WHEELING - Sen. Joe Manchin says the United States is poised for "economic renaissance" if only the federal government could overcome its differences, and work to regain the confidence of the American people and the world.
Manchin, D-W.Va., addressed members of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce Friday during a luncheon at the River City restaurant in Wheeling.
He said the country has moved to the point where it is now producing coal and natural gas for export to other countries, and the time is ripe for investment.
Photo by Joselyn King
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday in Wheeling.
"Economically, we have never in this country been in this position to have so much vitality and growth in our economy because we never had interest rates this low for this long - or have had this much cheap energy," he said.
"That is the most perfect storm for an economic explosion I've ever seen. But because of the uncertainty in Washington, we're not seeing it happen. That's all from inconsistency, and a lack of confidence" in government.
Manchin admitted when it comes to the President Barack Obama's stance on energy, "I'm at odds with this administration." New standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency are "impossible" for coal-fired plants to achieve, he continued.
He suggested the EPA instead monitor the emissions of the six coal-fired electric plants in the nation thought to be the most efficient - among them, the Longview Power Plant in Morgantown. Their emission levels should be considered the new standard based on what is achievable, according to Manchin.
"If it's unattainable, it's unrealistic," he said.
Manchin also spoke of the mounting federal debt - now at more than $17 trillion.
He said Democrats and Republicans worked together to achieve a balanced budget as recently as 2001. But since then the country has paid for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the government has given two rounds of tax cuts to the American people.
If these federal expenditures hadn't occurred, "we would have been totally debt-free by 2012 - totally debt-free by now," he said. "For the first time since President Andrew Johnson, we would have been totally debt free as a nation. And with the rest of the world the way they are - we would have been a super-duper power. Now we're in a position where we can't take care of ourselves, and that shouldn't have happened."
While he acknowledged "we live in a dangerous world," Manchin doesn't believe the money spent on efforts in the Middle East has helped to improve conditions there.
"I fought with everything I could to keep us from dropping any bombs in Syria because if we go to war anymore in North Africa, we are not going to change anything," he said. "If money or military might would have changed anything in that part of the world, by God we would have done it by now. We've spent almost $2 trillion, and we've lost 7,000 Americans ... it's been horrible what's been happening. And you know what? Iraq is as bad of shape or in worse shape as it was before we took on the war."
Manchin predicts the day American troops leave Afghanistan, the country will have no better feelings toward Americans than they did a decade ago.
"They will just have more money, and more wherewithal to fight us," he said.
Manchin started the day by hosting a "coffee and common sense" town hall event at Vito's 2 Restaurant in Follansbee.
While there, Manchin said he had mixed feelings about the Affordable Care Act - also known as Obamacare - but he believes it can be fixed if given time.
"I never liked the mandate, but I understand what they are trying to do," Manchin said.
Manchin next joined community leaders in Beech Bottom in celebrating the rebirth of the former Wheeling Corrugating Plant, now home to Jupiter Aluminum.
Manchin said the facility is a "prime example of how public-private partnerships can strengthen an entire community."