Can anyone possibly imagine someone casting a vote for an administration that will take away a much needed benefit? On Election Day 2016, many people went to the polls to select the next leader of our nation. On that night, Donald Trump came out victorious. The voters who elected Trump came from various backgrounds: race, gender, and occupation. Coal miners, in particular, gravitated towards Trump. Coal mining is as iconic an occupation as auto workers, but most people do not know much about the lives of miners and their families. On election day, miners and their families gave their overwhelming support to Donald Trump. However, that support has placed many of them in a serious dilemma.
They supported candidate Trump because he promised to bring back the coal jobs. What candidate Trump failed to understand was that the coal industry had been on the decline for the last 40 years. The number one reason for the decline is simply mechanization. Machines took away jobs. One digging machine probably equals the output of 10 to 15 workers. One also has to consider the globalization of all Industries. It is hard for an American coal miner to compete with his counterpart in China for various reasons, including the growing use in the US of other energy sources (such as natural gas). Even so, the coal industry rallied behind candidate Trump. Sadly, after the election, most of these coal miners and retirees realized that their votes sent them into a dire dilemma.
Over the past six years there have been many criticisms of the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare). Some people love Obamacare, while other people hate it. However, regarding the coal industry, no one can deny the overwhelming benefits of Obamacare for the coal miners. In 1973, an act was passed to give benefits for all coal miners suffering from black lung disease. However, there were significant changes to this law over the past 30 years. The Reagan Administration made it harder for coal miners to prove that they had this disease. However during the creation of Obamacare, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, (who was severely ill) fought to change the black lung disease benefit.
Any coal miner who worked 15 years or more was eligible for the benefit. Senator Byrd shifted the burden of proof back to the companies. He also added a provision that transfers the benefit to a surviving spouse and that the spouse would not have to show proof. However, this benefit is now in jeopardy thanks to the votes cast by the very people who would benefit the most from this provision and Obamacare.
Earlier this week, the Republican Party released their repeal and replacement plan for Obamacare. The proposed bill is classic Republican philosophy. The wealthy will be subsidized on the backs of the poor and elderly. The GOP healthcare bill gives majority of tax breaks to all Americans making over $415,000. The tax break derives from the fact that millions and millions of people will be kicked off Medicaid. The Republican health care bill with eliminate the Medicaid expansion. In addition, rolls back the benefits gained for coal miners suffering from black lung disease. That’s right: coal miners have elected an administration that will take away something that they need desperately.
Elections will always have consequences. Now miners have to be wondering: what is going to happen to them in the future? This industry has created this dilemma. No one wants to see anyone suffer. It is clear that something has to be done to help an industry that isn’t going away anytime soon. The dilemma might present an opening for education.
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