The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

July 3, 2013

Manchin holds town hall meeting in Hinton

Senator addresses national, local issues; joins constituents for lunch at DQ

HINTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Tuesday that a “correction is coming” to the country if Americans don’t intervene and take ownership of the financial issues facing the country.

“Correction is going to happen to this country just as it happens in your life.

“You can deny it, and it can hit you like a brick,” he said. “The other thing is, you can go in and intervene and plan and work your way out of it.

“Our politics have become so toxic that it looks like we’re going to have a crisis, and that means someone else is going to change or alter what we do or how we do it,” he said. “That’s what worries me.

“Leadership has to step up to the plate.”

Around 30 townspeople joined local leaders in Hinton Tuesday to visit with Manchin.

The former governor spent the morning at Hinton City Hall and later joined constituents for lunch at Dairy Queen as he listened to local concerns and updated them on the issues facing the nation.

Manchin emphasized his support of education, the coal industry and Second Amendment rights.

He opened the town hall discussion by addressing the national deficit.

“I’m still concerned about the finances of our country, because I think it really drives everything,” Manchin said. “If you don’t have your financial house in order, you can’t get anything done.”

He said the debt of the United States is higher than the value of the economy and that the country has the least amount of revenue compared to the size of the economy, more than any time since World War II.

“Nothing’s in the right direction,” he said. “We’ve got to get that straightened out.”

He said polarizing politics is one reason there can’t be a “common sense” approach to issues and that the recent sequestering of federal funds is evidence of polarization.

“Politics is stronger than common sense in Washington,” said Manchin.

Hitting on welfare reform, Manchin added that small issues are impacting the budget.

As an illustration, he used a federal law that grants cell phones to welfare recipients.

“The telephones we give out as a country to people,” Manchin said. “Do you find that amazing?

“How in the world can people sometimes just have two or more?”

Manchin said cellular phones that are given to those on public assistance dates back to a policy that made landlines available to the elderly and “shut-ins.”

“Since very few people have landlines anymore, it converted over without any checks and balances to portables.”

One resident later noted that drug dealers in Hinton use cell phones paid for by taxpayers to do drug deals and to alert others that police are coming.

- - -

Touching on Social Security and health care for the poor, Manchin emphasized that he views assisting poor people who are truly sick and unable to work as a responsibility and that the elderly should receive assistance through Social Security.

He added that unless each generation is a good steward of the budget, Social Security will be diminished.

“Social Security is not public debt,” he said. “The bottom line is every generation should be able to make sure it’s solvent.

“If every generation does that, it will perpetuate itself.”

Manchin said overhauls are needed to tighten the system.

“I have a friend who got married and had a child late in life,” he said. “Here he is getting full Social Security, still working, and because the child is not 18 years of age, his child gets a Social Security check.”

Manchin said his friend called the situation “crazy,” but admitted that he’s not sending the check back.

“We’ve got more people signing up for full disability and Social Security than at any other point in this society,” he said. “In 2016, it will be broke.

“The bottom line is, we never go back and re-evaluate,” Manchin added. “We very seldom go back and say, ‘You’re off, back to work.’”

- - -

While Manchin committed strongly to educating Americans as one primary means of being a world leader, he stressed that college students are often loaned more money than is necessary to pay for college, and they graduate with debt.

“If a kid comes in and they say, ‘You qualify for $1,200, do you want it all?’... He’ll take it,” Manchin said. “If you had no financial parenting when you were growing up and all of a sudden someone says you can borrow this much ... well, if I can borrow it, give it to me,” he said. “How would you know?”

He added that the cost of higher education has skyrocketed over the past 30 years.

Touching on corporate America, Manchin said that “Wall Street is doing better than Main Street.”

“Large corporations in America have gone off-shore,” he said. “They make the product, jobs go off-shore and they sell the products back to the U.S. because there’s no market (in the country where it was made.)

“Then they keep their profits off-shore not to pay taxes,” he added. “That’s absurd.”

A dependence on government and a distrust of government are two negative mindsets in the country, he said.

“When we were being raised in the ’50s and ’60s, 75 percent of people trusted government,” said Manchin. “Heck, if they told us an atomic bomb goes off, jump under your desk and it’ll save us ... we believed it.

“We trusted government,” he said. “No matter what you do today, people look at you skeptical, and they just don’t trust.

“Everybody’s grabbing for themselves because they believe if you don’t, someone else is going to take it.

“It’s a situation that kind of makes you wonder about the people that are watching this country.”

- - -

Manchin warned that those in many other countries don’t believe a military attack is their best strategy for defeating America.

Instead, he said, some have stated that the United States will be unable to produce an educated workforce and that the country will destroy itself.

“This drug problem,” said Manchin, “There’s not another nation on earth that believes they can overtake the U.S. in our lifetime,” he said. “They believe we will be our own demise, that we won’t have an educated workforce, won’t have people to go out and work, we can’t compete.

“China believes it, and so do many (others). They’re just sitting back. Unless you can educate the population and keep them clean, and unless you show humanity and dignity towards those people who are less fortunate, we’re not going to be a great society.

“We’re not going to be a great power or excel at the level we’d like to.”

Later, Manchin added, “If drugs are going to destroy us, why do they have to come and fight us?”

Hinton Mayor Joe Blankenship and councilman Bob Basham requested Manchin’s advice in shutting down two bars and in dealing with an overwhelming drug problem that has resulted in crime spikes in Hinton, including prostitution.

Basham noted that the vice is detrimental to tourism and to those who may be thinking of relocating to the town.

“It’s disheartening to invite someone in, and they have to look at Third Avenue,” said Basham. “They’re getting propositioned by the prostitutes and people trying to sell them drugs.”

Manchin said a strong coal industry is vital to the nation and said he’s in a “deep fight” with the Environmental Protection Agency on the issue.

“If the price goes up, you end up paying, whether you like it or not,” he said. “(People) bought in, thinking they can run this country on renewables.

“The coal we produce in West Virginia, the coal we use in this country ... 35 percent of the Energy Department itself is going to depend on coal-produced energy,” he said. “Yet they’re making it so difficult and so expensive, the price will rise.

“It’s equivalent to shooting yourself in both feet and saying, ‘We’re running a marathon tomorrow.’”

He added that China burns 4 billion tons of coal, and the United States burns 1 billion.

“Our president and this administration is putting us in a situation that’s making us non-competitive.”

—  E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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