And so it begins . . .

January 11, 2008

First off, welcome. This blog is no-frills right now, but I will improve the display over time. This blog will be about my beloved, yet troubled, state, West Virginia. I am a Mountaineer to my very core, and frankly, I am terribly concerned, frustrated, and yes, upset about the conditions here. I am going to rant about it, cry about it, propose changes to fix it, and ask for anyone who reads this blog to join me in demanding — and more importantly enacting — change.

For too long, we have allowed West Virginia to be a single-party dictatorship. I am in my mid-thirties, and there has never — NEVER — been a time when the Democrat Party wasn’t in power. Oh sure, there have been a few Republican governors (two, I believe — Arch Moore and Cecil Underwood) in my lifetime, but other than that, well, it’s been all Democrats. Republicans are currently irrelevant in much of the state, and don’t even get me started about the current state of the Legislature.

To put it simply – we are stagnant and dying. Our birth rate has plummeted while our death rates are high. Our youth leave the state in droves and those who do stay simply grow older and have fewer children. Then we educate those children to the great benefit of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and most other states in the Union. Our teachers are picked and pirated by other states almost daily. We lose our best educators to move South to educate the children of those people who have moved there from West Virginia. It is both disheartening and laughable.

We squander our natural resources, squabble about mountain top removal, designate the most important transportation artery south of Charleston a “toll road” to further kill economic incentive, pander to unions who haven’t been relevant for decades, and have managed to ruin an entire region of the state with economic holocaust. We have seen economic prosperity in our pasts, only to snub our noses at it and turn our backs to it. We have privatized workers compensation, only to place a new $90-million tax on it to make sure it’s really not private and politicians still get their cut. We have placed severance taxes on industries for the “privilege” of doing business in the state, yet watched as state agencies do everything in their collective power to drive these same industries out of business. We tax businesses twice in the guise of a “franchise” tax, then wonder why we suffer with lack of businesses locating to our state.

We have accepted the mantle of “hillbilly”, “poor”, and “uneducated” to the point where many of the jokes no longer register. We reluctantly smile as they say we marry our sisters or cousins. We have tolerated the jokes and let people put us down, because somewhere deep inside our psyches, we believe it’s true. We believe a Home Depot locating to Parkersburg is an important enough occasion for the governor to appear and cut a ribbon, because it’s “economic development”. We have watched our cities die and our children move away, to where it is almost considered “just the thing that happens”.

And we do nothing.

Until now.

There needs to be a change. A serious change. We are dying, my state is dying, and the economy has, in reality, already died. In national boom periods, it moves little. We lack and lag in nearly every category. The number 50 is synonymous with West Virginia. The mentality of so many must be broken and changed. The Democrat Party is no longer “for the working man”. They are for the lawyer and the special interest, and most importantly, for themselves. And they honestly don’t think there is a problem. I say if the past 60 years in this state is Democratic economic policy in living color, we’d best pray they never come to power in the USA for so long!

In my next post, I am going to list all the “major” cities of West Virginia and their populations from 1950 through the 2006 latest census estimates. If that post isn’t enough to convince you there is a serious problem in West Virginia, you are either a hardcore anti-business democrat, or not real bright. Or you simply don’t care. True, suburbanization has, to some extent, played a role in the declines, but it can’t explain so many from all over the state.

So in closing, I love my state, but I am sick of the jokes, sick of the disrespect, sick of being the butt of comedy, and fed up with watching the status quo batted about as if it is “progress”. I will be honest, I have considered leaving, maybe to Columbus, OH, Louisville, KY, Columbia, SC, or even Tampa, FL. Anywhere but here, where nothing happens and you just watch things stay the same and your friends and neighbors move away. I don’t want to do that, though. So it’s either time to change the state or change my address.

I chose to change my state.

Until next time.