Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Exponent Telegram on COVID-19 relief funds:
As the West Virginia Legislature begins its 2021 session on Wednesday and our federal leaders continue to debate just who needs COVID-19 stimulus funding, we urge them to consider the rising costs that surround many of today’s necessities.
While we understand the costs of most items need to increase some over time, we are concerned at rising costs in food, essentials, some utilities and gasoline in particular.
And while the national cost of living increase for those on Social Security was a paltry 1.3% this year, we find more than enough anecdotal evidence to suggest more aid is needed for senior citizens, as well as those termed “the working poor.”
That’s why we are glad to see some form of stimulus payments planned for those groups, but we also strongly point out that the rising costs — some of which are clearly COVID-19 related — affect all citizens, thus the need for some form of assistance to those in income levels up to a minimum of those adopted for the previous stimulus packages.
Additionally, we caution lawmakers to consider rising costs in essentials — costs that eat into everyone’s take-home pay — as they consider future policies in regard to taxation.
Clearly COVID-19 has presented numerous obstacles to overcome, often at a hefty price tag when it comes to government services.
At the same time, that financial burden also is being carried by many citizens, with the rising costs of essentials only adding to that stress.
While the pandemic has quickly struck at our way of life and inflicted great pain to our health, finances and quality of life, we must be measured in our response and vision for the future.
The COVID-19 vaccine gives great promise to the potential of a return to normal at some point in 2021, or at least by early 2022.
In the meantime, lawmakers must be aware that a great number of people are hurting, and efforts must be made to stabilize markets, as well as government and household budgets.
Extreme policy shifts that destabilize energy, food, utility or health-care marketplaces could prove to be more than a little troubling to those who are working toward a brighter future.
As state lawmakers appear set on rolling back or eliminating the personal income tax, they should look for something more meaningful in the here and now, such as a tax rebate.
Then, as they are able to determine if and how much tax rates can be reduced without causing significant harm to services, they can look toward implementation.
On the national level, our view has been made clear: We support stimulus payments of an additional $1,400 to those who previously qualified.
We also support efforts to provide paycheck protection loans to more businesses, as well as at least $300 supplemental unemployment insurance payments extended through September.
At the same time, we urge our federal leaders to tread cautiously in terms of energy policy, as sudden or costly increases in energy or gasoline prices will negate any effort to stabilize those in need.
As we look at the many issues, both on the state and national level, we are reminded of the adage “slow and steady wins the race.”
Our leaders would be wise in following that guidance in terms of any efforts in initiating any further policy changes.
Let’s get the stimulus in place, consider a state tax rebate and then measure where our economy and the pandemic stand a few months down the road.
The Intelligencer on West Virginia University's 154 year anniversary:
Feb. 7, 1867.
That’s the day West Virginia University (then known as the “Agricultural College of West Virginia”) was founded in Morgantown under the Morril Land-Grant Colleges Act.
The university has grown from one building at its founding (Martin Hall) to now serving as the economic hub not only of Morgantown but also of West Virginia. Much obviously has changed over the past 154 years.
Today nearly 30,000 students are enrolled at WVU. The university employs thousands of educational and support staff and offer 141 undergraduate majors and 267 graduate majors. Professors at the school not only educate the next generation, they also help shape economic policy in the state and provide insight and perspective into a variety of issues. And work within WVU’s Statler College of Engineering in recent years uncovered the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
The growth and prominence of WVU as an academic institution has increased sharply over the past few decades, with the university in recent years attaining the status as a Carnegie’s R1 Research Institution, one of only 130 in the nation.
President E. Gordon Gee is among a group of leaders in recent years that have elevated WVU in the national conversation while keeping the university true to its roots.
Happy (belated) 154th birthday, West Virginia University. Mountaineers will always remain proud and free under your watch.
The Register Herald on Sen. Shelley Moore Capito's call for stronger bipartisanship:
Republicans like Sen. Shelley Moore Capito need to dry their crocodile tears about a lack of bipartisanship related to the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that was approved by the Senate in the wee hours Friday morning. We saw plenty of shared political ingredients in the pie that was passed along to the House, some of it coming from Capito, herself.
But, still, at the end of the voting, not a single Republican had found the courage to cross the aisle and stand for many in the American family who are hurting.
Sorry, senator, we have seen this movie before and you are on the wrong side of history, playing narrow-minded political games while the country’s economy falters and stands at the precipice of a double-dip recession.
The size of the challenge ahead is monumental, and it needs an equally sized response. Go big or go home, senator.
We remember the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, an emergency response early in the Obama presidency to the Great Recession. The bill passed the House with no Republican votes and later the Senate with only three Republicans voting in with the Democrats. Then, too, calls for bipartisanship had slowed the process and succeeded at scaling back the package – just as what is being asked today.
We also remember the legislative sausage-making with the Affordable Care Act, a nine-month odyssey from one committee to another, pushing multiple other issues to the back burner while Republicans played a game of obstruct and delay.
When it passed, it had exactly zero Republican votes. Democrats had been burned.
Well, this time around, Democrats are mindful of Republican gamesmanship and are in no mood to put their hand in that fire again. While the Senate now turns its attention to a trial of the former president, impeached a historic second time, the House takes up the work of legislating the Biden bill. That work is projected to take two weeks.
Why the hurry? Well, how about housing? A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia showed that tenants who lost jobs in the pandemic had amassed $11 billion in back rental payments. Moody’s Analytics, meanwhile, estimated that renters owed $53 billion in back rent, utilities and late fees as of January. Other surveys show that families, increasingly pessimistic about making next month’s rent, are cutting back on food to pay bills. No lobbyists outside their door, waiting to take them to lunch.
What about unemployment?
January employment numbers suggest the economy is stalling if not reversing course. Critical to the local economy, as Capito should know, the leisure and hospitality sector lost 61,000 jobs across the country atop 536,000 lost in December. If you think it’s cold outside, the winds have been brutal for restaurant workers and live entertainment employees during this pandemic.
Also, a widespread vaccination program – as Biden proposes – is critical to getting kids back to school, parents back to their jobs and the economy on solid ground. In January, the U.S. counted 9.1 million fewer jobs than a year earlier – consistent with a severe recession, experts say.
And Capito is crying over a lack of bipartisanship?
For the record:
- During the amendment phase in the Senate, Capito and Manchin both voted to create a grant program to aid food service and drinking establishments affected by the novel coronavirus. It was a Republican idea. The vote was 90 yeas to 10 nays.
- The two also voted – along with all senators – for an amendment by Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, that would bar legislation that would increase taxes on small businesses during a national emergency.
- Also passed, an amendment sponsored by Sen. Todd Young, a Republican, will block illegal immigrants from receiving direct tax-based aid payments linked to COVID-19.
- And on a 99-1 vote, an amendment sponsored by Manchin places a limit on the annual income an individual can earn and receive a Covid-19 stimulus payment. This was an item on the wish list of the 10 so-called “centrist” Republicans, including Capito, who pleaded their case with the president in a much-publicized Oval Office meeting. And they got what they had asked for.
And yet, when push came to shove, Capito and 49 other Republican senators voted against the bill.
Because? Because Republicans remain obstructionists. Apparently, it is all they know – as history has shown.
And there, in the middle of that crowd, big tears in her eyes, stands West Virginia’s junior senator.