August 29, 2016

New York Times: Appalachia Wariness Of Clinton An Enduring Phenomenon

Coal communities across Appalachia are “wary” of Hillary Clinton. Can you blame them? Back in March Clinton infamously told America that she was going to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” if she became president.

The opprobrium that swiftly descended on Clinton for those painful comments has stayed in the minds of many coal families. Clinton tried to walk back her anti-coal comments, but the anger shown by miners like Bo Copley has stayed strong throughout the campaign.

A New York Times A1 story today adds fuel to that narrative by drawing a parallel between Clinton’s coal plan and the region’s past move away from tobacco. Clinton’s campaign advisers have admitted that the Democratic nominee’s coal plan is “informed by the lessons of the tobacco programs.”

This is bad news for the Appalachian region because many believe that the tobacco settlement was insufficient for their needs:

“Now Washington is gunning for the second pillar of the Appalachian economy, coal, and again a politician, Hillary Clinton, is promising to help — with $30 billion over 10 years to revitalize coal country. As in the case of tobacco, the idea is not to save the old economy, but to create a new one by retraining miners, investing in infrastructure and technology, and luring new industries. Residents here are skeptical, and with good reason, some economists say.”

Testimonials from tobacco farmers provide coal miners a glimpse at their future if Clinton’s coal plan becomes a reality. It’s not a pretty picture:

“’The government can’t really help Appalachia,’ said Gary Lambert, a retired coal machinist who also sold his tobacco farm to the federal government. ‘The tobacco settlement was a rip-off. They ripped us up one side and down the other.’”

Even left-leaning economists admit that the Clean Power Plan, supported by Clinton, will cost the region over 200,000 jobs. The lessons of the tobacco settlement show that Clinton is offering Appalachia a Band-Aid to cover bullet hole.