CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- During his inaugural address, Gov. Tomblin drew the loudest applause when he said he spends much of his time "fighting the federal government to get off our backs and leave us alone."
That was an unfortunate pitch to petty prejudice -- because the federal government is virtually West Virginia's lifeblood, improving life here in countless ways. Since the Mountain State is loaded with aging and lower-income families, it draws more U.S. aid than many other places.
The federal government does much more for West Virginians than the state government does.(See chart.)
Last year, a Quaker lobbying group issued a report titled "How Does Federal Spending Benefit West Virginia?" Some items:
"These investments in West Virginia's economy affect at least 700,000 people and total $11.5 billion," the Quaker report said. In contrast, the state collects only $4.7 billion in taxes itself, so federal support to West Virginians is much larger.
But wait, there's more (as TV sales pitches say). Don't forget the 90-10 federal match for interstate highways and bridges. Or U.S. spending on airports. Or flood-control dams. Or the postal system.
What about federal disaster aid after nightmares like Hurricane Sandy? What about federal unemployment support for jobless West Virginians? What about U.S. job-training operations?
West Virginia has a high ratio of military veterans getting federal help. And a high ratio of low-income parents drawing about $2,000 per family from the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Remember the huge FBI center at Clarksburg and other federal offices the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd acquired for West Virginia, boosting local economies.
We might add that the FBI and U.S. attorneys clean up West Virginia political corruption that county prosecutors are unable to attack.
Altogether, "the feds" are the best friends West Virginia has.
When Tomblin tells the U.S. government to "get off our backs and leave us alone," he's objecting to federal enforcement against pollution and mining danger. But plenty of West Virginians welcome help from "the feds" in that department too.