As coal mines began to close down, they began showing up in bankruptcy court. The victims of those bankruptcies were the retired miners who were about to lose their health benefits. And, since most retired miners suffer from very debilitating diseases like black lung, something had to be done.
Those health benefits began to head towards the Federal Government. The government took over those health benefits for the retired miners. After all, it wasn’t their fault they were losing them. Last fall Congress voted to finance health benefits for a large swath of retired miners for several months. However, they have been unable to pass any long-term plan.
This brings up a real problem for these retired miners. If nothing is done by the end of the month, about 20,000 retired miners will lose their health benefits. These miners are all in states that went for trump in the last election.
Yet, beloved leader has said nothing about how much he wants Congress to come up with a long-term solution. He has given coal mine owners breaks in several ways including Executive Orders, but has done nothing for the workers or these retired miners.
The health benefits are critical to these miners. What is at stake is not only the ability to maintain a middle-class retirement, but in a lot of cases, their lives. For example, Norm Skinner worked for more than 20 years as a miner in eastern Ohio and had triple bypass surgery in 2010. Without the retiree health plan, he said, the surgery “would have broke me,” even with Medicare picking up much of the bill.
Another miner Mr. Van Sickle, who lost parts of two fingers on the job, said his doctor advised him to retire two years ago, at 59, because he suffers from black lung, a condition associated with long-term exposure to coal dust.
He manages the illness by attaching himself to a breathing machine that essentially props open the airway to his lungs while he sleeps. “My oxygen content would drop so low without it,” he said.
Last fall, Mr. Van Sickle priced out a private insurance plan that would provide roughly comparable benefits for him and his wife, who takes about a dozen separate medications to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The estimates came in at $1,500 to $1,800 per month.
“I always wanted to be a person who would leave a little legacy for my children,” he said. “If I lose these benefits and my pension, there will not be enough for me, let alone for my children.”
The other odd part of this story is that Mr. Van Sickle and his wife might be eligible for thousands of dollars in subsidies if they were able to purchase their insurance from the ACA. However, that plan would be less generous and trump and the Republicans want to kill the ACA which would leave him with nothing.
The other thing you need to realize is that miners, like many other union workers over the last 20 years, took lower pay raises in new contacts in order to ensure health benefits and retirement pensions were never hurt.
Beloved leader made all kinds of promises to the miners during his campaign. He talked about how those mines were going to be digging more coal than ever under his administration. He made promises that even miners knew in their hearts was untrue, but they were hopeful that at least some of the promises would come true.
They believed their wish was a modest one. The price tag for their benefits averages a little under $200 million per year over the next 10 years, which can be partly offset through interest that accrues in a federal fund for reclaiming abandoned mines. Because no new miners would become eligible for the health benefits awarded to this group, the cost would eventually dwindle to zero.
But, Mitch McConnell is reluctant to expedite a vote on a permanent fix of this problem. And, Paul Ryan says he may be open but not for more than 20 months at which point the benefits would either end or have to be reapproved. Gee, how generous of the bastard.
In the last few days, the House Republican leadership has suggested that it, too, might support a permanent fix, according to Phil Smith, the chief lobbyist for the miners union, but only if it can settle on a revenue source to offset the full cost. “It leaves the door wide open to ‘Well, we couldn’t find one,’” Mr. Smith said.
Here we go again. If something benefits average people, especially their health, it must be paid for by cutting something else. If it benefits banks and/or billionaires, it doesn’t have to be paid for by anything. You can always count on Republicans to screw over the “little people” with stupid arguments about the “deficit”.
And, while all of this is going on, beloved leader, who used coal miners to win his election is saying nothing about their plight. He isn’t calling McConnell and Ryan and demanding these retired miners be taken care of like they were promised. No, he is off playing golf and spending tax payer’s money, like from these retired miners, on lavish vacations at his own resort, thus putting money into his own pocket.
As far as he is concerned, the retired miners can just shut up and die. He doesn’t care about them. They are a burden on coal mine owners and the Government because the mine owners are pawning off their responsibilities on the tax payers. Talk about the “takers”.
Working is a mine is a very dirty and dangerous job. These people literally risked their lives to get out that coal the powered our power plants for generations. They don’t deserve to be thrown to the side of the road by Republicans or trump.
Ever since beloved leader took the oath of office, he has shit all over the average American with his policies, executive orders, and silence. He has shown that we don’t matter. You only matter if you are in the top 1 percent of the economic ladder.
His Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross founded the International Coal Group, which was formed after several coal companies went bankrupt. The United Mine Workers of America protested the bankruptcy reorganization as it led to changes in health care and pensions for the existing employees. Arch Coal purchased International Coal Group for $3.4 billion in 2011.
But before that, in 2006 there was an explosion in the Sago Mine owned by Ross’ company that killed 12 workers. In a report from the New York Post, Ross apparently knew all about the mine’s safety violations. The article also reported that the mine had 12 roof collapses in 2005, and that the U.S. Department of Labor data showed 208 citations for safety violations in that same period, including 21 times for build-up of toxic gasses.
So, is there any wonder why trump is not saying anything about protecting these retired miners? Ross didn’t give a shit about the miners when they worked for him. He certainly doesn’t care about them now either. So, why would trump?
This administration should be called the “billionaires club”. Because it seems that if you aren’t a billionaire you cannot work in the administration. And, when the “little people” need something, the common answer from the billionaires club is “screw you”. Those are words Republicans have been telling us for years. We are unused to hearing an administration use them so blatantly by their actions before.
Hell, I bet Exxon/Mobile gets their waiver to return to the oil contract they signed with Putin to drill oil there. They applied for a waiver today. If that goes through, there will be no question whose side trump is on.
And, the shirts keep marching along.