Coal miners slam GOP for refusing to keep funding treatments paying for their black lung
Coal miners are slamming Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for refusing to pass legislation that would continue to fund treatments for black lung disease.
"Coal miners sort of been put on the back burner, thrown to the side," former coal miner John Robinson told the Associated Press. "They just ain't being done right."
Robinson's medical bills to treat his black lung disease costs $4,000 a month, and he relies on the federal Black Lung Disability Trust to help pay for it. But that fund, which has been financed by the government since legislation passed in 1978 levying a tax on the coal industry, is running out of money. By the middle of 2020 there will not be enough money to cover benefit payments.
The tax was cut on Jan. 1, during Trump's federal government shutdown for his racist border wall — and it has not been restored.
Last October, McConnell told a reporter that a restoration of the tax rate "be taken care of before we get into an expiration situation." He also said, "It just won't be allowed to be unfunded."
But that never happened, and legislation to bring back the funds is now tied up in a Senate committee.
"These miners and retirees have given so much to fuel our country, and they deserve the peace of mind that their pensions and health care benefits will not be taken away," said Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), in a statement urging passage of the legislation.
Several Democratic senators from states with coal plants — Alabama, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — have cosponsored the bill.
When recently asked about the fund running out of money, according to AP, McConnell's spokesman "didn't repeat" McConnell's earlier pledge to restore the money. Instead, he mouthed platitudes simply reaffirming that the fund is currently funded. That doesn't help the situation.
Trump didn't make any mention of the tax rate in his recently released budget proposal, but it did suggest cuts to Medicare, education and payments to veterans. And Trump did ask for billions for his racist wall.
Trump has repeatedly promised miners that he is an advocate for them and mining jobs. But in reality Trump has done the bidding of coal companies — who pushed for the black lung tax rate to be dropped — while miners are left out in the cold.
McConnell and Trump are major beneficiaries of donations from coal businesses. Between his election campaign and inaugural committee (currently under investigation), Trump received over $1.5 million in donations. McConnell has received over $297,000 from the coal industry since his last election in 2014.
Both men are providing a good return on investment for the businesses who bought their influence and apparently see little reason to help the miners who are suffering in the same industry.
Published with permission of The American Independent. Attribution: Oliver Willis.