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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.
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