaho, and my crazy wife is looking at Alaska.
I’ll be darned if you Illinois people come and screw it all up.
• Kevin P. Craver is senior reporter for the Northwest Herald. He has won more than 70 state and national journalism awards during his 13 years with the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4618 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.