Mitch McConnell digs coal miners' votes — but not enough to help them
Coal miners still, for reasons that are not clear, believed they had a friend in Mitch McConnell. Maybe it was because of all the cheerleading McConnell has done for the industry. Maybe it was because of all the mock-turtle concern McConnell has expressed over the years. But when miners suffering from black lung disease came to visit the majority leader, they got a lesson: Mitch McConnell simply doesn’t care.
According to the Lexington-Herald Leader, when he was face to face with the miners, McConnell gave the group vague assurances that they “would be taken care of.” For the 12,000 miners who are utterly dependent on funding from the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, that’s a big deal—especially considering that the fund is $4.3 billion in debt and headed for collapse after the Republican tax bill slashed the taxes that pay for the fund. But McConnell waved away the miners’ worries, telling them “they shouldn’t be concerned.”
Then McConnell ducked out of the meeting almost as soon as it began, prompting one former miner who made the long trip to the Republican leader’s office to call him rude. Still, that wasn’t nearly as rude as what he did next. After the meeting, McConnell made it clear that he wasn’t going to reinstate the tax that funds the black lung payments.
Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell dig coal. Or at least, they dig the money that coal mine owners pour into their campaigns. The coal industry is failing, done in more by simple economics than by any concern for the environment. Still, Trump has done everything he can to eliminate safety and health regulations in order to allow mine owners to pocket every last cent on their way out of town.
The Kentucky miners also met with Rand Paul. Because … sure. He’s a guy that really cares about this kind of thing.
Twenty percent of miners who work for an extended period in Appalachia are now suffering from coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, better known as black lung disease. Not only has the rate of cases of the disease increased since regulations were loosened in 2001, but the most severe form of the disease, progressive massive fibrosis, is now present in 5% of veteran miners.