POINT PLEASANT — Economic development, President Barack Obama’s budget funding requests and the drug epidemic were addressed by U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) during Thursday’s round table discussion at the Mason County Development Authority office.
Jenkins gave introductory comments and then sat in on the discussion along with U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) See the accompanying story for the senator’s remarks.
Jenkins had some pointed criticism toward President Obama and his budget requests, saying it was Congress, not the president and his budget, that “bulked up, significantly” the Appalachian Regional Commission, adding, if he wasn’t mistaken, the president wanted to propose a cut to the ARC.
“He has the audacity to go into the Rose Garden and use the money that we put into federal funding to say he cares … and it’s the same way with the drug issue,” Jenkins said.
The congressman told those gathered he had recently attended and spoken at the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Ga., as did President Obama. Jenkins said the president announced $1 billion for medical assisted treatment primarily to fight the drug issue, but the president’s “rhetoric” did not match up with his funding requests, which, according to Jenkins, included “deep cuts” to what the congressman feels are important programs in the drug fight.
“He gets great front page headlines and it makes him seem like he cares … he doesn’t care about us,” Jenkins said. “He wants to have a war on drugs, then stop your war on coal. Let’s give people hope.”
After the meeting, Jenkins elaborated on his remarks, saying: “Regardless of how you feel about climate change, the reality is clear, that his policies are causing significant unemployment in West Virginia. A consequence of this unemployment, tragically, for some, is they turn to things like drugs. Give someone a good job, give them a sense of purpose.”
Jenkins said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had research that shows the incidence of illegal drug use is more than double for the unemployed as it is for the employed.
Jenkins again went back to what he felt was the juxtaposition between what President Obama said in Atlanta and his budget requests in terms of funding for programs which deal with the drug issue, saying: “He (President Obama) proposed cuts and sometimes deep cuts that are critical to parts of West Virginia.”
Jenkins said one of these cuts was in regards to drug court funding.
President Obama traveled to West Virginia last fall to highlight the issue of opioid addiction and when asked if he questioned the president’s sincerity on the issue, Jenkins said: “I don’t question his sincerity, I question his priorities.”
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.