Part of the Republican plan to rejuvenate the state as it emerges from the economic and social devastation of a year-long pandemic is to grow the population by cutting income taxes to zero. The conservatives at the Capitol believe that as soon as the state eliminates its personal income tax, a population boom is soon to follow.

Ignore decades-long demographics trends at your own risk, but the Republican pitch is a fanciful and simple-minded notion that exists only in theory and is absent any hard data to prove its point. Besides, government takes money in the form of tax dollars to provide services. If personal income taxes are taken off the table, then some other tax is going to have to foot the bill. It’s all just a shell game, really.

What seems to escape the Republican thinking about how to make a more attractive state – for those on the outside taking a look and for our own youth who may be looking to leave – is a big, fat, hairy wart right there on the tip of our state’s nose, and it gives us all a bad look: Bigotry.

Unfortunately, it’s rearing its head again under the golden dome of the Capitol building.

House Delegate John Mandt, a Republican lawmaker who resigned last fall after posting an anti-gay slur but then was re-elected, is drawing fresh criticism, as well he should, for an extended online post opposing protections against a proposed Fairness Act – an antidiscrimination bill based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a now-deleted Facebook post, Mandt said that he opposed the Fairness Act because “Oftentimes evil cloaks itself in pleasant sounding terms, and that is exactly what the Fairness Act does.”

Mandt said the proposal falsely claims to be a civil rights bill about fairness in employment and housing and forces people of faith into a position where they must choose between faith or unjust government persecution.

And, of course, none of that is true.

But that didn’t keep Mandt from frothing at his social media mouth and exposing his ignorance.

He, the self-anointed arbiter of what constitutes acceptable behavior, said, “every person deserves to be treated with dignity, but not all behavior is dignified.”

While the proposal “ignores biology,” he wrote, “it favors gender-confused males and it places our state’s women and girls in harm’s way, especially in intimate spaces previously reserved for females.”

What Mandt, R-Cabell, is rallying hard against what is essentially a statewide nondiscrimination act similar to what city councils in Lewisburg and Beckley passed a few years ago that have provided civil rights protections for members of the LGBTQ community.

The bill would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public spaces. Similar protections exist in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

For the record, there have been no police reports of any women or young girls being accosted in a public bathroom by a transgender man in either of those southern West Virginia cities, but that was the fear made from whole cloth and given voice during debate.

And now we are hearing again – this time from Mandt.

But he is not new to his own three-ring circus. Last fall, while running for elected office, he shared posts circulated by a group called The “Right” Stuff. Members are identified only by first name, but profile pictures clearly identified Mandt.

The group uses anti-gay and anti-Muslim language, anti-gay slurs and other disparaging remarks about other delegates, other candidates, the president of the Senate and the mayor of Huntington, according to reporting by the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

Similar problem posts were made back in 2019.

If the Republicans in Charleston were serious about taking steps to make the state more attractive to outsiders, they would deal with one of their own more firmly, kicking him off committee assignments and letting him know in no uncertain terms that his cancerous attitudes do not reflect what the Republican Party or the people of West Virginia stand for.

Simply put, remove the wart.

— The Register-Herald

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