After years of the highest unemployment in generations, you sent me to the U.S. Senate to do everything I could to ensure that West Virginians can get good jobs, and I am very focused on that mission.
West Virginians truly grasp the meaning of hard work -- we have vast natural resources and longstanding industries that we have to protect. Our workers built this country and we power it to this day. As your Senator, I am working hard to ensure that government is a partner, not an obstacle, in creating jobs.
I took several important steps this week to keep the government off our backs and out of our pockets, while at the same time protecting American workers.
This week I cosponsored legislation to help West Virginia's manufacturing industry.
America truly has the brightest minds and the most dedicated workforce in the world, and yet our manufacturing industry is being crippled because China refuses to play by the rules. America can't idly stand by as manufacturers close up shop and lay off workers because of China. The legislation I have sponsored simply levels the playing field by ensuring that America's and West Virginia's manufacturers can better compete in the global economy.
The bill clarifies that the United States can charge import taxes on goods that come from countries known to illegally undervalue their currency. This is happening in one place in particular: The Chinese government has a demonstrated track record of manipulating their country's currency, keeping the value of the yuan artificially low in order to reduce the price of their exports. This practice gives China an unfair trade advantage over foreign competitors.
As a result, America's goods have become comparatively more expensive, leading to job losses, especially in the manufacturing sector. That has an enormous effect on West Virginia, where a total of 50,700 jobs were related to the manufacturing sector in 2009, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. That's equal to 6.8 percent of our state's nonfarm employment.
In 2008, manufacturing constituted 10.7 percent of West Virginia's economy. And, the average compensation for manufacturing positions in 2009 was $63,143, compared to $46,921 for the rest of the workforce. That's a significant difference.
But creating jobs at home also means that our federal government must stop being obstacle to industries that are responsible for thousands of jobs in the state of West Virginia and all over this country. In yet another overreach, the Office of Surface Mining conducted a study that showed that a proposed rule change for stream buffers would kill thousands of jobs. When they got the study back, the agency said it was "unhappy" with the results and asked for another analysis. That would be like a student asking to retake a test they failed. So this week, I requested that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hold an oversight hearing into the OSM.
Together with two of my Republican colleagues Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and Rand Paul of Kentucky I requested an open and transparent hearing so we can examine the economic impact of the proposed regulations, the substance of the change, and the Administration's procedures for rejecting the unfavorable analysis.
With the prospect of tens of thousands of jobs on the line, OSM must get their numbers right. I am deeply concerned about their process. My colleagues and I need the ability to ask questions in an open forum so that valid concerns about OSM's procedures regarding the stream buffer rule can be addressed. The bottom line is that federal agencies should not go around Congress to regulate what has not been legislated, especially when it puts so many American jobs at risk.
Our top priority must be creating and protecting American jobs. That's my commitment to this state, and I will continue to fight for our families and West Virginia jobs every day.