Stephen Smith: Time for a New Deal for West Virginia (Opinion)

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My name is Stephen Smith and I am running for governor, alongside a slate of more than 90 candidates who refuse corporate campaign money.

Over the past two months, daily life has become harder for most of us.

Before this crisis, things were already tough. Many of us were working two jobs just to get by. And small-business owners were going years without putting a dime in their own pockets. Some of our loved ones were rationing insulin. We lost too many others to suicide and overdose. Our foster-care crisis? Out of control. In most of West Virginia, rural broadband was a joke. And farmers were closing up shop, unable or unwilling to serve Big Agriculture’s bottom line any longer. Our roads were literally crumbling beneath our feet.

Meanwhile, we — as we always do — bravely shouldered these burdens, and the richest among us got richer, dodged taxes and bought elections to make government work for them.

This pandemic crisis threatens to make those other crises worse.

In our state’s founding document is enshrined this motto: “Mountaineers are Always Free.” But, each day, more of our freedom is robbed by poverty, addiction and racism. It’s robbed by coal executives who steal miner pensions and give themselves bonuses and golden parachutes. It’s robbed by billionaires whose companies pay poverty wages to hardworking people and expect taxpayers to take up the slack for them.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Truly, it doesn’t. We can live up to our founders’ dreams.

But we will not win this freedom through small ideas or half-measures. It will take the kind of boldness that honors the sacrifices of our grandparents and the lives of our children.

It is time for a New Deal for West Virginia.

Every great change in American history was impossible, until it wasn’t. No miner who died at Blair Mountain could have imagined the gains won a generation later. No family starving through the Great Depression could have imagined Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Months before the 2018 strike, teachers went up to the Capitol to begin their fight for fairness, and politicians on both sides of the aisle said that winning a 5% raise would never happen, that PEIA funding was impossible. Instead of compromising or retreating, teachers fought harder and, in the end, they changed what was possible.

We are in another moment like that. What we do right now will shape our state for generations.

The New Deal our campaign has ratified is the boldest state platform in West Virginia history, shifting wealth and political power back to the working people of our state and away from lobbyists, the wealthy few and out-of-state corporate owners. It assures that more than $2 billion will return to our neighborhoods, our local businesses and our pocketbooks every year. It is detailed — with 32 plans, more than 100 pages and more than 250 policy recommendations.

It includes a Homestead Act and Robin Hood tax plan that shift land and wealth from out-of-state corporations to small businesses and working families; a state bank to finance a Works Progress Administration-style jobs program, rebuilding our roads, schools, broadband and waterways; an anti-corruption unit in our State Police to end election-buying, catch corporate criminals and tackle race and gender discrimination.

Full cannabis legalization is included, as is making broadband a public utility. We have an education plan written by educators and a workers bill of rights first imagined by nurses on the picket line. We have a debt-relief plan to keep our kids here.

We are poised to win this New Deal and this election.

In the past year, we’ve broken donation record after donation record: most donations ever in a West Virginia governors’ race; more than twice the number of small donations in West Virginia history; more donations from West Virginians than all of our opponents combined.

Our endorsements run the gamut, from union nurses and teachers to women’s rights organizations and social workers. And we’ve built an unprecedented volunteer operation, with more than 93 local volunteer teams and 1,000 volunteers reaching more than 159,000 West Virginians, personally.

In public news polls, we win every time.

We are ready to deliver on the promise made by our state’s founders.

You can read the New Deal right now, at Tell me what you think. My cell is 304-610-6512. There are 94 of us candidates statewide ready to answer to you, not out-of-state corporate interests. We hope to earn your vote.

Stephen Smith, of Charleston, is a

Democratic Party candidate for governor.

Funerals for Monday, July 13, 2020

Alford, Virginia - 11 a.m., Apple Grove Memorial Gardens.

Gibson, Harold - 1 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Humphreys Sr., Randall - 2:30 p.m., Ward Road Cemetery, Nettie.

Jackson, Shirley - 1 p.m., Bollinger Funeral Home, Charleston.

Laudermilt, Darlene - 7 p.m., Foglesong - Casto Funeral Home, Mason.

Nichols, Sharon - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Sammons, Anthony - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Tucker, Denver - 3 p.m., Rayne Funeral Home, Eleanor Chapel.