In the thirties, forties, and fifties people migrated to Ohio from West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. They were looking for jobs. The rubber plants in Akron actually sent down busses to recruit and bring back workers.
My dad left his home and hated step father in Cookeville, Tenn. He was 16. My mom came with her mother from the impoverished town of Kitchen, W.Va. She was 15. Three years later they married and started their brood of six boys.
They all came for jobs but the West Virginians had an added reason. To escape the tyranny of the mining companies. Nowadays some people like to say that the federal government is too large and intrusive. Some assert that state and local government are closer to the people and can govern best. Some say that there is little need for government at all, especially if intruding on business. Some of these people’s motives should be suspect.
If you had asked the opinions of my mom or her brothers or sister, they would have told tales of mining companies that had their own private armies. Tales of starvation wages, of company shacks and stores that charged more than any wages paid. Of being paid in company scrip, which could not be spent elsewhere. Of becoming indebted and impoverished by design. They would tell horror stories about the shooting of strikers. Of a train pulling through a striking miners’ camp with machine guns firing indiscriminately at men, women and children. And with all this, the most that the state government did was to send the national guard in to back the owners.
They would have told of 12-year-old children hunched over sorting conveyors for 12-hour shifts down in the mines, of families suffering through winters in drafty ramshackle shacks, of mining deaths being treated as just part of the business.
My West Virginia ancestors would not have worried about government being “too large and intrusive.” They would not have asked that these companies be able to solely audit their own practices, solely inspect their own products, and solely manage their pay rates and employee relations.
These things happened a while ago. But it has not stopped. West Virginia has been a corporate-run state all during my lifetime. Today they are cutting off the tops of mountains to mine coal and letting the slag roll down into streams. A great number of streams are now polluted. The state has not stopped them or even tried to regulate them. This year we find toxic spills from a chemical company that has storage tanks on a river upstream from a city’s water intake. And when the state doesn’t inspect the tanks for decades, we get a leak. Surprise. And it’s in the river. Surprise. Feeding directly into a city’s water supply. Oh my gosh.
The company didn’t report the liquid’s toxicity because they didn’t know, and they didn’t need to know by state law. But wait! Two weeks later the company admits that there was a second chemical in that tank. What is it? What is its toxicity? “That is proprietary information” — a company secret.
Meanwhile the state tells the citizens that it is their decision if they want to drink the water.
Oh man, do they have civil liberties in West Virginia. No government too large and intrusive down there. The Tea Party will not be picketing that state house anytime soon. No socialistic communistic Marxist down there.
And if you think that this is only in West Virginia, look at other states. Texas has great growth. They also have one of the highest poverty rates in the country. They have cut aid to the poor and to children. They have cut unemployment compensation. They pay the lowest rates on unemployment and relief and education. But boy are they great to business. They have cut oversight and increased business subsidies. Business Welfare.
Let me paraphrase two Founding Fathers. Jefferson never trusted corporations. He thought they needed tight control and represented a threat to our democracy. James Madison was for strong central government because he thought that the larger the number of the people represented, the less that leaders of small groups could tyrannize the minorities in that group.. Well, today’s corporations are one powerful faction. When my Aunt Hazel’s husband died of black lung disease, she wasn’t concerned about intrusive government. She wanted a voice for her and her children and husband. Someone on their side.
Read Jack Robinson every other Friday in the Piqua Daily Call and visit him at: voiceforthe99percent.blogspot.com