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Hillary Clinton's Surprisingly Blunt Message to Coal Workers

The message was so atypical for a politician wooing votes. "We'll put coal miners out of business," Hillary Clinton warned the audience at Sunday night's Democratic Town Hall in Columbus, Ohio, giving credence to President Obama's "War on Coal."
March 15, 2016, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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One need not read Planetizen to know the future in coal mining is not exactly bright. Warning that "you're going to lose your jobs" would have been harsh enough, but the former secretary of state went one better at CNN's Democratic Town Hall on March 13: "We're going to do it to you!," was essentially her message, or at least the way it came out.

"Clinton may have dug herself a deep hole across Kentucky and Appalachia, even though she may not have intended to do so - while possibly gaining votes in other, greener states," writes James Bruggers of the Louisville, Ky.-based Courier-Journal.

Clinton was answering the question: "Make the case to poor whites who vote Republican why they should vote for you and your economic policies." The transcript (or 45-second YouTube video) provides the context of her damaging words.

...I'm the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country.  Because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right...

And we're going to make it clear that we don't want to forget those people.  Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. 

Bruggers wrote last November about Clinton's "$30 billion plan to boost coal communities which have suffered because coal has been losing out to cheaper, cleaner natural gas as the fuel of choice for electricity generation." But that's far different than assuming responsibility for the loss of jobs, as opposed to the retraining of workers who lose their jobs due to market forces.

To be sure, CNNMoney economics reporter Patrick Gillespie writes, "Hillary Clinton can't kill coal. It's already dying." While "(h)er critics say she and President Obama are at war with coal companies...the war might already be over. Clinton won't have much coal to put out of business: the industry is already gutted."

The number of coal workers in the United States -- 57,700 -- is at a record low since data was tracked. Coal employment declined in every single month last year and it's down dramatically from the mid-1980s when there were over 175,000 coal jobs.

Clinton's main point Sunday night was that she plans to replace coal jobs with clean energy jobs in places like Boone County [West Virginia, unemployment 10 percent. West Virginia had the highest unemployment rate in the country of 6.7% in the last quarter of 2015, according to the Economic Policy Institute]. So far, that hasn't happened.

In fact, rather than focusing on Hillary Clinton's self-damaging way of referring to what may be an inevitable loss of coal-related jobs, regardless of EPA regulations like the Clean Power Plan, collectively known by coal proponents as President Obama's War on Coal, more attention should be placed on the intentional point of her answer.

"There's no one transitioning into green energy jobs," says Kris Mitchell, director of development for Boone County. "Some people still believe coal will come back."

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Published on Monday, March 14, 2016 in Courier-Journal
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