Panhandle Progressive

The Future of Carbon Capture

Carbon capture is a term used to describe a group of technologies that either remove carbon directly from the air or scrub it from waste gas as fossil fuels are burned.  In either case, the carbon “captured” is buried or used in the manufacture of other products.  Congress is considering legislation to fund carbon capture pilot projects and the capture method it chooses to support will have major consequences for the environment and for West Virginia.

The West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act

In early February 2016, West Virginia became the 26th state to adopt a “right to work” law, called the Workplace Freedom Act. The new law does not simply prohibit an employer and a labor union from requiring membership in the union as a condition of employment. It goes further and also forbids requiring an employee to pay any dues or fees to a labor union as a condition of employment. The law was vetoed by Governor Tomblin on February 12, 2016 but that veto was overridden by the Legislature on the same day. The new law was to take effect July 1, 2016. Outlawing any required fee payment to a union is a significant step for West Virginia to take. It reveals that our Legislature was not so much interested in protecting employees from compulsory membership in an organization they might not support, as it was in financially crippling labor unions. In so doing the Legislature advanced a conservative political agenda of long standing.

More Corporate Welfare In the Midst of a West Virginia Budget Crisis

Several committees met December 5, 2016, as part of the Interim Session of the West Virginia Legislature. The pall of a significant revenue shortfall hung over everything. Incoming Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R – Jackson, 04) has announced a goal for the upcoming session to make West Virginia’s tax structure “competitive” with surrounding states. In a statement reported in the State Journal on December 4, Carmichael said that cutting taxes on manufacturer’s equipment and inventory will be considered. This and other measures would serve the laudable goal of “creating an environment that the private sector can hire people and put them back to work.” But shouldn’t that first require some hard evidence that the property tax is actually causing coal companies to decline mining opportunities in West Virginia? Really, in a time of starkly reduced revenue for all the important things the West Virginia government does, why does our Legislature spend any time considering tax relief for coal companies?

Trump Voters Now Have Second Thoughts on Repealing Obamacare

The Kaiser Family Foundation has issued the results of a new poll concerning repeal of Obamacare. Anyone with a pulse knows that repeal has been made a rallying cry for Republicans in Congress, in fact their centerpiece in the ideological attack on the Obama administration. But it appears that Republican ideology has gotten out ahead of the desires of voters. These voters are not as much interested in ideology as they are in understandable, affordable and stable healthcare. Overall, 49 percent of the public think the next Congress should vote to repeal the law and 47 percent say they should not vote to repeal it. Of those who want to see Congress vote to repeal the law, a larger share say they want lawmakers to wait to vote on repeal until the details of a replacement plan have been announced (28 percent) than say Congress should vote to repeal the law immediately and work out the details of a replacement plan later (20 percent).

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance, has received a lot of attention recently. It is the story of a young man with Appalachian roots whose immediate family moved to Middletown, Ohio. The family was rife with domestic violence, divorce, drug abuse and stress. It was also full of love. Vance eventually succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of his “hillbilly” friends and family, graduating from Yale law school, landing a well-paying job, and having a loving stable marriage. At Ohio State, where Vance attended as an undergraduate, and at Yale he was the beneficiary of connections. Connections helped him get into an Ivy League law school; connections helped him get interviewed and hired by a prestigious law firm. He realized that using connections is how the upper middle class and very wealthy routinely succeed. He also realized that the lack of connections is a big reason why the poor and working class cannot flourish with the same regularity.

Why Excessive CEO Pay Matters to the Rest of Us

Corporate Chief Executive Officers have done very well for themselves during and after the Great Recession. By 2015 the ratio of CEO annual compensation to that of a typical worker had risen to 276 to 1, a much higher ratio than in other developed countries. CEO compensation has gradually taken up a larger and larger share of all corporate revenues. But shouldn’t a corporation be totally free to establish the compensation of its chief executive? Actually, no. The reason is that the rest of us pay for excessive CEO compensation – literally. Two recent studies reveal how successful CEOs at the largest U.S. corporations have been in skimming the compensation cream. CEOs were spectacularly successful because of their power to direct compensation to themselves within their corporations, not because they were correspondingly more productive, more talented or better educated than other workers.

Del. Michael Folk: No Friend of Education

Del. Michael Folk (R – Berkeley, 63) professes to be interested in promoting quality education in West Virginia, but he has an odd way of showing it. In February 2016, Del. Folk was the lead sponsor of two bills that would have abolished key components of the education system in West Virginia. One of these, HB 4611, would have abolished the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education. HB 4611 would not have abolished the colleges themselves, but instead would have transferred to each of them the power and duties of the Council. Perhaps Del. Folk believed that this would eliminate an unnecessary level of bureaucracy and cost. But that appears to be incorrect.