Opinion, WVPA Sharing

Editorial: Trump to visit Boy Scouts Monday; Hope he returns soon

From The Register-Herald of Beckley:

We are delighted that President Donald Trump has elected to pay tens of thousands of Boy Scouts a visit at the Summit Bechtel Reserve Monday. Besides the obvious attention such a visit showers upon the rest of us and our state, the president’s very presence will give those young lads a story to take home to share with family and friends – forever. For them, seeing and hearing the president of the United States will only add to their memories of their time with us, the cherry on top of the sundae.

We can already hear the excited chatter around smoky campfires as evening sets in Monday night. We are happy for the boys.

We only wish the president could spend more time with us, that he didn’t have to rush back to the political rancor and intransigent policy debates in D.C. so that he might better understand conditions on the ground, here.

Many among us are having a tough go of it.

There are counties in southern West Virginia where drug overdose death rates are more than twice the state average of 41.5 deaths per 100,000 in population. And the state average is more than twice the national average (16.9).

Our workforce participation rate is barely above water – the nation’s worst by a long shot – and the highest rates are here in southern West Virginia.

Without prospects for a good-paying job, the West Virginia population continues to contract – down by about 20,000 people since 2010.

Additionally, while folks here say they don’t want a hand-out, we run up some pretty high levels of federal disability benefits.

On the health front, the statistics are just as miserable as we feel most mornings after a late-night at the local tavern. We have a high prevalence of smoking, drinking and diabetes.

The president should know, we got it bad, and it is getting worse.

There persists a level of despair and abject poverty in Appalachia that has been a tough seam to crack. And it has been that way for decades. Despite what we believe is a temporary though welcome uptick in the coal industry, the long view suggests the boards to this floor will not hold. Obama administration regulations did the coalfields no favor, but we also know that coal barons have been shedding jobs just as fast as the next best piece of mining equipment rolled off the assembly line. We have been losing jobs down here for a good long while.

And, yes, we are well aware that natural gas is cheaper than coal, and that technology, corporate cultures and protection of our environment will make renewable energies the go-to sources of the future.

We didn’t diversify our economy when coal was king –- it was the last thing the coal industry wanted thus assuring a pool of cheap labor. Now, we’re paying the piper.

We can’t stand too much more hurt. The president should know that more than a half million people in the state – 29 percent of the population – are covered by Medicaid. The GOP health care plan that the president is advocating – despite once saying that he would not touch entitlement spending – would slash hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid?

To lose that? In a word, devastating.

The president should know that we haven’t given up. We see some growth in tourism – it is a beautiful state, after all – and we have hope for small-scale agriculture and entrepreneurialism.

Gov. Jim Justice, with the blessing of the Legislature, has a road bonding plan that could put upwards to 48,000 people to work – according to the governor’s numbers.

In essence, it is an infrastructure plan that is similar to what the president has talked about – a plan that we support. If he could find enough support among Republicans, the spending bill would give a needed boost to wages, jobs and manufacturing and could certainly address the extension of roads, broadband, and water systems into the more remote corners of the state.

So, yes, we wish the president a pleasant trip on Monday, and extend him an invitation to come calling again soon when he can stay awhile.

And listen.

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