|By Bob Weaver|
After years of Washington wanting to grab fast track trade authority, the U.S. Senate
has approved the legislation 64-34. Under the cloud of billions and billions of dollars
being stolen from the American people by large corporations, President George Bush
will have a free hand in hatching deals.
Both Democrats and Republicians have supported the elimination of trade barriers, world trade, and "fast track," including President Bill Clinton, with glowing promises to American workers.
But for now, it is a crushing blow for West Virginia workers, who are losing their jobs by the
thousands under NAFTA and GATT and other world trade policies.
Both West Virginia senators, Byrd and Rockefeller voted against the agreement, along
with the state's congressional delegates. Republican representative Shelly Moore
Capito was one of a handful of Republicans who bucked Bush in a House vote last
Senator Byrd said it violates the separation of powers. "Who does the president work
for, the WTO or the people of the United States? he asked.
Byrd said hard-working West Virginia families deserve a slice of the pie. Washington
claims fast track dealing will be good for American workers.
That would be difficult to accept as more than ten thousand jobs have left or are
leaving West Virginia during the past twelve to twenty-four months.
Vague hopes of luring light manufacturing plants to poor rural counties off the beaten
path have nearly vanished, as the government continues to provide re-training funds
for jobs that do not exist in Appalachia.
Families who have been entrenched in rural counties have already been driving 50-75
miles one way for a job. Many of those jobs are now leaving, and more are expected
West Virginia may well become a vast wasteland of opportunity, left with government
employees, the disabled and retirees. The county school board is already the biggest
employer in 34 counties.
If the pressure to pack up and move was on in the post-war 1950's, the reality of
financial survival in the mountain state is now reaching greater intensity.
Politically, small rural counties without jobs, a commercial tax base and retired
residents with Homestead Exemption, their chances of survival will become slim.
While the price of maintaining a country-life in West Virginia for young adults has
been very difficult, it may soon be almost nonexistent.