November 25, 2016

Bring back child labor?

I used to think that I should devote my few remaining days on this earth to the noble cause of changing West Virginia's state motto from "Mountaineers Are Always Free," which doesn't really fit anymore, to "You can't make this **** up."

I'm starting to think that may need to be done for the nation instead. We are, after all having pluribus troubles with our unum.

Here's one example, which is particularly ironic or sad for those familiar with labor history. From the earliest days of the republic, a major demand of working people and the labor movement has been for free public education. Another key demand from long ago was the abolition of child labor. So it's just peachy that the Trump administration's pick for education secretary is someone devoted to torpedoing public education though vouchers and privatization. AND she's served on the board of an organization that celebrates the virtue of child labor.

Here's another cheer for child labor from a similar think tank that talks about how exciting mining can be for kids.

The picture above comes from the 1907 Monongah mine disaster, one of many that occurred in West Virginia. The official death toll was over 360, but nobody knows for sure. In the absence of child labor laws, it was customary for some miners to bring their boys to work with them. We'll never know how many children died in the disaster.

I guess some people find that exciting.

November 23, 2016

A needless killing

I've been holed up lately trying to finish some projects and get clear of some deadlines. One thing I missed in all that was the tragic shooting of James Means, an unarmed 15 year old African American who was gunned down by a white man on Charleston's East End. As I write this, a vigil is going on in Charleston. This is one of too many acts of racism and violence going on across the country. Please hold his family and friends in your thoughts at this difficult time. This story isn't over yet.

November 21, 2016

Not a good sign

Over the years, I've often complained about West Virginia's sometimes skewed budget priorities. These go back way before the current economic and fiscal meltdown the state faces now. And the perfect example of this is the state of funding for higher education.

You can find my recent rants about this in the Gazette here and here.

Here's a recap of the mini-rant version:

*WV ranks at the bottom in terms of higher educational attainment;

*It's also at on near the bottom on income and poverty statistics. (Hmmmm....might there be a connection?);

*Back in 2007 and since, when times were better, the state cut taxes by more than enough to provide free instate tuition and fees to all WV students with money to spare; and

*When adjusted for inflation, WV has cut higher ed funding by more than 40 percent since 2008.

It's starting to show. As WV Public Broadcasting reports, college enrollment here has dropped for the fifth straight year.

Any way you slice it, that's not a good sign. And it's likely to get worse before it gets better--unless we fight back to restore sane budget priorities, which includes raising revenue.