Republicans “won” the 2016 presidential election. Why? Well, besides an avalanche of racial demagoguery, they “appealed” the white working class in Rust Belt America. They became the unsung heroes of the middle-class struggle to survive. Economic anxiety, as they called it, ran rampant.
Well, their commitment to the white working class lasted roughly three weeks, and now it’s back to square one. And the first victims of the Republicans newfound power? Coal miners.
Yes, coal miners, the very people that represent the backbone of manual labor in the United States. From the hills of West Virginia all the way down to Kentucky, coal miners are what keeps America’s energy bills under control and our electricity efficient. Democrats (like Hillary Clinton) lost big in coal country because of a “failure” to connect with them (even though she was the only candidate to offer them alternative programs to the dying industry). Trump and the Republicans pounced, promising them revitalization and a basket of goodies to make them great again.
And now the United States may face a looming shutdown because of them. Why? Republicans don’t want to pay their healthcare and pension plans.
That’s right, the same people who promised to be their champions are now turning their backs.
Labeling the plan a “bailout,” Republicans are stonewalling Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who offered an amendment to the chief funding bill of the United States government that will revitalize the United Mine Workers’ health and pension system, which went broke because of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
If Republicans continue to block the legislation – which would lead to a shutdown – over 16,000 retired coal miners and their families will lose their healthcare and pension plans. Manchin’s amendment would offer temporary assistance until April 28 when another budget would have to be considered. Working with Manchin is West Virginia’s other Senator, Republican Shelly Moore-Capito and Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also supports the amendment being added but blocked it from consideration last year.
McConnell, however, has asked that Democrats step aside and not block the continuing resolution over the miner’s benefits.
Aside from Moore-Capito and Mitch McConnell, no Republicans have expressed support for the measure, and the opponents have called it a “government bailout” that sets a precedent to “bail out” other troubled pension systems and healthcare benefits.
If Republicans want to see what a precedent looks like, they should ask Trump about his Carrier deal.
So Democrats are accused of turning their backs on the working class. Meanwhile, Democrats Joe Manchin and Sherrod Brown are spearheading an amendment that helps that very class of workers, and Republicans are slamming it as a “government bailout.” If Republicans don’t get Manchin, Moore-Capito and Brown on board with a continuing resolution, it won’t pass.
So bankers can get a trillion dollars in tax payer bailouts, but coal miners, who were promised their pensions and healthcare and who power our country, get squat and demonized?
Democrats have been, are, and will be for the working class. They may not be as theatrical and slick as Republicans, but let today’s example show who really has the back of the working class. Only one party is instilling economic anxiety in them – and it isn’t the Democrats.
Every pundit better be reassessing this issue.
Watch Senator Manchin deliver remarks:
Featured image via Alex Wong/Getty Images