Seems as though, or at least to me, that West Virginia’s political leaders are having a tough time putting their political stubbornness and ineffectiveness aside so that they might better serve their constituents. They are sticking with what brought them to the dance, regardless of whether or not that date can move to the latest beat without tripping over old and worn-out laces.

It also seems to me that we are at a crossroads on so many different issues and yet unable to summon the courage to take bold steps forward that, by most estimates, would quell the storm that is a viral pandemic and, in a different arena, correct an American economy that goes out of its way to reward the filthy rich – to no one’s benefit but those buying yachts and other luxury toys.

Late this past week, the United States – a country whose shelves are stocked with more than enough vaccines to go around – surpassed 700,000 deaths attributed to Covid complications. And yet an overwhelming majority of Americans who have died during a time when there has been free and easy access to vaccines were unvaccinated. And, in some cases, unrepentant. Put another way, people who elect to go unvaccinated, regardless of facts and fate, are far and away more likely to die from this hideous disease than those who take the shot in the arm.

Not that this news is going to change any minds anytime soon, because, well, 700,000 deaths, but research says that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is infecting far more people than the original virus because it has evolved and is continuing to evolve to spread more efficiently through the air.

All of this adds up to a country, ours, that has had one of the highest recent death rates of any country with an ample supply of vaccines.

During the same week, the governor of our state, Jim Justice, told us all, once again, that surely more people were going to die if the unvaccinated didn’t all run out, roll up a sleeve and take a jab in the arm.

As of this writing, and sticking out like a sore thumb on the governor’s résumé, less than half of the state’s population has been vaccinated  – among the lowest rates in the country.

The governor is correct, of course, on a couple of other notes – along with predicting more funerals. He’s trying to say that vaccines are effective and the more people who are inoculated in the state, the better chance that more people will live to see Thanksgiving. Perhaps even Christmas and New Year’s.

But he just can’t bring himself to call for a vaccine mandate for state workers – including those in our schools to whom we entrust the safety and education of our children.

Why? He does not believe in mandates. Downright un-American, he says, which is pure, unadulterated poppycock. 

No word on whether the governor is going to ask the Legislature in the upcoming session to overturn state law that requires all children entering school to show proof of immunization against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and hepatitis B.

I wish he would find the, um, courage to do what is right, like Scott Kirby, chief executive of United Airlines. Just this past Thursday he anounced that nearly all of United Airlines’ 67,000 employees in the U.S. had been vaccinated against Covid-19.

How?  

“We concluded enough is enough,” Kirby told The New York Times. “People are dying, and we can do something to stop that with United Airlines.”

So, Mr. Kirby mandated shots for all employees.

Meanwhile, in another political show ring and yet another fit of intransigence, our senior senator, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is putting up detours for many of the state’s poor from having a better shot at building a life not reliant on federal handouts.

Manchin is objecting to a now famous reconciliation bill and its $3.5 trillion price tag, and if you want to talk simply about the size of the outlay, then, yes, that is a big number. But maybe the senator ought to consider all of what the bill would do – especially for West Virginia – for it is much.

Still, in a video clip that he may regret one day, Manchin is seen standing at the back of his rather large and expensive yacht, moored near the halls of power in D.C., carrying on a conversation with activists in kayaks down below.

It has “Let them eat cake” written all over it.

What Manchin is blocking by standing in the way of the reconciliation bill’s passage, in summary, is the most significant investment in the lives of everyday American families in generations and a critical framework to begin pushing back against global warming via decarbonizing our transportation and energy systems.

Oh, yes. It also includes changes to the tax code that would ensure the bill does not actually cost $3.5 trillion.

Listen, Joe and Jim do not live like the great majority of the rest of us. So of course they can’t relate to our everyday concerns of making ends meet and hoping, just hoping, for better days ahead. 

But I have to tell you, Manchin’s and Justice’s shtick is holding us back – and it is wearing thin.

— J. Damon Cain is editor of The Register-Herald.

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