After concluding a 20-county swing through West Virginia on my "Rebuilding America" tour, I can tell you one thing for certain: Washington may be broken, but it will not break me, and it sure won't break the great people of West Virginia. West Virginians want their elected leaders to stop thinking of America's economic problems as choice between two political parties or red and blue and start thinking about solutions in terms of red, white and blue. The challenges we face and they are great are not just Republican problems or Democratic problems, they are America's problems. But just like we proved in West Virginia, by coming together, finding common ground, and developing a commonsense path forward, we can fix any problem we face.
I spent the final evening of my "Rebuilding America" tour at a town hall meeting in Clarksburg, where I heard a wide range of concerns that really echoed what I had been hearing all over the state.
Jobs and the economy are the foremost concerns for most West Virginians. While our state received some good news when we found out our state's unemployment dropped to 7.4 percent from 8.6 percent, too many of our friends and family are still worried about finding jobs. While new initiatives like natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale are potential game-changers that offer huge economic value, we must do all we can to make sure that these new opportunities go to the hard-working people of our state.
We must also continue to explore ways to diversify our economy, which will help revive manufacturing jobs. The bottom line is that we need to create a better climate for jobs and businesses to thrive. As I have said many times, the federal government can't act as an adversary it must be partner. I truly believe we can restore the confidence we need to jumpstart our economy if the federal government reins in out-of-control regulation.
West Virginians are also counting on Washington to prove to the country and the world that we can work together to solve our debt crisis. By working together we can put our country on the right fiscal path that reduces spending responsibly, creates fairness in our tax system, and provides the kind of certainty that Americans need and deserve.
I also heard from our seniors who are concerned about their Social Security, and whether or not the fund will be solvent for future generations. As I have been saying all along, it's wrong to use scare tactics that frighten our seniors, who depend on Social Security and Medicare. Let me be clear, I strongly believe in Social Security and Medicare. We must do all we can to make sure that these programs will be in a place for generations to come, and I will continue to support measures that will keep them solvent, and ensure we keep our promises to the greatest generation.
Many folks who came to the town hall or some of the many courthouse meetings also made quite clear that they have witnessed firsthand all the waste, fraud and abuse in our government programs. This is unacceptable and, for the sake of our nation's fiscal future, it must stop. Last year, the government handed out $125 billion it wasn't supposed to spend, an astounding number when you stop to think about how much we could save over the next 10 years if we rooted out waste, fraud and abuse in the system. As governor of West Virginia, I concentrated on eliminating that waste, fraud and abuse, and I will continue to work to make our federal government spend your tax dollars more wisely and more efficiently.
Finally, a large number of West Virginians expressed their deep concerns about the drug problem facing West Virginia's schools, children and families. Time and again I heard that the issue of substance abuse is a growing plague that is impacting our communities and our economy, and preventing local employers from hiring and retaining workers. This is something we must address immediately, and I hope, by bringing all of our state, federal, and local stakeholders together, we can advance the right strategy that will attack the scourge of drug abuse.
While I heard many concerns over my many stops, what struck me most was as always the good common sense of West Virginians. I talked to people who are not interested in yelling at one another or blaming one another, but in coming together to find solutions that will help us rebuild America. It is your spirit of cooperation and the strength of your determination that will energize me during the many battles ahead in Washington this fall. In the end, as we continue to work to set this nation on the right course and I believe we will come together and we will rebuild America.
Thank you, and God bless West Virginia and the United States of America.