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Herman H. Jones: W.Va. has a choice to make about the future (Gazette)

By By Herman H. Jones

I am a native West Virginian and now live in Virginia. I often wonder why West Virginia, one of the most economically depressed states (sorry to say), is such a strong political ally of the conservative Republican Party when the GOP is known for obstructing liberal and progressive initiatives that could improve life for disadvantage citizens, both economically and socially.

Many will agree that the GOP believes individuals should take control of their lives and not rely on government to provide for them. The GOP advocates slashing food stamps, denying unemployment assistance, opposing affordable healthcare, and cutting taxes for the wealthy.

Republicans constantly demonize poor people and think the economically disadvantaged deserve only scorn and insults. If you’re poor, you’re just uneducated and lazy.

Because of West Virginia’s depressed economy and the GOP’s governing programs, you will find West Virginians live with stagnated social mobility, increasing inequality and a rise of low-wage jobs without benefits. In this environment, no amount of individual effort, self-improvement or thrift can guarantee a secure middle-class lifestyle.

If these conditions continue, even those who are able to move from poverty to the middle class on paper (in terms of education, job title or income level) may still never achieve long-term financial and economic stability.

Under Republican control of the Legislature, West Virginia has the nation’s highest unemployment rate, the lowest rate of working-age people in the workforce, consistently ranks among the bottom of states in job-creation, and ranks at or near bottom in countless other economic and health measures. Its citizens have few controls over their lives, or hopes of a stable and secure future.

It should come as no surprise that West Virginians are leaving the state to seek employment opportunities elsewhere.

You should vote Republican if you favor wasting taxpayer dollars trying to sue or impeach the president, even when there is no legitimate cause for either action.

You should vote Republican if you favor financing or prosecuting wars, but not spending funds on healthcare or other services needed by veterans.

You should vote Republican if you think President Obama care will destroy the economy by forcing businesses to spend more on health care.

You should vote Republican if you think Congress has a right to limit women’s access to contraceptives and abortion.

You should vote Republican if you think those with money should have all the power.

And you should vote Republican if you hate Obama more than you love America.

Otherwise, you should vote Democrat if you want to move this country forward, level the financial playing field, increase the employment rate and increase wages to get citizens out of poverty and want women to be able to control their own bodies and healthcare.

Now, you can’t talk about a depressed West Virginia economy without addressing the relationship between state government and the general population.

In the early 1990s, I served as executive director of a state agency before leaving West Virginia permanently. My departure was prompted by the agency’s resentment of criticism levied against its leaders for their lackluster performance and not using their influence to improve quality of life and eliminate racial discrimination.

Moreover, the agency completely ignored minority people and treated them as insignificant, since this segment represents less than 4 percent of the state population (black, Hispanic and Asian).

These groups are systematically denied full access to various rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to the white majority. Under those circumstances, minorities cannot be expected to experience success in life despite their striving and mental capacity that are essential to achieving promising futures. Where do we go from here?

Herman H. Jones lives in Fredericksburg, Va.

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