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Pure Delusion: Coal Miners Are Refusing To Learn New Job Skills Because Of Their Faith In Trump

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Pure Delusion: Coal Miners Are Refusing To Learn New Job Skills Because Of Their Faith In Trump

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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

 

“We’re going to bring the coal industry back 100 percent,” Donald Trump told a Virginia audience of campaign supporters in 2016. At another rally in West Virginia, Trump announced, “Miners, get ready, because you’re going to be working your asses off.”

Among the many lies Trump told on the campaign trail, the promise of a rejuvenated coal industry was among the most obvious. Even as coal plants were shuttered across Appalachia and experts cited the irreversible market forces driving down demand, denizens of coal country voted for Trump by large margins. Despite widespread evidence that coal jobs will never return to their hometowns, miners continue to cling to Trump’s empty words to their own detriment. Across the region, many former coal workers are turning down federal and state job training opportunities that could lead to new jobs and steady incomes.

Reuters writer Valerie Volcovici spoke with “more than a dozen former and prospective coal workers, career counselors and local economic development officials.” She found that in parts of Pennsylvania, delusional optimism about a coal comeback, fed by Trump’s continuing insistence that he will jumpstart the industry, is helping keep out-of-work miners from learning new skills that might help them escape the dying industry. Volcovici spoke with a southern Pennsylvania miner’s son named Mike Sylvester who visited a career training center offering courses in “everything from computer programming to nursing.” Eschewing the chance to learn a potentially lucrative new skill, Sylvester signed up for a coal mining course.

“I think there is a coal comeback,” Sylvester told Volcovici.

Two brothers, Steve and Sean Moodie, echoed the same misplaced faith. “I am optimistic that you can make a good career out of coal for the next 50 years,” Sean told Volcovici.

The fantasy that coal mining will have another heyday is rooted both in desperation and delusion, the latter fueled by a White House all too willing to exploit its base. Reuters cites Appalachian Regional Commission numbers showing 33,500 mining jobs have disappeared from the area since 2011. Despite the industry’s growing employment void, federally funded career retraining programs in southern Pennsylvania are less than 20 percent full. Volcovici points to programs in Greene and Washington counties, where “120 people have signed up for jobs retraining outside the mines, far short of the target of 700,” while in “Westmoreland and Fayette counties, participation in federal jobs retraining programs has been about 15 percent of capacity, officials said.”

“I can’t even get them to show up for free food I set up in the office,” Dave Serock, a former miner who now works for a Fayette County career training center, told Reuters.

Experts have been clear about the absurdity of Trump’s coal claims. Last year, Robert Murray, the CEO and owner of the “largest U.S. private coal miner,” told CNN Money that he had urged Trump both before and after the election to tone down promises of a coal industry resurgence.

“I’ve suggested to Mr. Trump that he temper his expectations,” Murray told the news outlet, adding that coal industry employment “can’t be brought back to where it was before the election of Barack Obama.”

Even Trump’s chief economic adviser and director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohen has spoken about the superiority of other energy forms compared to coal.

“Coal doesn’t even make that much sense anymore as a feedstock,” Cohn told CNN Money back in May. “If you think about how [much] solar and how much wind power we’ve created in the United States, we can be a manufacturing powerhouse and still be environmentally friendly.”

In many ways, the unwillingness of Pennsylvania’s coal miners to look toward the future is in keeping with the retro gaze of Trump supporters across the board. Trump ran on a platform that falsely painted America as great in its past and now in decline, an estimation inextricably linked with the rise of a non-white, non-Christian majority. The refusal of coal workers to face coal’s continuing decline as cheaper natural gas and renewable energy rise comes at their own detriment. That defiant resistance to truth holds consequences for miners and their families, as well as their communities. Down-at-the-heels coal towns are hoping to attract new industries, but companies move where a reliable and well-trained workforce exists. Obsolete skills ensure that businesses, from technology to specialized manufacturing, will stay away.

Still, coal-town dwellers like Mike Sylvester, who is putting his energy into coal mining studies, have ignored those facts for a temporarily satisfying pipe dream. He succinctly summed up his thinking for Reuters: “I have a lot of faith in President Trump.”

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

 

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10 Comments

  1. dbtheonly November 3, 2017

    “I have a lot of faith in President Trump.”

    So did the students of Trump University.

    Reply
  2. Dominick Vila November 3, 2017

    This article touches on an issue of critical importance to the failure of Hillary’s bid for the presidency. One of the most important themes in her speeches was the need to fund education and retraining. The latter was directed at segments of our population affected by the emergence of new energy sources, our focus on a clean environment, or the effects of high tech and robotics on our work force. Those speeches were factual and well thought out, but the message was not what those left behind by the circumstances that afflict people worldwide wanted to hear. The contrast between her pragmatic and realistic message, and the facile solutions offered by Trump, including bringing jobs back, getting rid of trade deals that were, allegedly, unfair to the USA, building a wall to keep evil Mexicans out, and a myopic focus on isolationism and nationalism won the day when it comes to this specific issue. Obviously, this was not the only reason Hillary lost, but I think it is fair to say that her penchant for detail and complex solutions did not help her.

    Reply
    1. Independent1 November 3, 2017

      Yes, when you’re as simple minded and myopic as the vast majority of Trump’s supporters, you don’t want to hear about having to change what you’ve been doing all your life. It’s much easier to believe the unrealistic notion that you can continue to live without essentially having to learn anything new.

      And that goes for refusing to believe in global warming and how burning coal has been an enormous contributor to that. See this just released government sponsored study:

      Blockbuster Assessment: Humans Likely Responsible For Virtually All Global Warming Since 1950s

      Humans are likely responsible for 93 – 123% of Earth’s net global warming after 1950, says a blockbuster climate report issued on Friday. The Climate Science Special Report is the first product released by the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA); the core assessment itself, focusing on impacts, will be released in 2018. The NCA is an congressionally mandated quadrennial effort by hundreds of U.S. scientists to assess how the climate is changing in the United States. The project is carried out by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Preparation of the report included workshops around the nation, a public-comment period on the draft, and a technical review spanning 13 agencies.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cff3ca985e10cd30e18aeaf437c89cd32dfe16beed6d1897e3a489460fc94b55.png

      https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/blockbuster-assessment-humans-likely-responsible-virtually-all-global-warming-1950s

      1. Sand_Cat November 5, 2017

        SSSSSSSHh…
        Your mention of “congressionally mandated” may inspire the current swarm of idiots to “unmandate” it.

  3. FireBaron November 3, 2017

    If any of these unemployed miners employed critical thinking, they would have to ask themselves “What is the market for our product?” Traditionally the answers were railroads and electrical generation plants.
    Well, railroads started switching from coal to diesel even before WWII, and now many light rail services have converted to LNG or electricity. There goes that market. And well before the Obama election (sorry Mr. Murray you need to go back to the Reagan Administration for this), many electric producers started switching over to natural gas powered plants. Why? First, it’s easier to deliver – open a valve and there it is. Second, you don’t have coal ash and slag to deal with as a byproduct. Overall, the plants are cleaner environments with less illness among the workers.
    But, doesn’t the new Clean Coal technologies provide a better production? Yep. But what plant is going to invest in the equipment needed to revert from NG to coal? The plant will have to shut down for the conversion, then go through extensive environmental testing before it is allowed back on line. Overall, the cost to the electric generators will be higher to convert to a marginally less expensive fuel than to maintain what they are currently doing.
    Here in the Northeast, we still have some coal-fired plants, but the majority of our electricity comes from either our own NG fired plants, our few remaining Nuclear Powered plants, or Canadian Hydroelectric power. We also have a number of smaller Hydro power plants being reactivated for additional power needs. As long as the water can flow, and enough of it does so, we can have fairly inexpensive electric power available.
    Add to that the large number of solar collectors and wind turbines you are seeing, and sorry Bub, but coal really doesn’t have much of a market anymore, despite what Teflon Donnie has promised you. Remember, this is a man who regularly makes money off of selling you smoke and mirrors, only in this case the smoke does not come from coal.

    Reply
  4. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 3, 2017

    That coal jobs will return, or that coal will last forever, is described accurately as a delusion and a sign of desperation.
    I would add to that a profound degree of ignorance, wanting to cut off the nose to spite the face[of Hillary and the mythical ‘East Coast establishment’], and inordinate greed.

    Greed is all it is cracked up to be, in a perversion of the original intent of the phrase inspiring the original motto.
    And the GOP’s insistence on being the official Icon of Greed may as well cavort across America with a giant neon-like sign around their collective necks, reading “Make Greed a Key Part of Your Persona!!”, or “Start Your Day With Bite-sized Chunks of Coal For a Nicely Stained Smile!!”.

    Reply
  5. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 3, 2017

    That coal jobs will return, or that coal will last forever, is described accurately as a delusion and a sign of desperation. I would add to that a profound degree of ignorance, wanting to cut off the nose to spite the face[of Hillary and the mythical ‘East Coast establishment’], and inordinate greed.

    Greed is all it is cracked up to be, in a perversion of a similar phraseology. Trump supporters are incredibly unmotivated to better their lives, lack creativity, and in general are spiritually dead. Like real-world “Archie Bunkers”, they would rather take the easy way out by doing the same thing with little change in routine, and stay put in one place. Are these not the implications of being “Conservative”, along with many other stultifying attributes??

    And the GOP’s insistence on being the official Icon of Greed may as well cavort across America with a giant neon-like sign around their collective necks, reading “Make Greed a Key Part of Your Persona!!”, or “Start Your Day With Bite-sized Chunks of Coal For a Nicely Stained Smile. Who Knows—You Might Find a Woman[or Man] With a Similar Stained Smile, and Mind-Set!!”

    Reply
  6. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 3, 2017

    A) “…Mike Sylvester who visited a career training center offering courses in “everything from computer programming to nursing.” Eschewing the chance to learn a potentially lucrative new skill, Sylvester signed up for a coal mining course. ”
    B) “I have a lot of faith in President Trump.”

    Above are Exhibit “A” and Exhibit “B”—factors soon to be implicated as the cause of a slow and painful death for so many Trump supporters. Ignorance does kill, as surely as stepping off a cliff on a tall peak in the Appalachian chain, and that’s what coal miners are setting themselves up for. Trump has used this endemic ignorance in “Red States” to his personal benefit. Only brain rot would lead one to turn down the chance to learn new advanced skills in favor of a dirty and dangerous job.

    Why this blindness to the obvious? I would wager that Conservatism and FOX have a lot to do with promoting mental lassitude, dulling the intellect, and making those inclined to think “Conservative” to wind up morose, despondent, and depressed—leading perhaps to suicides or heart failure from build-up of stress due to self-imposed uncertainty.

    If someone wishes to step into a pit of irrelevance and doesn’t want to contribute to society by improving their lot, then we should allow them to head towards the cliff like lemmings. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”, pretty much sums up the attitudes of coal-miners.

    Reply
  7. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 3, 2017

    “I have a lot of faith in President Trump”.

    This pathetic and laughable comment reflects to a large degree the vacant and hollow emptiness in a vast majority of Trump supporters, mistaking identity with “Whiteness” and “Nationalism” as the key to existence and meaning.

    I need to dust off the book by Samuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot”, a book we were required to read in a literature course in freshman year at the university. I found it to be enigmatic and dry, of little use at the time, but now it may add another dimension to the plight of and meaning of the Trump, and of his supporters.

    Trump has replaced God as a dominant factor in the life of the average Trump supporter. Though God, a now vague Entity Who no longer figures prominently in day-to-day decisions of the Trump supporter, is crucial in their myopic view of Religion, yet Trump has more of an influence on how the Trump supporter will choose to exist rather than God. Which may explain their unusually rash behavior and slavish devotion to a narcissistic and perverted individual.

    No longer able to discern the purpose of their existence with any clarity, Trump supporters are wandering the landscape looking for answer to why they were created, aimless like cattle left to roam a wide expanse without the cattle driver, trying to find their way back to the ranch.

    Or maybe they are just waiting for some unknown event to occur—revival of the coal industry, or some other mundane occupation that offers no real future of sense of satisfaction. Waiting for someone to show them how to get out of the wilderness of blind imitation and a mindless support for a Right-Wing political Party.

    Reply
  8. Sand_Cat November 5, 2017

    And they’ll shortly lose their health insurance, if they have any now…
    Thanks, Trump.

    Reply

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