Walking the mining plank

It’s no secret there’s no love lost between Nancy Pelosi and the coal industry, but do House Democrats really want to get in the middle of a feud by taking another tough and futile vote?

Chairman George Miller’s Education and Labor Committee just passed the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010, allegedly in response to the April tragedy at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine. While it makes sense for Congress to investigate the tragedy, and perhaps then to develop new standards and procedures based on the conclusions, Miller’s bill does neither.

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Despite the fact that the Upper Big Branch investigation isn’t complete, Miller’s bill leaps to the conclusion that the remedy is to criminalize anything other than perfect adherence to every coal mining law and regulation, no matter how trivial. Violations of minor housekeeping and paperwork rules would be catapulted to felony status. 

More than a simple miscarriage of justice for the undeserving, this provision could very well discourage mine employees from taking on supervisory and management roles for fear of arbitrary criminal and/or civil prosecution.  It’s doubtless few corporate managers would be willing to risk their freedom in the same manner. Since little involving human judgment is done perfectly, and no occupation is without risk, Miller’s bill is nothing more than a formula for shutting down the coal industry.

This bill makes it easy to speculate that hamstringing the coal industry is the goal of Miller and the House Democratic leadership, regardless of the costs.

Last summer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi rammed the anti-coal Waxman-Markey climate bill through the House. Climate change, however, languished in the Senate, perhaps dying its final death last week when Harry Reid pulled the plug on carbon caps in the upcoming Senate energy bill.

However, as the 111th Congress has proven time and again, no bill is too tough to pass so long as Speaker Pelosi can whip or cajole members into giving their support. So, while the cap-and-trade flavor of congressional jihad against the coal industry flounders in the Senate, another is ready to take its place: Miller’s bill. Both put the coal industry out of business in time — or at least give the federal government arbitrary power over its existence and operation.

As Miller’s bill goes to the House floor, Democrats will need to ask themselves a question: In an election year in which voter wrath against Speaker Pelosi’s agenda could very well cost me a seat, do I really want to take another vote that will likely be presented to constituents as yet another egregiously unfair effort to make electricity even more expensive, while destroying jobs and further derailing the economy?

If congressional intent is really to enhance mine safety in light of the Upper Big Branch tragedy, then there’s no reason to put the legislative (and punitive) cart before the investigative horse has done its work. No incumbent ever lost a seat taking that perspective.

In the choppy November waters ahead for House Democrats, how many really want to give voters yet another reason to pull the lever for someone else?

Potomac, Md.

Recovery plan working? Figures say, ‘Guess again’

Robert M. Collinsworth

For almost a year now, we have been exposed to report after report stating we have turned the corner and the economy is on the mend, that things are not that bad, that happy days are here again. There is a problem with these messages. They ring hollow at best.

The real unemployment rate (which includes all of the unemployed, not just those still collecting unemployment benefits) is at 21.7 percent. Yes, the government figures state unemployment is at 9.6 percent but that reflects only those individuals still collecting unemployment benefits. The individuals who have already collected the maximum, are self-employed but without work, or have given up looking for work after a year or more are not counted by the government. Remember when we were told unemployment would not exceed 8 percent?

A recent AP article titled “Homes lost to foreclosure on track for 1M in 2010” states the number of homes foreclosed on in 2010 will exceed 1 million. In 2009, the number of homes foreclosed on was just more than 900,000. The number of foreclosures prior to 2009 averaged about 100,000 homes. Only Obama, Pelosi, or Reid would try to rationalize this as being on the right track.

RealtyTrac released its Midyear 2010 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, which shows a total of 1,961,894 foreclosure filings — default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — were reported on 1,654,634 U.S. properties in the first six months of 2010, a 5 percent decrease in total properties from the previous six months but an 8 percent increase in total properties from the first six months of 2009. Does this sound as if we are headed in the right direction?

The current administration and Congress should have been promoting and passing legislation that would give companies a reason to create new public sector jobs, give companies a reason to keep jobs held by taxpaying U.S. citizens here in the U.S. and filled by U.S. citizens, and give companies a reason to bring jobs that have been sent off shore, back to be filled by U.S. citizens. 

Until the government realizes that the average U.S. citizen prefers a leg-up to a handout, the deterioration we are currently experiencing will continue. The bottom-line is this: Rather than taking steps that would create a job rich environment, the current crop of career politicians chose to focus on programs that would push spending (and ultimately taxes) to obscene levels. Programs like Cap and Trade, Obamacare, Stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, suing Arizona for trying to protect their citizens against the results of illegal immigration, bank bailouts and automotive company bailouts have created a fiscal chasm that will probably take generations to bridge. So, the next time you hear “The recovery plan is working” or “We are in a slow recovery”, question the intelligence, the veracity, and possibly even the sanity of the speaker. 

Harrisville, N.H.