Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on entitlement reform:
Back in 1996, President Bill Clinton reformed America's welfare system into mostly a get-a-job program — outraging many fellow Democrats who felt that monthly welfare checks were crucial for survival of desperate families. Three officials of the Clinton administration quit in protest of this safety net curtailment.
But welfare reform turned out to be a practical, sensible success that caused less suffering than liberals had feared. America's number of welfare recipients fell from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million in 2006. Sixty percent of mothers who left welfare found jobs. More than 20,000 businesses were induced to hire 1.1 million former welfare clients.
Today, another Democratic "sacred cow" — the entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — faces possible reform amid the "fiscal cliff" crisis. Again, progressive Democrats adamantly oppose any cuts in benefits.
But we think it might be workable to curb some expense — especially America's astronomical medical costs — without harming millions of Americans. ...
President Barack Obama has shown willingness to begin trimming that portion of the safety net. In "fiscal cliff" negotiating, he offered to cut hundreds of billions in Medicare spending over the next decade. This could be a wise course.
It's outrageous that America spends vastly more on medical care than other advanced democracies do — yet Americans have inferior health. Steps to reduce medical costs are just good sense. If other countries operate first-class health systems at less cost, America should be smart enough to do likewise.
Particularly, more stringent safeguards could be imposed to prevent abuses such as needless, expensive medical procedures, or exploitation of benefits by ineligible people.
Another huge saving, as we've said before, could be achieved by trimming the $1 trillion yearly U.S. military outlay.
The federal government cannot continue overspending its income by $1 trillion per year. Debt reduction is absolutely essential. One way or another, the Washington showdown must be resolved.
The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W. Va., on state tourism:
West Virginians know that the Mountain State is an outdoor recreation paradise.
Skiing and whitewater rafting get much of the attention, but the state's natural resources for hunting, fishing, hiking, biking and camping are extensive, too.
Local residents also know that West Virginia is a good place to retire or own a second home, with beautiful locales, a lower cost of living and easy access to much of the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest.
But many people outside the state do not know what West Virginia has to offer, and that is why a new study concludes that the state has great potential to increase tourism and market itself to retirees.
The West Virginia Ten Year Tourism Plan was completed this fall for the state Division of Tourism, and the study provides a solid roadmap for boosting the state's tourism industry and image as well.
By national standards, West Virginia has a fairly small tourism industry.
The study estimates the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state at $4.27 billion for 2010. But a review of the "Power of Travel" assessment by the U.S. Travel Association shows neighboring states such as Ohio and Virginia have three or four times the travel spending of West Virginia, and in California the annual impact is about $90 billion.
But the 10-year plan maintains there is a lot of room for the Mountain State to grow, even without beaches or Disneyland.
In particular, West Virginia can take advantage of the national trend of travelers taking shorter, but more frequent trips. The total population of our bordering states is more than 42 million people, and with vast public lands, a strong state park system, mountain elevations and world-class whitewater, West Virginia has great potential for outdoor getaways. ...
But taking advantage of those assets will require investment, and the plan lays out a list of short-term and long-term action steps in each area of tourism. Those range from improving the state tourism grant program and possibly changing the way second homes are taxed to simply doing a better job of coordinating and promoting potential tourism destinations.
West Virginia has a good tourism story to tell, and it is encouraging that state officials seem ready to employ new strategies to bring more visitors to the state.
The Journal, Martinsburg, W.Va., on state Senate president Kessler:
Democrats in the West Virginia State Senate agreed to keep Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, as their president for the next two years. The decision, yet to be formalized in a vote, was made during a meeting Dec. 9.
Kessler became Senate president last year, succeeding now-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
There never was any real doubt Kessler would retain the post, though there had been some speculation he might face a challenge. The political ability Kessler showed in lining up the votes to succeed Tomblin made it clear attempting to replace him would be an exceedingly difficult task.
Part of the reason Senate Democrats chose wisely is that Kessler, while a staunch supporter of the party and its ideals, has gone out of his way to work well with Republican legislators. He understands more progress can be made that way than by adopting a hard-nosed attitude. He is right about that, and should pursue that policy in the future.