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WSJ: Clinton’s Coal Reparations

Editorial, The Wall Street Journal

First destroy coal jobs to please affluent liberals over climate change, then tax all Americans more to buy the support of the workers who lost those jobs.

Hillary Clinton has promised to continue the Obama Administration’s carbon cleanse of the U.S. economy, which is proving to be politically toxic in coal country. So this week she rolled out a plan for government to rescue the coal miners who the government has put out of work.

Coal production nationwide has declined by about 15% since 2008. A Duke University study in April estimated that 50,000 coal jobs were lost between 2008 and 2012, with Appalachia, Utah and Colorado among the biggest victims. Unemployment in eastern Kentucky exceeds 8% and is in the double digits in southern West Virginia.

Shale fracking for natural gas has contributed to the carnage, but the Environmental Protection Agency has assisted by promulgating rules on mercury emissions and ash disposal. The Administration’s new Clean Power Plan will finish off the industry, which still accounts for about a third of U.S. electric generation and two-thirds in Ohio and Iowa.

Several coal companies are slouching toward bankruptcy, which could cause retirees and laid-off workers to lose health coverage. In May Patriot Coal filed for Chapter 11 for the second time in three years. Thousands of workers fear they’ll be forced into Medicaid or the ObamaCare exchanges.

The United Mine Workers multiemployer pension plan is edging toward insolvency. If the fund goes broke, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will pay retirees a maximum annual pension of $12,870. Congress last year passed legislation allowing trustees of multiemployer plans to modify benefits to keep the funds afloat and prevent more severe cuts.

But Mrs. Clinton wants to purchase miner support, so her $30 billion plan would bail out the UMW’s pension and health plans as well as those of power plant and transportation workers hurt by coal bankruptcies. She also wants to offset reduced public school property tax revenues in communities with stranded coal plants.

To make up for the job losses, there’s money for high-speed broadband, roads, bridges, water systems, airports, public health centers and renewable energy. Her plan also includes tax credits for investors, funding for arts and culture programs, as well as local food and agriculture businesses.

Her political goal is to staunch Democrats’ leaking support among blue-collar communities. Last week Republicans took the Kentucky governorship for only the second time in 44 years. In 2014 the GOP picked up Senate seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Iowa, Colorado, West Virginia, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and came close in Virginia. Next year Republicans are defending Senate seats in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois—states President Obama won in 2012 but save for the Land of Lincoln may be in play in the presidential election.

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