WHEELING - Nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas likens the present state of America to a raging river running out of control, with a mounting national debt, a breakdown of family values and an erosion of work ethic - and few seemingly willing to do anything about it.
"We have exceeded our borders not only morally ... but constitutionally and economically," Thomas said. "When a river exceeds its banks, it causes damage to property and lives."
Thomas, whose nationally syndicated columns appear regularly in The Weirton Daily Times and other local newspapers, spoke Thursday before a crowd of almost 100 at River City Ale Works in downtown Wheeling. His talk was the latest in the University Economics Club speaker series sponsored by West Liberty University's Center for Economic Philosophy, which is funded through a grant from BB&T.
SPEAKS — Political columnist Cal Thomas, left, met with Alan Lestini, owner of the Words and Music Bookstore at Stratford Springs, prior to speaking Thursday at River City Ale Works in downtown Wheeling. — Ian Hicks
Thomas' latest book, released Tuesday, is titled "What Works - Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America."
What doesn't work, according to Thomas, is a political environment where demonizing one's opponents has become a form of entertainment that trumps finding workable solutions to the country's problems.
"Real Americans don't talk to each other that way. ... You've always got to stir the pot. There's always got to be an enemy out there," he said.
There are many government programs that don't work either, Thomas said - yet the government continues to throw money at them, even when they do more harm than good. The result, he said, has been people who aren't motivated to work hard because they've been conditioned to believe the government will support them.
"Americans are a generous people. We want to help other people who want to help themselves. ... We don't want to be told we owe someone who sleeps until noon, had three or four kids out of wedlock and is on drugs," Thomas said.
Thomas believes West Virginia could play a pivotal role as Republicans attempt to gain control of the Senate this year. He said political prognosticator Nate Silver has predicted the GOP will gain anywhere from six to 11 seats.
"One of those six, I believe, will be Jay Rockefeller's seat," Thomas said, referring to the race to succeed the retiring senator, which U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Charleston, is considered the favorite to win.
Thomas also had good things to say about Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., whose compromising attitude he finds refreshing.
"I think he's an honest Democrat. He doesn't toe the party line," Thomas said. "He seems to be a very articulate representative of his state's interests."
Regarding the nation's energy policy, Thomas said the Obama administration is engaging in a "war on coal." The country, he said, must follow a "balanced" energy policy in order to avoid relying too heavily on other nations to keep the lights on.
He also suspects the outcry will grow louder when electricity bills begin going up in response to decreased coal production - and not just in coal-producing states.
"Then it's too late. It's the old closing the barn door after the horse is gone. ... It's crazy to take a natural resource and say we're not going to use it when we haven't figured out what we're going to do to replace it," Thomas said.
The University Economics Club speaker series will continue May 22 with Chris Stirewalt, digital politics editor for Fox News and Wheeling native. On June 26, the club will welcome National Review editor and syndicated columnist Rich Lowry.
Joy Pullman, research fellow for the Heartland Institute and renowned education commentator, will wrap things up July 24.