Government waste in Bristol
What the majority of those that attended Congressman Boucher's
August 20 Town Hall thought of our President.

Congressman Boucher's Town Hall 2009

by Lewis Loflin

The Obama Show has come back to Bristol for the second time! President Obama did make it to Bristol today, along with a few hundred protestors. I even got to see him in passing. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents the Kroger workers, so why the hell was the notorious ACORN affiliated Service Employees International Union (SEIU) doing in Bristol? They bussed in three loads of Obama supporters just before he arrived. Congressman Boucher was an early and strong supporter of President Obama in a community that rejected him by wide margins.

I will add to this. First, this was not a town hall anything but a staged rally with selected people and rigged questions. Second, while Remote Area Medical (RAM) was going and these politicians use it for political gain, within a 30 minute drive they were spending at the present time an estimated $60 million on pork-barrel waste and corporate welfare that has for year after year bypassed those in this region in need of basic services and a decent job.

That includes a $30 million convocation center for a local college, $8 million to renovate the abandoned and ramshackle Wise INN (They just got another $700,000 from VCEDA), and perhaps $20-$30 million for a so-called energy research center. (This is used merely to obtain government grants.) That is what taxpayers are paying for in Wise while Gov. Kaine runs around yelling about health care for the needy. Perhaps the Governor can explain why one of his political appointees who owns a wholesale plant nursery got perhaps over $1 million to do "energy research." To quote the Virginia Tobacco Commission,

$873,745 to the second phase of the Bioenergy/Bioproducts Demonstration Site Process Development at Windy Acres Nursery, a privately owned business in Gretna. It will move forward from the demonstration of value-added technology to actually producing crops and using them as heating fuel.

They won't disclose what a barrel of this crap will even cost or if even feasible. For the record nothing illegal is going on, but in my opinion is another misuse of government funds.

Congressman Rick Boucher has announced two public Town Meetings on Health Care Reform, both during the workday when most people can't get off of work. I'll be at the August 20th hearing and I encourage all Southwest Virginians to attend.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 9:00 AM Edwards Hall New River Valley Community College Dublin, Virginia. The forum was held and over 1200 people attended. Mr. Boucher commented this was the largest gathering he has ever presided over in over two decades as Congressman. Highlights of the over three-hour meeting:

1. He would not endorse or condemn any legislation during the three-hour town hall meeting.

2. He said, "I'm troubled that the government option plan could become very popular and if it became sufficiently popular it could begin to crowd
out private sector insurance and "financially destabilize" rural hospitals.

3. "The time has come to have national tort reform." Time to deal the trial lawyers that own both parties.

4. He was one of five Democrats that on July 31 voted against sending HR 3200 to the floor in a 31-28 vote in the Committee on Energy and Commerce, on which he serves.

5. Towards those in the audience that threatened to vote him out of office he responded, "I'm not going to make this decision based on my political future. Period."
To quote the Roanoke Times August 19,

He repeatedly said there are about 35 million uninsured U.S. citizens who should be covered. That number differs from the frequently cited census figure of 46 million uninsured in the U.S. In using 35 million as the estimated number of people who need coverage, Boucher said, he was purposely excluding people who are not legal U.S. citizens.

Good going Mr. Boucher! I'll be at the Abingdon Town Hall Thursday, August 20, 2009 9:00 AM Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center Abingdon, Virginia.

Update August 20, 2009: Well I was there at the Town hall about 15 feet from Mr. Boucher. I questioned the hospital CEOs such Wellmont CEO Mike Snow after the Town Hall ended and there are several things our pro-Obama local press will be sure to leave out. But in reality the hall wasn't filled, only about 85%, but still close to 1000 people. Second many of the Obamanites who had concentrated in the front rows stormed out after about an hour when it was obvious they weren't going to change Mr. Boucher's mind. He is clearly against any government insurance option they were demanding. In fact they were the most ill-mannered people there launching into a series of personal attacks on their opponents.

Again the abortion issue kept coming up over and over and Mr. Boucher was on the defensive for that. I got annoyed with that myself, but it was an open forum. In that it seemed OK overall. Most of those there were not working for Fox News as the Obamanites claim and Mr. Boucher called on a Mr. Goldsmith first, head of People Inc., an agency that receives millions of tax dollars. His long-winded political speech brought boos from a number of people.

Calling him first only undermines what credibility Mr. Boucher has left here and it isn't much. He was asked by another speaker just what do bike paths and farmer's markets have to do with healthcare. He evaded the question. He was asked if he and other government employees would be on the plan. He claims he is on Blue Cross / Blue Shield.

Much of what Mr. Boucher said was the same as in Pulaski County on Tuesday, but many of his answers I believe are dishonest. He was asked by several people about keeping illegal aliens off the system and he claimed "the Bill forbids service to those not in the country legally." Yet I've asked this in writing where does it say non-citizens are barred from services and where's the enforcement mechanism?

There's none I can find and he won't supply specifics. To his credit he reiterated 35 million uninsured to discount illegal aliens. The question nobody has answered is what about the millions of non-citizens here on the masses of visas the government hands out? They want to add another 250,000 farm workers and give them green cards, so who will stop them from getting free healthcare?

The real problem is Mr. Boucher was totally dishonest on the cause of the problem. He kept blaming it on covering the uninsured at emergency rooms was the entire problem. Just get some more government health care and we fix the problem. Wellmont CEO Mike Snow and the other CEO whose name I didn't get contradicted this. According to them the big problem is government. 45% of their patients are on Medicare where they are reimbursed for only 90% of their costs. Even worse are the Medicaid and TennCare patients where the reimbursement is 65% of cost.

These two groups far over-utilize the system. Why shouldn't they if it's free? Now add in 10% that never pay that is 70% of their patients they lose money on. By law hospitals can't turn them away so the 30% or so with private insurance or who can pay are stuck with most of the bills. In other words the government mandates they can't turn anyone away, loads the system up with government healthcare patients they refuse to pay for in many cases, then force hospitals/doctors to eat the cost or shift it elsewhere.

Yet we attack insurance companies that want to pay the same money-losing low rates as government while the providers shift the losses from government meddling to them. Yet Mr. Boucher spoke about ending cost shifting because of emergency rooms when most of it is due to existing government healthcare programs. I asked Mr. Snow if it wouldn't be better if the government simply contracted the services and the government gave the providers some leeway. He agreed it could work. Nothing even close to this was even brought to the floor. I also asked would it help to enforce copays on all government plans to cut down the overuse. He agreed. The panel also mentioned the terrible drug problem in the region.

That is events as best I can remember. If anyone has any corrections or additions e-mail me

Washington County Tennessee couple dies of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning from generator

They were found in their bedroom dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday afternoon. James D. Garland, 72, and Ann W. Garland, 65 were found dead in the home by family and Emergency Medical Services workers. The monoxide poisoning came from a gas generator in the basement of their residence and was still warm when police arrived. There's no sign of foul play. We had another report of a 90-year-old woman trapped without food or firewood until help came with supplies and I passed a rescue squad taking an elderly woman to the hospital along Gate City Highway near Bristol, Virginia. Earlier before this storm high winds dropped a tree on a house trailer destroying the back one-third. December 20th, 2009

Universal Fibers to supposed expand, might add 84 jobs. Universal Fibers announced a $13 million expansion of its manufacturing facility in the Bristol-Washington County Industrial Park on Wednesday, a move supposed to create 84 new jobs in the next two years. The company will receive $600,000 in corporate welfare that includes the Washington County Board of Supervisors and the county Industrial Development Authority each porked-out $75,000.

The company might presently employ (actual number suppressed) about 380 people in Washington County. There is likely no enforcement mechanism in the agreement nor has any of the many broken agreements in the past did officials even attempt to recover the funds. There is also no way to find out because the information is, you guessed it, suppressed. Ref. BHC December 12, 2009. Their website is at

New toilets meet ADA and environmental needs while wages continue to fall. Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be pooping in a new handicap friendly eco-toilets next year. The National Park Service said three sets of toilets that meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act will be installed. To quote the AP, "Park officials said the vault toilets also meet more stringent water quality standards; the old system was overwhelmed by increasing use. Vault toilets have holding tanks that are periodically pumped." Associated Press November 27, 2009

More Pork on the Way, More Job Losses

Richmond, VA. (AP) - The Virginia Department of Transportation is informing about 600 workers that they're losing their jobs. VDOT is notifying the employees Monday of the layoffs, part of the agency's overall plan to cut 1,000 full-time employees and 450 part-time staff to address a $2.6 billion revenue shortfall. July 27, 2009

And in Johnson City TN according to the Kingsport Times-News:

Alemite Inc., which manufactures lubrication tools, equipment and systems for industrial use, told its employees a couple of weeks ago it would phase out production at its 167 Roweland Drive facility. The company currently employs about 150 people, and around 50 will keep jobs in distribution, warehousing and sourcing...some work had been shifted overseas - the worker thought to China and India - over the past couple of years.

July 23rd, 2009: Unemployment rates continued increasing in Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City and Morristown during the month of June with all but one of Northeast Tennessee's largest cities in double digits. According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, June's seasonally unadjusted rates for the four Tennessee cities with 25,000 or more population were:

Morristown - 19.4 percent, up from 18.5 percent last month.
Kingsport - 12.7 percent, up from 12.6 percent last month.
Bristol - 11.6 percent, up from 10.6 percent last month.
Johnson City - 9.1 percent, up from 8.4 percent last month.

Back to Bristol itself. But are the terms "social apartheid" or Duncan's Worlds Apart really accurate? In 1999 my wife and I (she has a social work degree before becoming disabled) saw Duncan and her book featured on PBS. To us here was the answer why many of our friends that graduated college were unemployable, why the good jobs got passed from one family member to the next, etc. I went to the library and ordered the book. It became the basis of this website.

"It's a little-known fact that roughly 20 percent of the children in Southwest Virginia live below the poverty line and go hungry every night."

Kevin Crutchfield, President Alpha Natural Resources, January 15, 2009 in Abingdon, VA

Quoting the Associated Press August 27, 2008 regarding the Appalachian (Southwest Virginia) region even before the economic downturn starting in late 2007:

Virginia had the biggest increase in the number of people living in poverty, from 709,000 in 2006 to 743,000 a year later. Alabama, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee also had slight increases in the number of people living in poverty.

Unemployment for college graduates.

According to on Bristol Careers:

Among the most common occupations in Bristol are Sales and office occupations, 29%. Management, professional, and related occupations, 25%. and Production, transportation, and material moving occupations, 18%. Approximately 79 percent of workers in Bristol, Tennessee work for companies, 11 percent work for the government and 6 percent are self-employed.

Popular Bristol Jobs: Currently, the most commonly listed Bristol Jobs are for physical therapist jobs, crew members jobs, cashier jobs, store manager jobs, part-time merchandiser jobs and restaurant hourly manager jobs.

Bristol Industries: The leading industries in Bristol, Tennessee are Educational, health and social services, 19%; Manufacturing, 18%; and Retail trade, 15%. Simply Hired's Bristol job listings indicate that the following industries in Bristol are hiring the most workers: Catering Services, Food Service Contractors, Home Health Care, Discount & Club Stores and Department Stores.

Yup, the sales of the famous Bristol Burger is just booming. It's booming so well that the local press reports a 2nd. Chick-A-fil Restaurant expected in Bristol! To quote, "people were eagerly and constantly throwing down cash for chicken sandwiches, waffle fries and lemonade." This is front page news? Yummy, yummy. Can I have fries with that?

In the 1990s

According to the Kids Count report (BHC 6-22-2003):

...two groups of children were left out of the boom times of the 1990s. The robust economy did little to help children in the inner cities and in rural communities like those of far Southwest Virginia, according to the report. A local political science professor believes he knows the reason for the discrepancy. "It all comes back to jobs," said Steve Fisher, director of the Appalachian Center for Community Services at Emory & Henry College. "With the decline of the coal industry, a lot of the good-paying jobs have disappeared."

A string of factory closings has affected the economy in counties along the Interstate 81 corridor, particularly Smyth County, Fisher said. And, many of the jobs that have replaced the ones in the coal mines and factories generally have been lower-paying and less likely to include benefits, he said. "Even two minimum-wage jobs together won't take a family above the poverty line...the numbers for Washington County (VA) are misleading. "There are pockets of wealth in Abingdon and Emory, but in general, it's a pretty poor county..."

To be fair, Bristol and Tri-Cities have a lot of positives except for a shortage of higher paying jobs and low levels of education. We are a good retirement community and the cost of living is low compared to most urban areas of the country, but so is Mexico for similar reasons. There is a substantial income gap and a high level of poverty, but we have fairly low crime rates. Sullivan County, Tennessee and Washington County, Virginia are among the wealthiest counties in their respective states, but both lie within a sea of rural poverty with pockets of poverty within.

The basis of the economy has been manufacturing, but that is being replaced (as is much of the nation) with poverty-wage service, retirement, and tourism industries. In 2001 ING Investments ranked Tri-Cities among the worse places to earn a living, and in another study in 2008 ranked the region with inner-city slums on issues such as health, income, education.

To quote Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Governmental Studies: "The most corrupt region is Southwest Virginia - more indictments for political and public office corruption have happened in this region than all other parts of the state combined."

To quote Rex Todd of Winston-Salem, N.C.-based The Landmark Group, "Rather than have the working-class people sequestered on one side of town and the rich on the other side of town, the idea is to integrate people..." More here...

To quote Washington County supervisor Paul Price, "The rich get richer, and the poor never catch up." More here...

Obama, Immigration, etc. in Bristol

When Senator Obama came to Bristol, Virginia his teleprompter broke down. Without a script he was totally lost and fumbling around. The facts are illegal immigration, diversity, and immigration in general are just more economic exploitation. Besides being racist in itself, it undermines the blue collar working class and is being increasingly implemented in the Bristol region. McCain, Obama, and Clinton alike are bought and paid for by the illegal immigration industry.

In fact a so-called "futurist" came to Tri-Cities at the behest of business leaders to sell the idea. Ed Barlow of Creating the Future had this to say March 4, 2004 in the Kingsport Times-News:

"A significant component of your economic future in Sullivan County is recruiting Hispanics, making sure they get highly educated and integrated into the community. ... They can fill all of the various job categories you have." The future economic vitality model is based on the back of a well-educated, ethnically diverse work force, Barlow said.

Comment: what in the hell do illiterate, unskilled Hispanics have to with "well-educated?" Our "well-educated" are already undesirable for the mere fact of being "over qualified."

"Voodoo" economic development at Bristol Exit 7

Exit 7 between Bristol, Virginia and Washington County, Virginia has been a focal point for lawsuits and finger pointing. Update: Developer defaults, taxpayers shafted. See Nicewonder Property Fiasco in 2009: $2.5 million Tax Dollars Wasted survey: TCRA tied for third on list of 'Rip-Off Airports'

Tri-Cities Regional Airport tied for third in a survey ranking "America's Rip-Off Airports" compiled by The rankings were based on average air fare per mile, with travelers recorded as paying 39 cents per mile to fly out of TCRA....

TCRA Marketing Director Melissa Thomas blames it on airlines: "Fares during the summer were extremely high, and (TCRA) staff was in frequent contact with airline pricing personnel working on the issue. As a result, both Delta and US Airways lowered fares at (TCRA) to much more competitive levels...Airlines set their fares based on many factors in an effort to maximize their profit on any given flight..."

Thomas further said according to the press, "TCRA typically has been seen more as a "business market" than a 'leisure market,' and that airlines typically see business travelers as more willing and able to pay a premium - something that leaves leisure travelers wanting to leave from the Tri-Cities often saddled with higher-than-average fares." Kingsport Times-News February 24, 2009. Perhaps one reason why there's so few pleasure travelers is the poverty rates are so high for working people they can't afford to fly to Florida.

Is it just class warfare? Do many of these "poor" people bring their problems on themselves? In many cases and I hate to admit it, yes. Is it indifference with much of the public? In some cases yes. The fact is that post 1970s Appalachia, Bristol, and Tri-Cites is nothing like that of the pre-1970s. While they play up this "Hillbilly" culture nonsense for tourists, it really doesn't apply. The Tri-Cities region is a diverse mosaic. Sort of rural, sort of urban. Tri-Cities is about manufacturing and increasingly services and retirement, all bad for working people. That is my focus, the working poor.

Lawn Mower Theft

BHC reports (January 15, 2009) that Washington County VA. Sheriff's deputies are looking into lawn mower thefts. They were stolen from Abingdon Equipment Company and while trying to get away the crooks plowed into a man rushing to a hospital emergency room. The suspects fled the crash scene after unhitching and leaving behind the trailer carrying the lawn mowers. The crash victim is in fair condition. Sheriff Newman is asking for help in finding the culprits.

Middle Class Feeling What Working Class has Endured for Years

Nobody ever cared about the working class in Bristol. They are expendable, disposable, and looked down on. Nobody wanted them living in their neighborhood, but they were welcome to clean the yards and work at the local restaurants and tourist attractions. After all many of the elite either lived on fat government jobs or transfer payments. But it seems this is starting to dry up. With government being forced to cut back and Wall Street in ruins, it isn't the working poor suffering all the losses.

Ronny Nelson's Quick Cash Pawn Shop reports they have a new clientele, middle class people. Many have lost 401ks, and jobs and are pawning anything. This includes a 16-foot bass boat, laptops, jewelry, etc. To quote Nelson, "Middle class people are coming in. Customers we haven't seen before. They're looking for second tier lending from somewhere else. A second place where they can manufacture some cash." Business is up 30%. Mr. J's Buy and Sell Furniture has also seen a surge of business, which they blame on the housing crisis. They report a lot of people with foreclosed homes coming in and TV news reports show mountains of tools, etc. as construction has but disappeared. Worrisome is the dependence of Bristol on government money and transfer payments, which have or will diminish. Ref. Chan. 11 1-6-2009

Boucher loses House panel chair, Tobacco Commission Screwed

A liberal Massachusetts Democrat will take over a House subcommittee that will play a major role in drafting legislation on global warming and other environmental issues. Rep. Edward Markey, known for his tough stances on environmental issues, will replace Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat who has been friendly to the coal industry. Boucher had chaired the panel eight years. Markey's appointment is another sign that House Democrats plan to aggressively tackle global warming and other environmental problems. He will take charge of an expanded subcommittee with broader jurisdiction, renamed Energy and Environment... January 9, 2009 Associated Press.

The Tobacco Commission was counting on Boucher to send millions their way as matching grants for their millions in energy pork research.


A Kingsport shop has seen an increase in residents fixing shoes because they can't afford new ones. To quote the owner, "We've been getting a lot of customers saying they really can't afford to go out and buy new shoes." He went from 50-60 pairs of shoes a day a year ago to 75-100. Shoes cost between $5-$15 to repair. We also have a shoe repair shop in Bristol. Ref. BHC January 2, 2009

WJHL (December 24, 2008) reports that retail sales in Kingsport are up. This is mainly due to new stores at new malls like The Kingsport Pavilion and Reedy Creek Terrace. In November Kingsport released findings that their sales revenue has increased by 10-percent over 2007. What will 2009 bring?

Published: December 19, 2008 BHC

Early this week Congressman Rick Boucher was shown on a local TV station extolling the merits of his latest vote buying bid to build another museum in Southwest Virginia, using transportation department funds. At least $1.5 million of transportation funds were used to renovate the Bristol Train Station. Here again Boucher, Senator Warner and Tennessee politicians were involved in this misuse of transportation funds.

One of the more egregious examples of misuse is the $750,000 secured by Boucher to build horse trails in a national forest. In Virginia, adequate funds aren't available to maintain existing highways, much less build new ones. Yet we continue to allow our elected officials to buy our votes and defend their actions by stating the mantra that state/federal laws mandate spending transportation funds for non-transportation projects.

Who is to blame? We, the voters, who act like pigs at the trough when it comes to taking this "free money." The only way to change this is to send a clear message to both parties that this misuse of funds must cease. Jerry C. Bristol.

Quick facts about Bristol VA/TN.

For a more detailed analysis see The system, Income, and Education in Bristol VA/TN

Less than 9th grade 12%
9th to 12th grade, no diploma 15%
High school graduate 29%
Some college, no degree 20%
Associate's degree 6%
Bachelor's degree 13%
Graduate degree 4%

White 94%
Black or African American 6%
Median monthly rent $409
Household Income
Less than $10,000 16%
$10,000 to $14,999 11%
$15,000 to $24,999 19%

$25,000 to $34,999 16%
$35,000 to $49,999 17%
$50,000 to $74,999 13%
$75,000 to $99,999 5%
$100,000 to $149,999 2%
$150,000 to $199,999 1%
$200,000 or more 1%

249 Lebanon, Virginia $16,678
266 Buchanan, Virginia $16,238
280 Weber City, Virginia $15,856
360 Duffield, Virginia $12,046

Job breakdown for Bristol, VA based on March 2002 data from the Virginia Employment Commission I did myself. This excludes high paid professional jobs (about 12%) such as doctors, lawyers, etc. By excluding those high paid occupations from being averaged into the general workforce, a true picture of earnings appears.

75% of the Bristol area workforce earns less than $8.00 an hour. It should also be noted the biggest sources of income in Bristol are transfer payments: welfare, social security, retirement, government, etc. Note the data in this form is no longer available and they refuse to say why. Also note data on major employers is blocked. They prefer broad averages, not specifics.

Jobs 2009 Tri-Cities Bristol

Part of the data above is based on a poll done by the VCEDA or the Virginia Coalfields Economic Development Association. Their poll showed perspective businesses how low labor rates really are and with the other state agencies handed out millions in taxpayer dollars, hope to lure new business to the depressed region. This is what the business types were supposed to see, not the public. I got this right off their website. When they found out (as I was told) it appeared on this website, they pulled it.

No decent skilled worker or college grad will work for this kind of pay. The result is a mass out-migration of skilled and educated workers. As the above Tarnoff report revealed, it's the poverty pay mentality. And who got the good jobs? The folks working for VCEDA, and scores of other useless state, local, and federal agencies get the good jobs. In the VCEDA area, that's about 23% of the population in 2005 according to the VEC and covers most private sector jobs in the region.

Wage Rates - Selected Industry Job Titles Average
General Production $7.24/hr.
Warehouse Technician $7.43/hr.
Secretary/Receptionist $5.50/hr.
Customer Service Rep. $6.18/hr.
Data Entry $6.00/hr.

Source: VCEDA Survey of local businesses, 2002 based on data before the massive downturn following September 11. There is no reason to believe it has gotten any better through January 2005. I'm in the process of updating the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) data.

Unemployment stats are really fun and are totally inaccurate. According to VEC, only those actively drawing unemployment compensation are treated as unemployed. Most benefits last about six months, so after six months unemployment goes down even if there are no jobs. This is further distorted by the way jobs are counted. The figures are inflated by counting every part time job held by children and retirees into the mix. A better indicator of employment is the poverty rate and the number of children on free and reduced lunches at school. In Bristol, 46% of children are on free/reduced lunches. This was up from 41% in 1995. Dickenson County had has held steady at 57% from 1995 to 2002.

Dickenson County is all coal, while Bristol isn't coal at all. By the time we count in the massive loss of jobs in Bristol in 2003-2004, they should be near equal. Bristol and Dickenson County had the worst unemployment rates in early 2004, but the unemployment rate is much better six months later. The unemployment rate went down, I'd bet the poverty climbed and the population dropped again. ING Investments ranked Tri-Cities in general at an almost 24% poverty rate in 2001.

Above is quick navigation of websites.

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