How Politicians Destroyed West Virginia

66
86880

ATVFollow Appalachian Magazine on Facebook:
Facebook.com/AppalachianMagazine

Serving as the only state in the Union where less than half of the civilian population works and with a recent survey revealing that 28.1 percent of its population admitting to altering “their mood with drugs almost every day,” it is clear that the State of West Virginia is on the brink of total ruin. We say this not to poke fun or belittle the people of this once proud and free state, but rather out of great concern for our friends, relatives and fellow citizens.

But why? Why is West Virginia in such a state of disarray? What is the course of events that has led to the present-day situation in which the Mountain State is next to last place when it comes to unemployment rates, as well as median household income?

The answer to this question is all dependent upon who you ask.

Growing up in Southern West Virginia, I learned real quickly of the importance the local citizenry places upon politics.

As a young child, I remember watching my uncle staple the campaign sign of whichever candidate he was supporting to a telephone pole, only to return that afternoon to discover the opposing candidate’s sign had been stapled over his. My uncle’s response–reach into his trunk and pull out yet another sign and nail it over the other two. Never would you remove an opponent’s sign… that would be considered dishonorable!

I’m not sure why these politicians had such a hold over the local people in those “hollers,” but whatever it was, the people took politics serious – many a man lost his life over words spoken about a politician in Southern West Virginia.

Sadly, even with such a fierce loyalty to their elected officials for over a century, here we stand in the opening days of 2016 and our beloved state is at the bottom of just about every good list and at the top on all the bad lists – in many cases, we can’t even say, “Thank God for Mississippi” anymore.

When you objectively compare the story of the Mountain State to every single one of its neighbors, you quickly realize that the greatest problem that has plagued our state is the men and women who have run our government since about… oh, let me see here… 1863.

To put it simply, politicians are to be blamed for the state’s problems – all politicians, all special interests, all political organizations (including unions), all political parties have failed the modern-day residents of the thirty-fifth state.

The Democrats Have Failed West Virginia
Let’s be real here – The Democratic Party controlled the state’s senate from 1933 to 2015, House of Delegates from 1930 to 2014, and since 1933 only two different Republicans have served as the state’s governor… And during this time, every single modern-day problem we are facing was either birthed, created or allowed to creep into the state.

If the West Virginia Democratic Party had even the slightest bit of shame, they would disband immediately and run and hide somewhere… perhaps in one of the thousands of abandoned buildings in McDowell County – the West Virginia locality that has basically turned into a ghost town under a century of their watch.

Instead, the same Democratic leaders whose unchallenged reign saw the state’s population actually decrease from 1940 to today (on a side note, could someone explain to me how any American state could possibly lose population in 75-years, when the entire planet’s population has expanded three-fold during this time, that’s nearly 5—Billion people?), are the very ones who have the nerve to try to scare us of the horrors of a state controlled by Republicans? I mean come on, how could things possibly get any worse than they did under Democratic control? *Don’t get too proud Mr. GOP… I’m coming for you too!

If it weren’t so sad, it would be laughable to hear the Democratic politicians trying to scare the people about the terrors of “right to work” in a state that presently doesn’t have any jobs.

While campaigning, Jeff Kessler, Democratic candidate for governor and former Senate president addressed Bricklayers Local #1 in Wheeling, pledging “to fight the West Virginia GOP’s War on Workers.”

Really Mr. Kessler? You can say this with no shame?

The statistics I read show that under a near century of Democratic control, it was your party that destroyed West Virginia’s working man… and guess what, the people have finally figured this out – hence, former President of the West Virginia Senate.

Despite the fact that the Mountain State’s leftist politicians are all crying that right to work will leave you with only low paying jobs, etc. the reality is far different.

In fact, the top three states in the entire nation with the lowest unemployment rate are among the 25 states who have “right to work” policies.

The fundamental argument Democrats continue to make simply doesn’t hold water when one checks out which states have an active workforce and which ones have a workforce begging for employment.  Take a drive down U.S.-52 through McDowell, Wyoming and Mingo Counties, there you will find the monuments of a century and a half of unchallenged Democratic rule and policies that view job creators as enemy of the state: broken buildings, roads in disrepair and a hurting people without any jobs.

The Unions Have Failed West Virginia
In the early-1920s, my great-great grandfather marched on Blair Mountain.  I am extraordinarily proud of what he did and fully recognize the era in which he was living required such an activity.  This was before OSHA, before mine inspectors, before there were laws in place to keep companies from enslaving workers.

Fast-forward, nearly a century later and we find a very different world. Far from being advocates for workers’ rights, modern-day unions are typically nothing more than the fundraising arm of today’s Democratic Party.

Love him or hate him, love coal mining or hate it, you cannot erase the reality that President Obama’s policies have been bad for coal (some will sing his praises for this and others will curse him for this same reason, but the truth is undeniable… that’s what he campaigned to do.).  Yet when it came time for the coal miners’ union (UMWA) to endorse a candidate for President in 2008, who did they endorse?  They endorsed the guy who was openly going around the nation telling people he planned to put an end to coal power plants and intentionally cause the price of electricity to “skyrocket.”  Don’t you remember his vice presidential candidate telling a girl “no coal plants here in America?”

I don’t care how pro-union you are, there’s no way you can tell me with a straight face (unless your conscience has been seared) that endorsing President Obama was best for the jobs of coal miners.  The modern union has failed the people of West Virginia and helped to fund the killing of the state’s once thriving industry.

Let’s speak the truth: Forcing workers to pay dues to a political organization they may not desire to be a member of (just so they can get / keep a job) is not protecting workers’ rights or freedom or giving them some type of special power or whatever other talking point the Charleston politicians are speaking that week – it is an outdated form of  workers’ oppression that must be ended. 

The Republicans Have Failed West Virginia
I burnt a bag of microwave popcorn last night, ran out of gas on the way to work this morning and stubbed my foot on the door that leads to my office just a few minutes ago. What do all three of these things have in common? If you ask the typical Republican politician, it can probably be linked to Obama’s “War on Coal.” Oops, I should probably rewrite that so as not to get in trouble with GOP lawyers: War on Coal™.

Yes, President Obama has been bad for the coal industry and we knew this going into his Administration, however, the reality is with or without Obama, the demand for American coal, specifically Appalachian coal, has been slowing for years. Coal has a lot of enemies other than the man sitting in the White House – natural gas and the flood of coal China is now mining on an unimaginable scale are all working against this hallmark West Virginia industry.

As new technologies have enabled fracking and made it profitable to harvest natural gas, the free-market that we always hear Republicans preach will eventually kill coal altogether. Nick Akins, president and CEO of American Electric Power, stated “there will not be any new coal plants built, with the current price of gas and the forecast for the future for gas.”

The Apostle Peter warned of a group that “through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” and sadly many Republican politicians have ridden the coal train into the seat of government simply by “making merchandise” of the voters, screaming “coal, coal, coal.”

Rather than waste even more money and precious time attempting to prop up a dying industry, Republicans, who now have control of the state’s legislature, need to be working to transition the state’s economy – failure to do this and do it quickly will result in a level of poverty never before seen in America.

I was raised, educated and lived on money that came from West Virginia’s coal mines, so this is a hard pill for me to swallow, but the writing is on the wall. Coal is dying. We can either burry our heads in the silenced mines and cuss Obama or we can see things for what they are and begin making some huge and difficult decisions.

No state can afford to put all of its eggs in one basket, especially a basket that is as flimsy as one built by any sector of the energy industry.

Sadly, our state’s new Republican leaders seem to be showing no signs that they have the courage or political will to actually lead the state – lead the state away from an industry that has succeeded only in making wealthy capitalists in distant states rich with the minerals buried beneath our very homes.

The Voters Have Failed West Virginia
In the end, we, as West Virginians, have failed ourselves. We have allowed ourselves to be caught up into the rhetoric preached by both wings of the same bird. We have ceased to hold our politicians accountable because of the D or R beside their name and we have ceased to consider new ideas for this very same reason.

Our state is on the brink of total collapse, these are indeed perilous times and we as citizens must not look to the leaders of parties for direction, we must direct them.

We must see things for what they are and demand more. We must consider new ideas and recognize that the issues of the early-1920s are obsolete; hence our laws must be changed in order to attract new business. We must understand that one man is not the culprit of all our problems and neither will one man be the solution to all of our problems.

These are hard truths, but it’s time someone said them and we have come to realize that our politicians lack the courage to say what we just said.

Click LIKE to share this article with your friends on Facebook!

66 COMMENTS

  1. This is the best representation of the state of the economy and the way of life in WV that I have ever read. You hit the nail on the head on many points. But who will and how will this change?

  2. Well said. I’ve held this view for quite some time being raised in Wayne County, but I’m gradually getting closer to helping contribute to the solution to the problem. As soon as I graduate from Bucknell University, I plan to start a “life skills training organization” there to provide the people with the knowledge to bring about the change so desperately needed by and for the people. I would prize your inputs on how you would see this having an impact in the are.

  3. It is rather disingenuous to compare WV and VA in regards to “right to work”. The VA economy is propped up by government and military ventures which generally pay very well and are not subject to the right to work for less laws.

      • Please Kay, don’t ye think RC Bird or some of his predecessors could have gained a little favor from DOD since 1863, like maybe a military base? Oh, I forgot they let the state become a National Forest with exempts millions of acres from property taxes which we need desperately to fund our education system. Eighty per cent of eduction budget comes from property taxes and (est) sixty seven per cent of land is not taxed.

    • Well, why couldn’t WV be “propped up” by some of those government contracts? Probably half of Jefferson County works for the Fed anyway, and many from Morgan and Berkeley as well. But we don’t have the infrastructure (i.e., fast internet), or the educated workers to attract any.

  4. I guess the sky is falling again Chicken Little. Everyone can see big Coal business is coming to an end. Our great state has many resources other than coal. If we keep going in the direction we are headed the natural gas business will be larger than coal ever was. We will see a multitude of industry coming to our state. As soon as we take all of what working rights we have left away. In time there will be ways found to use coal that will not harm the environment and guess who will be setting on the valuable resource. You got it our great state. So I’ll keep watching the sky. I’m sure it’s falling.

    • yes…we’re full of other resources alright….but I seriously doubt if pizza and car parts stores are going to do the trick!

  5. Ohio County is in the same predicament. The local politicians believe that Wheeling can become an entertainment Mecca, and the county government is doing all possible to grab every business from the city limits. If either the city or county were throughly investigated, all the politicians would go to prison.

  6. Great article. These times call for people that are willing to tell the truth. Not say what sounds good, but what is necessary to say. As we know, politicians have not been capable of this. Maybe ever. And it has gotten worse. Hence, the non-politicians have emerged. Not because they are necessarily better. But because they are necessary.

    I understood in the 1970’s as a WVU student that coal was dying. And it seems like nothing has been done to resolve this known endgame since.

    There are potential industries. Tourism, craft business, manufacturing and technology come to mind. In case it hasn’t been attempted, maybe educators from the universities and schools can come together to form a think tank to encourage this needed change?

    Once again, great article. Hopefully a wake up call will come soon. Much like an addict that is tired of being enabled, West Virginia has hit bottom and is now ready to realize it is time to make some changes.

  7. I don’t think comparing WV to Va when talking ‘right to work’ is a fair comparison. I don’t know the numbers, but my gut tells me Va has an unfair advantage when you consider how many federal employees live there. Why not compare WV to Florida, another ‘right to work’ state for example? When you talk average household income, remember how many high paying federal jobs are tipping the scale in Va due to its proximity to DC.

    • Can’t compare WV with Virginians AND Florida. More like Eastern KY.

      Too bad we don’t distribute ARC funding where it’s desperately needed (in jobs projects).

      Coal is dead. A four-letter word. Let it stay where it is and work on reclaiming post-mined land and waterways disrupted by mountaintop removal.

      My Appalachian tourism motto is: “Come quick! We’ve saved a piece or two to show you …”

      -or-

      “Land of Derelict Landscapes: Come See What We Did! Let’s Try To Fix It” Who? “All of Us who profited from coal”…

  8. I had to leave West Virginia 30 years ago because I could never find work. Except for the occasional odd job I was basically unemployed for 6 years when I decided that I would have to take drastic measures because the situation was hopeless and life was passing me bye..
    .
    When I left I thought things couldn’t get worse. I was wrong. As I continued to visit my home over the years one business after another closed. These were businesses that had been around for 50 years or more. The towns and cities are quite literally crumbling. And West Virginia tries to keep the lights on with gambling.

    I have often said West Virginia is a wonderful place to live if you don’t need to work or a nice place to retire. I wish I had an answer but I don’t.

  9. The West Virginia Coal Industry truly is a passing industry because of the new technologies and innovations that are coming,to eliminate even more jobs.Even if, in part, it forces us to go back to the old method of survival,hunting.But since the population has increased since those days of old,it may be difficult to supplement our food supply in that manner.It may come down to the old scenario,survival of the fittest.Every West Virginian should own a gun or guns with ammunition and with one loaded at all times for protection for their families and themselves.

  10. You can not compare us to VA with all their government jobs, the largest naval base in the world the ship yards in New Port News! And not to mention the cost line and all the jobs that creates with tourists!!

  11. Well, it’s a very good article and very thought provoking but once again I have to say, it’s very easy to stand on the sidelines and coach to the despair – it’s another thing to come up with solutions that are workable and acceptable. Compairing VA to WV based on ‘right to work’ is a bit misleading. It’s comparing Apples to Pineapples. While it’s a bit of a Catch 22 which makes it a cliche, VA has stuff because it gets stuff. They have the things which are attractive to big business. Excellent Infastructure, large centralized population bases, tax incentives, Large pools of well educated people, demand for the goods and services. Let’s not forget that the evil octopus that is the federal government has it tentials well spread in the state. If the seat of the federal government were, say, in Colorado, then VA would look very different. The article is also skewed in it’s numbers because it REMOVES government jobs from the ‘WV to a VA’ comparison but leaves them in the VA ‘column’. Let’s not forget that government jobs also includes the Military. I’m not saying the article doesn’t have very valid points, the writer just went of their way to try to skew it to prove their point. Which is not necessary and will probably make some people dismiss the point trying to be made. hat’s the solution? Lord knows I wish I had one. Government assistance is not a permanent ‘ one thing only’ solution for anyone anywhere– it was suppose to be a stop gap- not a life style. Which is what it has become for welfare queens and even all the way to Medicare. It’s suppose to be ‘help’ not a solution. Government money should be used in ways that support society as a whole, not individuals. The money should be used for education, infrastructure, etc. WV, like everywhere else, but especially in a place in such dire straights, needs to be doing things to protect the one resource they really have: it’s environment and it’s people. The things going to be in demand as we continue into the 21st century are going to be recreational opportunities and technology/information services. Until WV can protect it’s environment, educate it’s children in fields that are in demand and incent people to MOVE to the state, not away from it, it’s not going to get any better. It’s so sad because it’s such a lovely state full of good hard working honest people who’ve just been beaten down so much, so long and so hard that it’s actually pretty amazing the place is still so amazing. After the state is raped, fracked and is left just a crater, would the last person out please turn off the lights?

  12. Nothing new, have been saying the same for over 4O years. Left the state in 1985, came back to retire here. Although Florida was more friendly to retirees we wanted to be nearer our family. I voted GOP last election and will give them a chance to rebuild, thought there was a chance for right to work passage, sorry it failed.
    Haven’t made a choice on the governor’s race. I suppose Justice will buy the governorship like Jay did.

    • I think we need to consider the mine operators responsible for much of the problems, they practically stole mineral rights of the land owners, bought the state government, paid no severance tax on the coal, brought in newly-freed slaves, to prevent unionization of miners, organized KKK to keep the miners in line.

  13. Va and Wv you can not compare. Va is mostly gov. Jobs. Where I work if not for union I would be making Minimum wage. And for politics independent lobbyist run everything. So that’s why China and other countries owe America. US will never be right till all lobbyist and their money are out of our gov.

    • The worst thing that could happen to WVa would be to find gold! That would mean more digging in the mountains, more poisonous crap running into the streams and more outside money buying the local politicians! It would just perpetuate the money-grubbing evil that’s plagued my home state for my entire 67 years.

  14. Can’t compare VA to WV economy. Northern Virginia is almost completely different from the rest of Virginia with most of the jobs in Northern Virginia being high paid Federal government jobs.

    There are no real Democrats in elected officials in West Virginia since the death of Senator Byrd and the retirement of Senator Rockefeller.

  15. The author picks out one issue that they support and attributes all of Virginia’s success to the fact that they support the same issue and all of WV’s woes on the fact that they do not support that issue. That’s about as shallow as an argument gets. You may as well say that Virginia’s successes are because their state begins with a V and West Virginia’s downfall is that their state begins with the letter W. And please don’t lump the entire state in with the cesspool that is southern WV, y’all have a whole different level of screwed up down there.

  16. Same as with the Nation. Look how those no gooders have run this country into the ground. Merchandise, Corporations, Banks and Stupid Politicians have made a mess of things.

  17. I think it’s very disingenuous to blame politicians and voters for the problems of West Virginia. I think you need to look at the real problem – coal companies themselves. They have dominated the thought processes of thousands of miners in southern West Virginia for years, and they continue to promise of a brighter future while pursuing profits before all else. Coal companies pushed their agenda with money in the politicians’ pockets, both Democrat and Republican alike. Now, as demand for the coal we mine is dwindling, companies are leaving their workers without jobs. They should be the ones who are required to spend the profit they’ve earned off the blood and sweat and deaths of West Virginia’s miners to help them learn new skills. Sadly, this will never happen. They had a great responsibility as being the leaders in our state, and they failed us, southern West Virginians as a whole, miserably.

  18. I apologize in advance for the length of this dissertation, but as a native West Virginian this is a passionate topic… even for those of us who left in search of better opportunities. I’m sure some of you will feel that those of us who left home have no skin in the game, but occasionally, an outside perspective is healthy and warranted.

    I left the state 30 years ago, and in talking with friends who also relocated here in North Carolina, the WV political atmosphere is the major factor pushing smart, innovative people away. Believe me, we are all proud of where we came from. Many of us wish we could do what we are now doing for a living – in WV…. using our time and talents for economic growth in the mountain state. (Shawn Taylor, you can attest to my mindset, my friend) The political climate and union culture continues to prevent potential for real economic development.

    Businesses have not viewed WV as a friendly state to do business with for decades (maybe not ever). At least not the types of businesses the state needs to improve and diversify. It’s amazing, that a state has invested in such a terrific infrastructure for moving goods and services in and out of her borders, yet can’t capitalize on it. That simple fact is insane. Not even that famous, “Open for Business” slogan was enough to surge economic growth, lol. Thank God for “Almost Heaven.”

    It is impossible to build a viable, attractive workforce for enticing businesses to relocate into the state, when labor unions have a seat at the discussion table. Companies looking to succeed in the fast-moving global economy are willing to invest in facilities and employee well-being, but they are not willing to tack on the additional cost associated via union demands. Additionally, they will not accept the potential for a union endorsed labor strike which could cause them to lose a major contract. Global competition for fulfillment is too fierce, and union labor does not make financial sense.

    Other factors obviously include tax incentives, environmental policies, etc. but dealing with union leaders is a red flag to many companies looking to set-up a major facility. Right-to-work is the reason Boeing elected to build a large manufacturing facility in South Carolina rather than expand their existing operations on the West Coast. It’s also why businesses will continue to mark WV off the consideration list, and people will continue to leave WV in search of better career opportunities.

    As the article stated, the Democratic politicians have run the state since it’s inception – and Republicans have had only a couple of years of control to try and turn around 150 years of poor leadership… Especially in light of the fact that 2014 reports indicated West Virginia’s economy was the third fastest growing in the nation: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_West_Virginia) Don’t blame the Republicans just yet, because they are fighting more than just a struggling economy – they are fighting a culture – and the link above shows last year delivered a very noticeable improvement over the previous efforts. At this point, it’s not right-side | left-side debate, but let’s give the GOP at least a supportive chance before jumping ship. Bi-partisan politics are killing our culture on every level, and this is about jobs and people’s lives – not which politicians get a cushy job.

    UNIONS have & will continue to suppress (and eventually kill) the workforce of West Virginia. To be fair, there is a romantic time in our state’s history when unions protected workers – Matewan, Blair Mountain, the bandana-wearing rednecks seeking basic human rights fill chapters of our history books. Union relevance however, passed away several decades ago. Today, union leadership sucks huge dollars from the state’s economy to afford them the grand Washington, D.C. lifestyle. Lobbying with politicians, they negotiate how they will continue to divide up the profits while residents of the state continue to exist at or below the poverty level.

    MSHA and OSHA are federal agencies developed to set and maintain standards for workforce training and safety (yet many miners STILL don’t follow their requirements for wearing respiratory masks (because they are cumbersome). The Union concept is no longer relevant, and serves only to continue to oppress the workforce. Until the state realizes this, they will continue to avoid other business opportunities which could diversify the economy!

    A plethora of outside environmental groups regularly protest the mining industry in the state. To be sure, coal IS a dirty business – there are environmental impacts. These groups are full of hypocrites who use the energy source WV provides to power all of their ipads, iphones, video cameras, hollywood studios and media centers from coast to coast – then use that technology to lobby for shutting down the coal industry. Marching into a mining community – looking into the faces of people whose only option for providing a life for their family is working in the mines – and professing that industry needs to be shut down is just poor taste.

    If these groups want to end the PRIMARY SOURCE of West Virginia’s economy – then come to the table with some viable, alternative strategies to replace it. The loyal, hard-working people of West Virginia deserve that much respect from a nation which has advanced to this new progressive era via the benefits of coal-powered electricity offered. Without solutions, the black rock will continue to dominate the state’s culture, politicians will get fatter, and union leaders will continue to have a prominent existence on the backs of a dying workforce.

  19. Good article, we really do need right to work but we have to have a proper Work Ethic to implement

    We need more bright young folks like the coalfield development corporation, a Wayne county nonprofit,that is teaching the next generation to work, exploring alternative energy systems, working on basic needs like affordable housing and using discarded buildings in adaptive reuse schemes, both for badly needed affordable housing and new business.

    Not only coal but now gas has all of us by the shorthairs. Their marketing money is overwhelming. Fracking is destroying the northern part of our state and the expected jobs have never materialized. Imported workers are sucking up all available housing and pushing that market out of reach for WVA workers. We learned nothing from the rape of our land by the coal barens in the early 20th centry

    Hope and a vision to implement. Things our politicians, from both parties, can not and will not provide for us

  20. An excellent book written on the WV economic situation, Unleashing Capitalism: Why Prosperity Stops at the West Virginia Border and How to Fix It, by Economics professor Russell S. Sobel, will open your eyes to how the policy initiatives over the years have only served to harm (despite their intent) both economic freedom and overall growth in the Mountain State.

    This book is a big deal, and has impacted some of the policy changes that have begun over the last 8 years or so. Though, many leftists paint him and his analysis out to be completely wrong – IMHO leftists tend to take issue when economic analyses are produced which show the negative impact of their policies.

    That said, I strongly recommend West Virginians read this. If you are more than passingly familiar with economic theory and history, you’ll be well grounded to properly assess the content of this book. If not, then it is still incredibly informative and will open your eyes to how what policy makers do with the intent of ‘helping’ more often causes harm.

    Thanks

    • Please. those “rankings” are the most vile type of propaganda imaginable. They are meaningless and have no basis in fact, just political propaganda wing of the Chamber. Yet another problem in WV and the nation, people blindly accepting propaganda as fact if it confirms their personal biases.

  21. You are entitled to your opinion, but when you cherry pick your statistics. I must call foul.
    Right To Work states have historically lower wages for comparable jobs. You are trying to compare federal government jobs to retail and industrial jobs.
    Mountains vs. beaches for tourism will never result in the same revenue. These are just two comparisons that will not stand up to the harsh light of day.
    Although both political parties can share in the blame, your own political leaning shines through in this piece.

  22. The only thing that keeps Virginia’s unemployment is the NOVA (Northern Virginia) region. It is very close to DC and even borders it in some places, so yes a lot of Government contractors are located there. As well as data banks. And Federal Agencies Such as FBI, CIA, NSA, and DEA. Not to mention Dulles International Airport which opened in the sixties. That was a huge contributor to why so many businesses, private, and public, have grown here. Take away Northern Va, and it’s still farming and mining in the rest of the state. Loudoun County, VA is the richest county in the nation and has a median household income over$100,000 per year. Mainly because of the airport. I know. I’ve worked in loudoun for the last 12 years. And it’s it still growing. Still live in West “by God” Virginia. Always will. The people need to change if you want the state to Change. We must find new avenues to bring big business to WV.

  23. It was a sad day when I left Raleigh County for good in 1989 after graduating with an engineering degree from WVU. Then Sen. Robert Byrd sent me a form letter encouraging me to use my degree to better the state and after 8 months of seeking a job I left and haven’t looked back. My parents left four years ago and live nearby here in Tennessee. They can’t believe what it feels like to escape the depression of West Virginia after living there for 70 years. I have lived in Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Tennessee along my journey. For the most part, living in those states has exposed me to prosperity, diversity of thought, better education for my children, and growing, vibrant economies.

    West Virginia has got to form a focused vision, a plan for its future. It will take leadership, something the state has never had. It will be hard and require a steadfast resolve to achieve that vision. The fickle voters have to hold the line. The two parties have to work together. The problem is, every state in the union will seek to do the same thing. Good luck folks.

  24. Of course modern industrial equipment would not have anything to do with loss of coal jobs…Everytime they come out with a faster way to get coal out of the ground…More jobs lost…Arch coal buying out union mines..And opening back up later NON – union Thanks Republicans for that..And if you are Union & voting Republican…You must not need a good paying job with benefits & retirement. They are just now getting started on busting unions…Don’t thank S.S. is going to help you retire..Republicans is making it 70 years old to get it at a cut rate they are pushing hard to get…Being a union person voting republican is like ….Being against Abortion But Giving all your money to the Pro – Choice movement……SMH

  25. The article says nothing about WV’s natural resources being owned and exploited by out of state owners, who have waged a war on West Virginians for most of the state’s existence. Take a look at testimony in Blankenship’s trial regarding profit over safety. Also, I agree with all the comments on inaccurate comparison to VA.

  26. When I was 15 I was hired b the den party to hall voters I never had a Dr liaison but I had a old car arch Moore j Rockefeller was a republican the first time he run here in wv Steve adkines ran everything in mingo county he passed all the money down that came from Moore I got 50 dollars for every one i took to the myrtle grade school where there were meet at the grounds where a camper was set up every voter was given a bottle of whisky 100 dollars and a slate to vote for money was in the thousands one group tryed to steel a sure case Steve Adkins sent down a car chase was on shoots fired the race was on to the old school the money and a trunk load of whiskey got there to the dem and j Rockefeller lost the race I could right a book on how that land locked mingo county with money and power over the people here then came Jonny owins that another story in the history of mingo county politic. O what a story of money and greed.

  27. The young becomes the old. Remove the has been an allow the young fresh brilliant minds to guide this state into the next century. Blaming the president for the incompetents of state officials, whom seek their own ambitions, is sad. Any competent person would know that the coal industry has been dying for years. Youthful minds bring hope, which has deteriorate in this state for years. Progress starts with the young, which means bye bye Joe Machin an Arch Moore daughter. Thank both of you for raping the state along with the good old boys. It’s over sticky fingers. Move over cause the youth will save our sorry ass. Another solution, include all people in the state, so that progress will begin.

  28. First of all, I want to address the politics that I observed growing up in WV…..from cases of whiskey, given out at the polls, to well known “cash paid to vote” practices that I personally saw happening, as well as huge amounts of money designated for DOT work dissappear into politicians (and their cronies) pockets for decades, so “eorge” take your butt-hurt uninformed rebuttal elsewhere. Anyone who has lived there and had their eyes open KNEW what was going on! Now as to the future..”that big boogie man called “fracking” will not leave the the state “raped and and a big crater”, that was “Mountain-top removal”….remember that? Good idea having the braniacs at college come with viable solutions. Tourism, Native American ran casinos, and some way to lure manufacturing to the state would be a good start. Tax break incentives for relocating or building there would help. As to the issue of right to work, I haven’t researched it enough to make an informed comment, but I have lived and worked in 4 different right to work states and the one thing I found that is not good for employees is that you can be fired with no notice for any or no reason. All this being said, I do love my “home state” of WV , and would love to be able live there again.

  29. Government cannot fix the problem: too few private sector jobs. West Virginia needs to attract people who can create those jobs. West Virginia needs to educate West Virginians to perform those jobs. That sounds like being more business-friendly to me.

  30. If I may be so bold. I tried for about 3 years to bring investment for a small industrial project to the Nicholas county region; approximately $30,000,000. Here are some observations from the failure to do so:

    1. There is not adequate power available in the region. I’m not talking a lot either, about 4 megawatts at the pole. There were no suitable sites in a 4 county area that did. In some cases, you had to go 17 miles back to the substation, and the power provider wanted an $800,000 investment on our part to upgrade the station.

    2. There are few, if any, truly ready-to-build locations. I appreciate the natural terrain, but coal is no longer an option; suitable, fairly flat or tiered sites must be developed by local Eco Dev’s. Then when done, not expect to get $50,000 an acre in return to bring jobs and tax base. We spent weeks/months following goat paths 1-2 miles to the top of a mountain that had been “reclaimed” with an expectation we would build there. That is not practical and you do not need any more municipal airports. Really.

    3. Transportation of finished product, by any means. The crown jewel in our opinion is Route 19, if you can get close to it. The rail systems still don’t want to talk about anything more than unit trains of coal or heavy bulk density ago. Someone needs to get them onboard, they are going to die as well. If you can get to the river system, then the same problem. Coal or they don’t want to talk.

    4. Your “competition” in the SE (VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL) all have local Eco Dev groups that are aggressive and eager to provide power, suitable sites, suitable interior roads, natural gas, and technology, and no cost with a commitment to developers who bring jobs and stay a minimum amount of time.

    As a Virginian, I love your state and wish we could do something there. But when you have to fight and fight, or ask for a minimal amount of power and are told it will be “2 years or more” before you can get it, why fight? That’s before we ever even really got to a politician I’m afraid.

  31. As others mentioned before me, you cannot compare Virginia as a whole to West Virginia as a whole. It is simply disingenuous.

    What you CAN do is compare southern West Virginia to southwestern Virginia, and when you do that, you get a much different picture. The two areas are dramatically (tragically) similar. Poverty, poor education, an economy in tatters because of reliance on a monoeconomy.

    I think your glib dismissal of the struggle to maintain decent wages displays considerable lack of understanding of our realities. To the extent that much of anything is left here, those good wage jobs are propping it all up. 100% employment at minimum wage levels wouldn’t improve things much, if at all.

    Finally, politics does matter. It has mattered from West Virginia’s birth as most of the political leadership has viewed this as a place with no value save for what wealthy exploiters can take from us in exchange for some pittance. That’s true of the Bourbon governors and most since, including modern Bourbons like Manchin and Tomblin.

    If our progeny are to have a future here, it won’t be in coal, and it won’t be in gas. It will be founded in quality education (which those Republicans you expect to fix things are heatedly opposing) and in an internet infrastructure that can make miles and remoteness meaningless. Waiting for some billionaire to bail us out will leave us waiting for a very long time . . . forever.

  32. Accept the article’s intent – its time for change – don’t dismiss the VA/WV comparison because of federal workers around DC, instead look at percentages of population, WV had DOE and NIOSH in Morgantown, FBI and NASA in Clarksburg, and large VA hospitals in Martinsburg, Clarksburg and Huntington, as well as a large number of workers in the eastern pan handle commuting to northern VA daily – If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, what do you have to offer the Great State of WV?

  33. It’s impossible to give any credence to an article based on factually, STATISTICALLY DISPROVEN statements like “Obama was bad for Coal,” http://d35brb9zkkbdsd.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/WVcoalminingjobs1.png

    (and when the PRODUCT -the RESOURCE- doesn’t even exist any more! Because it was greedily stripped as fast, unsafely, and cheaply as possible by…”Obama?” Who really decides that? ONLY “The Market.” – GREED.)
    http://d35brb9zkkbdsd.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/coalexp1.png
    It’s just as easy to prove that, from coal, to gas and oil, domestic sales of energy resources are essentially unprofitable compared to exporting our “dwindling resources.”
    It takes a special kind of stupid (or ingenuous) to deduce that it’s a President’s fault (as if he had ANY power,) and not that of greedy, murderous, marauding extractionists.
    After all, whose decisions and interests run this country – politicians’, or their Owners,’ the truly BIG money Corporate Industry and individual wealthy Campaign “Donors” on whom they are completely reliant for their positions?
    When the term “Profitable” is repeatedly redefined by the unlimited greed of lazy something-for-nothing corporate “investor”/gamblers, EVERYONE- all of society- is the victim of a much greater”war” on them = US. That’s why there is a chemical war killing off the population and infrastructure of WV right now in the from of “frackng’ the Marcellus – where a “Profitability” of a well is 12-18 months. $8 MILLION to drill/frack ONE well (12 to a 20-acre Pad Facillity) and then they must create more…and more…leaving poison, industrial waste, and vast cancer “evaporation” ponds in their wake.
    Never mind the huge compressor facilities and Chinese steel pipelines. OH – and literally trillions of gallons of permanently poisoned water under the ground.
    At that speed of proliferation, who is foolish enough to believe they would spend another $8MILLION EACH to clean it up entirely? Where would that much waste even GO?

  34. As far as blaming “Democrats” – there hasn’t BEEN a Democrat in West Virginia since….ever, who was not (JUST like a Republican, not that the two haven’t swapped “agenda” RHETORIC over the decades, to prove it) entirely owned by the irresponsible outside extractionists who actually even FORMED this state, in order to make “its” OWN laws, like Split Estates and Forced Pooling, and today even the LEGALIZED GAGGING of doctors regarding fracking poisonings, most advantageous to stealing its resources out from under the inhabitants’ feet for pennies to the desperate; and to the grave, profitably intentional detriment of their public health through oppressing and depressing them into being cheap disposable labor fr dangerous jobs, and a docile populace greedy for the pennies that allow their own poisoning and 24/7 invasion of their homes at the drillers and contractors’ will.

  35. ENOUGH bellyaching as to who did and didn’t do what! We need active, aggressive efforts to bring new industries into WV. Brush off the cobwebs, get your thinking hats on, and develop ways to search out and encourage new industries to settle in the state.

  36. Your article does well to point out what the democratic party failures has done to the state. I do not agree that the republicans can fix a problem that dates back to the 30’s in the little time they have had control. I also do not agree that coal is dead. I personally believe that we can have clean coal by existing or developing new technology. We liquefied coal during WWII and used as fuel in our army tanks. We need the political will to solve the problem and utilize America’s energy resource until we develop true energy alternatives that actually work.

  37. WV is centrally located for manufacturing and distributions centers. The problem is these industries would encounter heavy taxes if they locate here.

    If the state really wants to bring in new and different businesses cut that corporate tax. It is good for workers and eventually will increase tax revenues.

    BTW your article is spot on.

  38. WV has always been and will always be a backwards slow moving state. As far as comparing it to Virginia, there is no comparison. They have nothing in common. VA has a tourist industry, many military bases, close proximity to DC, Ocean frontage which helps emensely with production of all sorts. I could go on and on but you get the picture. WV will never climb out of the lower ranks unless the citizens of West Viginia want to.

  39. This is an article that has a subject whose time has come and in some ways gone. I grew up in Fayette County graduated high school and college in the state but i could see that my future was not in the state. The article was spot on that both political parties are to blame for the mess that is there. Political people blowing false air at their constituents which has caused them to not want to change or even think of change. Yet not one party has explained why the population has keep declining year after year after year or why heroin and pills have become the in thing. The stubbornness and pride of people who if you grew up in West Virginia you heard this
    “I vote a straight democratic ticket” has just driven progress out of the state. (Not giving a pass to the republicans) The attitude that my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my dad did it has ran its course and has left business and the school system in shambles. Yet no jobs coming into the state but it’s okay because retail will save the day and give you a job. Stop talking about what VA has and start to bring in jobs and start getting into the fast lane. Fix the roads, fix the infrastructure, fix the tax base to make business to want to come in and give them a good educated group of people to pick from. Stop being fooled into why coal is dying because regardless of who is in the White House the population has fled from the state under a republican or democratic.

  40. WV has long been exploited by politicians *and* coal companies. And, the people have, for some reason, always fallen for it and allowed it. It’s sad but true. I hope something good happens for WV soon.

  41. I was born and raised in WV as were my two brothers. We all loved our Home State. Our parents felt the same. After college my brothers and I left the State for better opportunities. Our Father was not happy about this but understood. I remember my Day predicting that the Service Industry would be the future not the Coal Industry. What WV needs are leaders with a vision toward the future. Such a beautiful state should not go to waste.

  42. Interesting read, but you can’t make comparisons to VA. Rural VA has it hard too – Northern VA skews all statistics for VA.

  43. How do we change our direction? Stop electing career politicians (elect from the common man), set term limits, revamp campaign laws, add recall ability and legalize Hemp.

Comments are closed.