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Bitter Pill: D.C. can’t save West Virginia from its problems

West Virginia residents know it is more than just the long-flailing coal industry putting a pause on our economic growth. Other jobs are disappearing, too, as evidenced by the probable loss of 1,500 pharmaceutical plant jobs at the Viatris Inc. plant in Morgantown (formerly Mylan).

Labor advocacy groups led by Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution are asking President Joe Biden to save those jobs, free market be darned. Biden is inheriting a problem that began more than a year ago when Upjohn and Mylan merged to form Viatris, and then announced it would cut 20 percent of its workforce worldwide. Rachel Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Association for Accessible Medicine, told the Associated Press the loss of the Morgantown plant would not be a major blow to domestic production, as despite consolidation throughout the industry there are nearly 150 manufacturing sites remaining in the U.S., which produce more than 60 billion doses of generic medicines each year.

Still Sanders and Co. believe the federal government should pull some strings. Our Revolution wants Biden to use the Defense Production Act to stop the plant closure.

“Once a new strategy is in place that aligns the plant’s physical assets with our national interests, the plant can be retrofitted as needed and current workers can be rehired,” said a letter to Biden, from Our Revolution.

Of course it would be wonderful if Viatris or another employer could find a way to retrofit, rehire, retrain and reopen, to save those 1,500 jobs. Development officials in Monongalia County and at the state level should be scrambling to find a private company willing to run a facility here in the Mountain State.

But we’ve done a horrific job over the past few years of portraying ourselves as the kind of state on which a major employer would be willing to take a chance — even in a place like Morgantown. It is not the federal government’s responsibility to clean up that mess and create a situation in which the people filling those 1,500 jobs are beholden to King Bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., for their employment.

One can hardly blame Sanders for trying. Creating dependency on the federal government is what he does. But officials here in West Virginia should be taking an honest look at the situation and working toward a solution that creates opportunities not just for the 1,500 people who may lose their jobs in Morgantown, but for all of us.

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