Saturday, December 17, 2016

Districts Like OH-06 Put Trump Over The Top-- And They Are Slated By The GOP To Feel The Most Pain


Bill Johnson's Ohio River Valley district (OH-06) is one of the poorest districts in the country ($41,719 median income) and one of the whitest (95%). It borders on West Virginia and Kentucky and often seems more politically in synch with those states than with the rest of Ohio. Many of the district's voters in fact, live in the Wheeling, Parkersburg and Huntington, West Virginia suburbs. It used it be Blue Dog territory but flipped to the Republicans in 2010 and has grown redder and redder since then. Ohio was a good state for Trump this year but the 6th district went for him with the most gusto-- and the most votes. He beat Clinton 69.3-26.7%, much more like a West Virginia district than like an Ohio one. Obama lost to Romney in 2012, but not nearly as miserably. That race finished at 55.2% for Romney and 42.7% for Obama. That's a gargantuan 16 point collapse for Clinton, which looks like her worst performance compared to Obama anywhere in the country.

Johnson beat Democrat and small town mayor Michael Lorentz of Belpre 209,177 (70.6%) to 86,938 (29.4%), Johnson raised $1,659,553 to Lorentz's $11,889. You may recall that in 2014 Steve Israel handpicked reactionary Blue Dog Jennifer Garrison to run against Johnson and helped her raise $909,151. That year the DCCC spent around $40,000 of their own on the race before recognizing the futility and pulling out of the district. Johnson beat her 111,026 (58%) to 73,561 (39%).

When the Republicans snuck a provision to mess with retired coal miners' health care benefits into a must-pace funding bill, coal state Republicans split on supporting/opposing it. Both senators from the biggest coal state in the country, Wyoming-- Mike Enzi (R) and John Barrasso (R)-- stabbed their coal miners in the back. As did Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. On the other hand, Republicans Rand Paul (KY), Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Rob Portman (OH) knew better than to screw over their own state's retired miners and all joined with Democrats like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Mazie Hirono and even Joe Manchin in voting against the bill.

Virtually all the coal mined in Ohio, the 10th biggest coal-producing state in the country-- is mined in OH-06. These 5 counties produce over 80% of the coal mined in Ohio. Each county is in the 6th district and each county voted overwhelmingly for Trump (who earned 52.1% statewide)-- as noted below:
Belmont- 67.9%
Harrison- 72.2%
Perry- 68.1%
Jefferson- 65.9%
Tuscarawas- 65.1%
These retired coal miners are going to be hit with a loss of benefits, a collapse of Obamacare and a weakening on Medicare next year. They voted overwhelmingly for Trump and fully believe he's going to protect them. Yesterday, in the Washington Post, Greg Sargent asked, provocatively when we're likely to see Trump's "pro-worker" agenda. I noticed that one of Sargent's twitter pals, Paul Krugman, answered rather succinctly: never.

Sargent wondered aloud what would happen if Trump tries doing something for his working class voters. "Will Congress," he asked, "actually spend money to help them? There are two key ways Congress might do this: By spending more on efforts to help workers navigate the changes in the economy; and by spending more to create jobs, say, via a big infrastructure package (the latter of which Trump himself has promised). Those aren’t the only ways to help them, of course. But many progressive economists think those are two very important tools that could help workers whose plight Trump himself has highlighted-- workers displaced by trade and automation." Theoretically, they can do it through the Trade Adjustment Assistance, which helps workers who are certified to have been dislocated by trade with unemployment insurance and retraining. The problem, though is that the Republican-controlled Congress, according to Sargent-0- and presumably Krugman, "will not support large boosts in this kind of spending." Sargent also says that the big infrastructure boost everyone is expecting isn't likely to pass through Congress anytime soon either.
Reince Priebus is now saying that any big infrastructure stimulus spending plans Trump has talked about are likely to be on hold. Republicans are going to prioritize Obamacare repeal and tax reform (which of course will include tax cuts across the board, especially for top earners and businesses)... Asked whether Trump will pursue any stimulus plan, Priebus dodged: “I would love to not get into the details with you. We’re not going to do that today.”

So will we be seeing the big Stephen Bannon-approved agenda of “economic nationalism” anytime soon? Bannon, the keeper of the Trump narrative, appears to approve of massive spending to help workers. “We’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” Bannon gushed in a recent interview. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up.”

But Trump’s own infrastructure plan already looks more like a tax break and privatization scheme than a plan for big public spending, and now we’re learning that Obamacare repeal and tax reform (i.e., tax cuts) are going to come first in any case. There’s no telling how long those things will take. And it’s hard to imagine the party of Paul Ryan going along with a Bannon-style spending plan, anyway. Nor should we expect Trump’s call for tariffs to come up in the near future, either.

Trump and Republicans, of course, will argue that their immediate agenda-- rolling back regulations (Obamacare, Wall Street oversight, environmental regs), slashing taxes, and even pushing measures that weaken unions and worker bargaining power-- will unleash a boom that will send workers’ wages soaring. Added into that will be periodic efforts to intervene in Carrier-style situations. Those will not address the broader problem, but they will produce blasts of good press featuring handfuls of workers thankful for Trump’s efforts to save their jobs. All of this will likely be Trump’s pro-worker agenda, at least in the short term.
Coal mining communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio helped him win those two must-win swing states. And about a month ago, the NYTimes ran a piece singling out coal miners as a group most likely to quickly be betrayed by Trump. It isn't even Trump's fault. Demand for coal has been dropping, automation in mining has been increasing and it doesn't matter who the president is or what he promises. Natural gas is way cheaper and, ultimately, its fracking that killing those coal jobs.There are only 50,000 coal mining jobs left in the U.S., down from 250,000 in 1980.
The Trump administration could help the coal industry somewhat by unwinding President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was designed to replace coal-fired utility plants with those using natural gas and renewable energy sources. But the effects of the plan so far may be hard to reverse.

The tighter air pollution regulations, which are still under challenge in court, forced utilities to choose between revamping aging coal-fired power plants to make them cleaner, or switching to natural gas or green sources like wind and solar. Utilities across the country typically decided to switch.

Last year, as a result, 94 coal-fired power plants were closed across the country, and this year 40 more are expected to close by the end of December. It is most unlikely that Mr. Trump could do anything to bring those plants back online.

“All the older power plants that burned Eastern coal have been basically torn down, dismantled, put in mothballs, some of them permanently,” said Robert J. Zik, the now-retired former vice president for operations at TECO Coal, a subsidiary of TECO Energy that was sold to another operator last year.

Other marginal measures the Trump administration might be able to take on coal’s behalf, industry executives say, include rolling back the rules that protect streams from surface mining and easing those for leases and royalties on coal mined on federal lands.

Industry executives say that to extend the life of at least some of the 400 or so coal-burning power plants still in use in the United States, the Trump administration and lawmakers in Congress could work with them on “clean coal” initiatives.

Acknowledging that climate change is an issue even if Mr. Trump does not, Mr. Reavey of Cloud Peak Energy wants federal incentives for utilities to refit existing power plants to burn coal more efficiently and to attach systems to their facilities that will capture carbon emissions and sink them permanently in the ground. Such systems, known as carbon capture and sequestration, are currently so costly that utilities simply prefer to replace coal-fired plants with gas-fired ones.
And if Trump cared anything about workers at all, would he have nominated anti-worker fanatics like Wilbur Ross and Andrew Puzder, as, respectively, Secretaries of Commerce and Labor? And Elaine Chao, who earned a terrible reputation as Secretary of Labor under Bush, is back, this time as Secretary of Transportation. Tom Price has a long and sordid record as a dedicated enemy as working families and Trump named him as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Why would anyone trust one word the man says? I would feel sorry for all of the blue collar workers, including the coal miners who bought into his nonsense, if I did not feel so angry that they have put such a psychopath into the Oval Office.. Sadly, they were duped and will feel the consequences of their votes, just not what they had expected. This includes the man who has just plowed my driveway (New York got 6 inches of snow today), with a Trump/Pence sticker on his truck. As Bloomberg said, "New Yorkers know a con man when they see one." My plower must have missed this alert.

I mean really, all Trump has ever been about and all he continues to be about is enriching himself. He cares about no one but himself. Do not expect him to pay the slightest attention to the details of any proposals, as he is incapable and uninvested in doing so. He could care less that the retired coal miners won't have health coverage, a minor blip in the legislation beneath his notice. After all, look at that coal mining billionaire he is appointing to a cabinet position. The guy was responsible for poor safety regulations and coal miners' deaths, and just got slapped on the wrist with fines when he should have been held criminally accountable. And now he is getting rewarded by Trump and will be in a position of power in our government!


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