By MATT COMBS
SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., paid a visit to the Summersville American Legion space below city hall Monday afternoon, part of his Thanksgiving Tour.
While the beginning of his visit was dedicated to a recitation of Senate Resolution 335, which named the week of Nov.19-25 as National Family Week, a resolution for which the greater American Legion pushed for many years, his discussion with the crowd of mostly aging veterans covered matters impacting family, but a wide range of topics as well.
“I don’t know what to tell you guys; there’s a lot going on,” Manchin said.
“We’ve lost a whole generation of parents for one reason or another,” Manchin said, alluding to the nation’s opioid crisis.
Manchin told the gathered seniors that he had been told the story earlier in the day of a 70-year-old couple raising an 8-month-old baby.
“I can tell you as a 70-year-old grandfather, we’re not made for that,” Manchin said.
While never directly tying drug addiction to the rise in grandparents caring for grandchildren, Manchin did name addiction as one of the biggest factors leading to unemployment in the state.
Manchin told the audience that last year the state held 25 job fairs.
“At the end of the day, from all of them the whole year, 10,000 jobs were unfulfilled,” Manchin said. “People tell me there’s no work in West Virginia. We have plenty of work, we just don’t do a good job of connecting the dots.”
Manchin listed three main reasons for that difficulty — addiction, convictions and a lack of skill sets, or a combination of all three.
“We’re getting hit harder than most states,” the Senator added.
During the discussion, Manchin named the national debt as the greatest threat to national security.
From that perspective, Manchin told the audience of his objection to current tax cut proposal making its way through Congress.
While Manchin announced that as a Democrat he has not seen the Senate’s tax cut bill, and will not until Monday, using the projection of the Congressional Budget Office that such a tax cut would add $1.5 trillion to the national debt, Manchin argued that the cut was not the most fiscally conservative thing to do. He added that any major policy changes should be done on a bipartisan basis.
“Both sides are at fault,” Manchin said, adding that Congressional Democrats pushed through health care reform without one Republican vote, a reverse of the current climate in Congress.
“You should never have major policy changes in this country without a bipartisan buy-in,” Manchin said.
While Manchin outlined the Republican belief that a tax cut would lead to growth in the overall economy, the senator said that he believes that the economy is doing fine, citing a record stock market and unemployment hovering around 4 percent.
Manchin also asked the crowd if there were a sudden rush to fill jobs to fill a bolstered economy as Republicans believe, how those jobs will be filled.
“I don’t know where you’re going to find the workers once it takes off,” Manchin said before circling around to the previously mentioned job fairs. “I can’t find 10,000 workers in West Virginia.”
The senator told the crowd that during his questioning of earlier crowds that most everybody who answered was worried about living paycheck to paycheck.
While Manchin praised those working every day to make a living, he questioned the government’s role in providing income to those who are physically able to work.
“There’s more incentive not to work than there is to work,” Manchin said.
While the senator noted that Americans are a compassionate people, he called for some change in the way the nation hands out the dole.
“Everyone else in between has to pick up the load and work a little bit,” Manchin said of those who are able to work, but simply are not.
When the audience brought up the over-reliance of sending young people to a four-year college or university and the increased college debt leading to a brain drain from the Mountain State to pay off college loans, Manchin told the audience that he has been working with retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal on a loan forgiveness program.
According to Manchin, the proposal he is working on with McChrystal wouldn’t quite go that far.
Manchin said that plan would provide the same federal loans that college students receive today and if the student finishes college on time and then completes two-years of national service after graduation, then their loan debt would be forgiven.
The senator added that college students today enter higher learning with no sense of financial literacy and aren’t compelled to finish college on time.
“We’re the worst, and I’ve said this in Washington, we’re the worst country in holding people accountable,” Manchin said.
He then went on to international matters.
While Manchin said that Russia is an adversary, particularly as it comes to cyber-warfare, he named China as the greatest foreign threat to the United States.
Manchin highlighted China’s use of intellectual sabotage and theft, particularly the example of the F-35 project as an example, and the Asian nation’s trade policies.
While Manchin said he was hopeful that any new trade deals with China would benefit West Virginia and the country as a whole, he said he still remains fearful of the Asian power’s endgame and warned against giving China any control of American resources that benefit national security.
Circling back to Washington, Manchin told the crowd that his role as senator is to get things done, no matter whom the nation chooses to fill the Executive branch.
“I will say this, we’re the only country that can fix these problems,” Manchin said. “But there has to be some stability in Washington. We can’t have this fighting between just political parties for the sake of a Democrat hating a Republican or a Republican hating a Democrat.”
Email: [email protected]; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH
See more from The Register-Herald