This piece was originally published in the Wheeling Intelligencer on February 2nd, 2020.]
Learning to take care of what you have is part of life. Any parent who ever had a child who wanted a goldfish or a kitty-cat or a puppy has had the conversation: “If you want to have a pet, you have to take care of it. It’s your responsibility.” Of course as cute kittens and puppies get older, a child might become less interested and move on to other things, and before long, the parents have to take over, or escalate the issue with a child who didn’t understand that a pet is a big responsibility and that a dog can live a long time.
But some people grow into adults without learning life’s basic lessons, because their parents don’t teach them, because they refuse to learn them, or because they live a life where other people clean up their messes for them after they’ve lost interest and moved on to something else.
That, of course, brings us to our governor, Jim Justice.
Jim Justice and Jerry Falwell are both children of rich successful men who left their sons a ton of money and various businesses. They didn’t earn those things the hard way and last Tuesday, it really showed. Jim and Jerry got together to have a press conference and get in the newspapers for their big idea that Fredrick County, Virginia should leave that state and join West Virginia.
It should go without saying, but apparently doesn’t, that the idea is utterly ridiculous. Legally, it could not be accomplished without the consent of the full state legislature of Virginia and the United States Congress, neither of which have any interest at all in it. But more importantly, West Virginia can’t afford Fredrick County. Teachers in Fredrick County make a third more on average than those in West Virginia.
Virginia’s average income is half again as much as West Virginia’s. Virginia is gaining jobs and growing its economy while West Virginia’s continues to decline.
West Virginia, as its governor should know, has major problems in need of real fixes. Jim Justice can’t find the money to fix West Virginia’s roads, pay its teachers competitive wages, or provide decent services. Hospitals serving rural areas are closing. Drugs are a scourge and Justice hasn’t gained any ground on the problem in four years. West Virginia communities lack clean drinking water. West Virginia is losing jobs.
In other words, Jim Justice won’t take care of the counties West Virginia already has. Why in the world would we let him go out and get himself a new one?
He may find the loyal, tough old state he is responsible for to be a bit boring, but if we don’t make him take care of it, how will he ever learn his lesson? What does he think West Virginia is, some tax bill he can just ignore?
By the way, they are no dummies over there in Fredrick County. A local official responded to “Jim and Jerry’s Excellent Idea” by saying “my God, get something else to do. West Virginia? Come on guys.” Jim Justice will marry Chrissy Teigen before he lures a county away from Virginia. He’s just wasting time a responsible governor would see we don’t have.
The problem in West Virginia isn’t that we aren’t gaining territory. The problem is that our attention-seeking governor has lost interest in the hard problems the state has and isn’t working on them.
Like a kid with an aging pet, he’s gotten bored with West Virginia and he’s off looking for new toys to play with, alongside his fellow trust-fund kid, Jerry. It’s a shame, but we shouldn’t be that surprised. What’s a job to people who were born rich?
In 2020, let’s let Jim and Jerry go off and fool around with whatever shiny new pet tickles their fancy, but not at our expense. It was a mistake to let Jim Justice buy the governor’s mansion in 2016 in the first place. He obviously doesn’t want it, doesn’t care about it, and won’t take care of it. Let’s find a governor willing to take care of West Virginia and all 55 of her beautiful counties.