January 28, 2016

Manchin to students: ‘You’ve got to shovel your own snow’ | The East Liverpool Review

NEW MANCHESTER-Sounding by turns like a politician, a parent, a teacher and a job recruiter, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin III told a group of Oak Glen High School seniors Wednesday that they shouldn't shun hard work.

"Today, people give up too easily. When I was growing up, you could do pretty well with a high school education. You could get a job in a factory or a mine and be there your whole life," he said. "This is a different world. You probably will have four, five, six jobs in your life."

Manchin, 68, held a Skype session from Washington, D.C., with 10 civics students who asked him about issues ranging from gun control to Common Core, from the West Virginia coal industry to illegal drugs.

Although polite, the students of civics teacher Adam Howell did not shy away from controversial issues during their hour-long session with the senator from West Virginia.

Senior Zac Porter asked Manchin whether he thinks Syrian refugees should be allowed into the state. The conservative Democrat said the United States should be welcoming to immigrants while at the same time carefully vetting Muslims coming from Middle East hot spots.

Senior Isabella Neer asked whether the minimum wage should be raised. Manchin answered with his own question: Do you believe that someone working 40 hours a week, no matter what the job, should at least make wages above the federal poverty level?

The students mostly nodded in agreement. Once that premise is accepted, Manchin said, it's not hard to justify a minimum wage increase.

Manchin said he would like to see West Virginia's minimum wage ($8.75) be closer to $10. It may be time to institute a two-tier system-a wage for people just entering the workforce and one for people with more experience, he said.

Mackenzie Jacobs asked if the U.S. EPA's standards on fossil fuel emissions are too strict and, thus, injurious to the state's coal industry.

Manchin said the Obama administration's policies have "accelerated the decline" of coal and created hardships for West Virginians.

"When I defend coal, I'm saying you've got to use what you've got until you develop the new thing you want to develop," he said, challenging "hardcore" environmentalists to do without coal for 90 days.

"What would happen? One hundred forty million people's lives would be in jeopardy. They'd be either freezing to death, heat strokes, everything else. They wouldn't have jobs to go to because there wouldn't be enough energy to run the factories and plants they work at. There wouldn't be technology advancements because you wouldn't have the energy to do it," he said.

To Devon Chadwick's question about President Obama's recent gun control executive orders, Manchin defended his own background check bill, co-sponsored by Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey.

The Manchin-Toomey bill would mandate criminal and mental health background checks for gun show sales and online sales.

"It's not gun control; it's gun sense," he said. "I come from a gun culture. You come from a gun culture state. People have guns. I was raised as a law-abiding gun owner. I was taught safety. I was taught not to sell my gun to a stranger, not to sell my gun to a criminal or an idiot."

To Alex Shuman's question about solutions to the drug problem, Manchin took a more parental tone.

"I'm telling all of you all, whether you've experimented or thought you were being cool or something, don't play with this stuff. This stuff can grab you and ruin your life," he said. "If you've tried it, fine. You can say, 'I experimented with it and I didn't like it.' If you've tried it and you think, now, that you like it and it's beyond recreational: I guarantee it'll take your life over."

Manchin said the federal government has a role to play in regulating access to opioid painkillers and changing the culture of pain-management-through-pills.

"I'm sorry: There's other ways to treat pain than taking a pill. Many better ways to treat it. The federal government has got to lead this cultural change," he said.

As for his own political motivations, the former West Virginia governor told senior Caitey Allison that he got into politics late, at the age of 35, because he didn't like the attitude of the man who was running for the state House of Delegates in his district.

"I got mad and ran against him," he said.

As a young man in Farmington, W.Va., Manchin said he was influenced by his father, who was the town mayor, and the presidential candidacy of John F. Kennedy.

Manchin said he hopes the Oak Glen students will find their purpose in life.

"You have to decide how you want to be involved. ... I'm hoping you all step up to the plate," he said. "I'm hoping you find some way to get involved. Find a cause. With that, you'll find your passion."

Also participating in the Skype session were seniors Lydia Groves, Madison Juszczak, Jordan Lamp and Natelie Chappell.

Manchin, who holds such sessions with West Virginia high school students every week, thanked the Oak Glen students for their participation.

"My weekly Skype sessions ... are a tremendous opportunity for me to hear the comments and concerns of tomorrow's leaders. I truly value these discussions as a chance to interact with our next generation," he said.