(02/13/2013)
COMMENT Bob Weaver

For a third year, West Virginia is the most pessimistic state in the country when it comes to economic confidence, according to a Gallup study just released.

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index is a composite of Americans' ratings of current U.S. economic conditions and their perceptions of the economy's direction.

Gallup says economic confidence is a complex consumer attitude that reflects real world economic factors, but is also sensitive to the U.S. political environment.

West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said the Mountain State's "high level of dissatisfaction" in President Obama may be one reason for the state's lack of confidence.

Most West Virginians dislike Obama, at least in part for his administrations inability to rebound the economy following the nations worst collapse since the Great Depression at the end of the Bush administration.

Federal prison inmate Keith Judd got on the state ticket for president and won 42 percent of the primary vote against Obama.

Nearly 52,000 West Virginia voters cast their ballots for Judd. It was obvious that many voters had never heard of him and simply checked the box for "the other guy who is not Barack Obama" when they went to the polling booth.

Obama didn't win a single WV county in the General Election.

Politicos often subscribe to an old axiom, "People vote their pocketbooks."

WV voters seem to have higher standards than their pocketbooks regarding the federal government, certainly with the Obama administration.

During his inaugural address, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin drew the loudest applause when he said he spends much of his time "fighting the federal government to get off our backs and leave us alone."

That stance against the federal government when it is virtually West Virginia's lifeblood, the Mountain State being loaded with aging and lower-income families and drawing more U.S. aid than most states.

Last year, a Quaker lobbying group issued a report titled "How Does Federal Spending Benefit West Virginia?"

The report says that West Virginians get back over twice as much as they pay in taxes.

Social Security pays more than $3 billion per year to West Virginia retirees, and another $1.5 billion to disabled state residents.

Medicare provides $3.5 billion in yearly treatment for ailing West Virginia oldsters and Medicaid pays $2.3 billion for the state's poor families.

U.S. food stamps are worth $500 million to West Virginians annually. Pell grants for West Virginia college students total $228 million a year.

School lunches and breakfasts get $117 million yearly.

Scaled-back federal welfare still provides $113 million annually in West Virginia.

Lesser federal benefits to the Mountain State include $54 million for Head Start, $45 million for low-income home heating, $40 million for WIC nutrition, $47 million for the Children's Health Insurance Program, etc.

The Quaker report says, "These investments in West Virginia's economy affect at least 700,000 people and total $11.5 billion."

In contrast, the state collects only $4.7 billion in taxes itself, so federal support to West Virginians is much larger. Then there is the 90-10 federal match for Interstate highways and bridges and spending on airports, flood-control dams and the postal system and the federal unemployment support for jobless West Virginians.

West Virginia has a high ratio of military veterans getting federal help and a high ratio of low-income parents drawing about $2,000 per family from the Earned Income Tax Credit.

There is the huge FBI center at Clarksburg and other federal offices the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd acquired for West Virginia, boosting local economies.

It is a fascinating stance for Gov. Tomblin to tell the U.S. government to "get off our backs and leave us alone," while voters rail about socialism, programs that have frequently been supported by both political parties, at least until now.

Tomblin, in echoing many West Virginians sediments, is likely focusing on the "war on coal."

In the meantime, most West Virginians are against their economic lifeblood, even though the huge dependency on federal dollars can certainly be questioned, including the abuse of so-called entitlements.


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