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X-ray of lungs with black lung.
Black lung is an awful, debilitating disease that can't be cured. It can be prevented, though, and in response to an increase in black lung cases, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is proposing new rules to prevent it. Rep. Andy Barr, Republican of Kentucky, has concerns:
Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington said many members of Congress have questions about the rules, including whether they would add burden and cost on coal companies that would far outweigh any benefit to miners. If companies cut employment because of regulatory costs, it does nothing to advance the cause of workers' health, Barr said.

"Worker safety is a top priority, but not at the cost of putting that family in a very precarious financial situation," Barr said.

When you add a "but" to "worker safety is top priority," you're saying worker safety is not top priority. In translation, Barr is saying basically "God forbid we should prevent a horrible disease at the cost of anyone's job, and by anyone's job, I mean coal company profits." This is perhaps not by chance:
Rep. Andy Barr, who thinks miners should sacrifice their lungs for a job, has received $350,000 in mining industry campaign contributions.
Barr's top contributors include Alliance Resource Partners, Arch Coal, Pine Branch Coal Sales, Beech Fork Processing, and more. No wonder he'd like to protect the industry from new regulations that "would cut the limit on miners' exposure to dust; require miners to wear personal monitors to provide real-time dust readings; and change how companies monitor dust exposure," preventing companies from reducing production, and therefore reducing dust, while they measure. The coal industry will always blame its problems on regulations or President Obama or anything else seeking to prevent it from killing its workers at will. But for all the talk of a "war on coal" from the industry and its Republican water-carriers, the market is what's hurting the coal industry. It shouldn't be allowed to disable or kill more workers to squeeze the maximum profit out of a bad market.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:40 AM PDT.

Also republished by My Old Kentucky Kos and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Black lung is a... (11+ / 0-)

    horrible condition.  My grandfather died of it after 30 years in the So. Colorado coal mines.

    "If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them. Isaac Asimov [-8.25 / -5.64]

    by carver on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:03:44 AM PDT

  •  This diary is good... (7+ / 0-)

    ...but would be improved with at least a mention of any Dem candidates lining up to oppose him in 2014. I believe the seat was "blue" in the not-too-distant past. I also believe I read recently that the son of a fairly prominent Lexington political family had expressed interest in running for the seat as a Dem.

    I know that's primarily the turf of DK Elections, but a mention here while focusing attention of the district couldn't hurt.

    •  Ben Chandler held the seat (5+ / 0-)

      Lots of people called Ben a "Blue Dog," but he was a decent Congressman. And smart as a whip.

      He also gave a damn about environmental destruction, so the coal companies put Ben in their sights.

      One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. --Carl Jung

      by bronte17 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:32:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Any idea who'll be opposing Barr? (0+ / 0-)

        I wish I could remember the name I saw. I think Matt Jones from KSR tweeted congrats to him the day he decided to get in the race.

        Chandler survived the '10 wave but lost to Barr in '12, do I have that right?

        •  Elisabeth Jensen is challenging Andy Barr (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CDH in Brooklyn, JBraden

          So far she's the only Democrat in the race.

        •  There are currently 3 "establishment" Democrats (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CDH in Brooklyn

          in the Democratic primary held next May who are challenging Barr: Elisabeth Jensen (education advocate who calls herself a moderate), Michael Coblenz (patent attorney and former Air Force B-52 pilot who wants a more innovative society and calls himself a "moderate to liberal" candidate) and Joe Palumbo (president of a local lumber company THAT IS GREAT and his mother is state Rep Ruth Ann Palumbo).

          And the Green Party just put up a candidate, Geoffrey M. Young of Lexington. Young is an energy efficiency expert who just retired from the Kentucky Department of Energy. Not sure whether Geoffrey is related to the renown W.T. Young from Lexington.

          Jensen is the meh-candidate to me, but she is the "safe" female candidate for the suburbanite-loving Lexingtonians. My vote would not be FOR her so much as a simple straight Democratic pull. But, I would prefer punch with my pull.

          I like what Coblenz has to say and I like Joe Palumbo as a person. Young is interesting because he toots my environmental horn.

          One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. --Carl Jung

          by bronte17 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 11:20:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In reading about Coblenz, (0+ / 0-)

            I found it interesting that his main pursuit in running for the seat is to make facilitate easier participation in the political process by third parties. That seems an odd opening salvo in a partisan primary.

            It would seem that Palumbo might have a bit of an edge in terms of name recognition, not only due to his business and his mom, but also having a prominent wife doing the news for WKYT in Lex.

            •  Personality goes a long way in politics (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              CDH in Brooklyn

              As for Coblenz' remark per the 3rd parties... some states are more susceptible to the 3rd party aspiration than others. Kentucky is one of those states.

              With a decent-sized rural population in Kentucky... and just as many others only one generation removed from a rural background... the right to be left the hell alone runs deep in Kentucky. That's why Rand Paul has pull here.

              One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. --Carl Jung

              by bronte17 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 03:54:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  follow the money (7+ / 0-)

    can't smoke in bars but can coal mine w/o restrictions....


  •  So who pays? (5+ / 0-)

    Doctors and hospitals? No, that would be socialism.
    Taxpayers? Not if Republicans get their way and cut Medicaid funding to a level they'd consider "fiscally sustainable".
    Patients? No one who made their living in a coal mine could afford treatment.

    No one pays because treatment for the disease is not given.

    You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger.

    by mstep on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:22:16 AM PDT

    •  It is socialism. (0+ / 0-)

      There's a federal disability program for black lung.

      If a coal miner dies or becomes disabled, his family is more likely to get food stamps or welfare.

      Soon the family will qualify for an Obamacare subsidy if their income remains under 400% of poverty, which is a virtual certainty.

      So the taxpayers shoulder those costs in order to preserve coal company profit margins. That's socialism.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 01:22:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The white working class keeps voting for (4+ / 0-)

    Republicans, for dozens of the wrong reasons, perhaps number one being ideology and "values" over life, health, limb, and family economics. This will continue till there's a radical change and/or minority dominance of the working class.

    "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

    by Wildthumb on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:25:27 AM PDT

    •  Exactly (5+ / 0-)

      We often rail about how horrible these elected officials are, but someone has to elect them to get them into office. How maladaptive are these Kentuckians to vote for a clown like this? Sometimes people get the government they deserve.

      Just another day in Oceania.

      by drshatterhand on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:53:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Many white wage-earners feel bamboozled, and they (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OldDragon, Old Sailor

        are, but the conservatives keep feeding them resentment, racism, and division as the "basis" for their resentment, and not the system. Works just great for them. Keeps guys like Limbaugh near the billion-dollar mark.

        "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

        by Wildthumb on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:58:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  If it wasn't for the sort of people (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        who keep re-electing people like Barr, songwriters wouldn't have to write songs like "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive":

        The more people I encounter, the more I appreciate our cats.

        by Old Sailor on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 10:15:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Paradise! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The situation also reminds me of John Prine's "Paradise."

          Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
          And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
          Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
          Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

          And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
          Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
          Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
          Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away

          Writer: PRINE, JOHN
          Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

          People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome. - George Orwell

          by paz3 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 10:47:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Andy Barr is a shill for Wall Street deregulation (5+ / 0-)


    One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. --Carl Jung

    by bronte17 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:27:49 AM PDT

  •  I come from a family of PA coal miners. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Observerinvancouver, sweatyb

    Some of us still dig.

    It's pretty clear that the debate is really over whether or not limiting production time to limit exposure is intended to actually solve the problem or to just make it less profitable to mine coal, which the producers see as the end of this Administration.  

    I think what Barr wants to see is more emphasis on safety and respirator use, and less on simply cutting production.   That does not seem like an unreasonable request to balance competing concerns.   If the Administration wants to put Big Coal out of business, they should be honest about it.  That, of course, would require compensating the coal companies for their loss.    

    Never mud wrestle with a pig. You only get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.

    by SpamNunn on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:29:23 AM PDT

    •  Wants more "safety?" (5+ / 0-)

      The coal companies don't want no stinking regulatory "safety" rules choking up their profits.

      You know, the word "safety" is not in the lexicon of the big mine corps... kind of analogous to your sig line.

      Sago and any number of mining accidents, as well as the sheer numbers of infractions the mining companies refuse to fix, demonstrate their nonchalance with the safety of their workers.

      Oh, and I'm in Kentucky. Married into a family that ran mining operations and worked in the legal field for decades. I saw what is done to the mine workers upfront and close.

      One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. --Carl Jung

      by bronte17 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:39:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  less profitable (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Egalitare, Old Sailor

      I humbly suggest that you consider that this (and most of what the coal companies tell you) is FUD.  Big Coal is doing great.

      I understand that many communities in PA are really in a bind because coal is the only source of money coming in.  But they need to understand that their fate isn't in Obama's hands; it's in the hands of the billionaire owners.

      When Big Coal leaves it will be because the coal is all dug up; not because they can't deal with Federal regulations.

    •  I believe your Handle says it all. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Old Sailor
  •  Those miners knew the risks... (3+ / 0-)

    ...and therefore, the mining corps are absolved of all responsibility to care for them.

    ...hey, that argument works so well for the NFL...

    Republican (n.) -- A person who tells you government is evil, then gets elected and proves himself right.

    by IlGreven on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:29:31 AM PDT

  •  Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is nothing to sneeze at.

    Honesty is not a policy. It's a character trait.

    by Says Who on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:36:09 AM PDT

  •  ISN'T THIS... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, kpardue


  •  New proposals are no different than nuclear (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    regulations for workers that work in "hot zones".  The nuclear workers are required to wear badges at all times so that their exposure to radiation can be monitored and the amount of time they are able to work in "hot zones" is also monitored to ensure that they are not exposed to excessive radiation.

    If the nuclear industry can stay in business and follow their even stricter guideline I expect the mining/coal industry can do it.

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead -

    by FlamingoGrrl on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:38:32 AM PDT

  •  Old story... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, mightymouse, kpardue

    Songwriters: Hazel Dickens
    He's had more hard luck than most men could stand
    The mines was his first love but never his friend
    He's lived a hard life and hard he'll die
    Black lung's done got him his time is nigh

    Black lung, black lung, oh you're just bidin' your time
    Soon all of this sufferin' I'll leave behind
    But I can't help but wonder what God had in mind
    To send such a devil to claim this soul

    Old story told anew:

    What a man likes to see
    When they come after mine
    No prettiness for the mighty black lung
    Reconfirm workers, reconfirm us
    So take off the gloves and sock it to 'em

    Somethings keep me goin'
    Well, I've got no one to blame
    Five o'clock is comin,' do you feel the same
    When a lonely whistle calls out your name

    Read more: Rancid - Black Lung Lyrics | MetroLyrics

    I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:40:34 AM PDT

  •  Two of my great grandfathers were coal miners (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, Egalitare, kpardue

    and died in their early 50's from working in the mines.  This was over 80 years ago.  That we still have miners dying of this now is criminal.

  •  The Curse of Coal (5+ / 0-)

    I'm not against coal mining.

    We are frequently reminded how coal is the cheapest form of energy.

    However that does not factor in the true cost of coal.

    First lots of coal miners are on disability or black lung benefits by their 50's due to the nature of the job. Then their health care and income is from the gov't.

    Second the state picks up the slack on the roads that the coal trucks destroy so essentially the taxpayers are picking up the tab for the roads the coal trucks destroy.

    Here in WV the coal truck drivers had a huge protest when the state was going to crack down on their overloaded trucks. Plus they drive like maniacs I know friends who have had them roll off the road into their yards.

    Third the state often picks up the tab when the mines ruin peoples water supplies and what was free to people when they had wells, they now have to pay for when they are forced to get "city" water by the mines ruining their supply.

    Fourth mining essentially ruins a community for any other sort of economic activity. The roads and infrastructure are usually ruined by mining. Also since the population thinks they can get out of HS and get a 70,000 dollar a year job in the mines everybody in the area is undereducated for any sort of job.

    I can't speak to other areas but in WV the areas where the biggest amount of coal is mined have the worst roads, the most ravaged landscape, the sickest and most uneducated work force.

    Coal is a curse.

  •  Oh please, it is naturally occuring, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, Old Sailor

    it stops heartburn, it imparts wonderful flavor to our grilled foods. It is practically a food product itself, like food mousse!  It's probably good for you, for chrissakes!  In fact, jesus told me it is!

    Ayn sucks. Please know I am not rude. I cannot rec anything from this browser. When I rec or post diaries I am a guest at some exotic locale's computer.

    by Floyd Blue on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:48:45 AM PDT

  •  if you don't risk death, no job for you (4+ / 0-)

    good to see Rep. Barr knows which end is up.

    I bet he calls himself a Christian.

    An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

    by mightymouse on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:53:25 AM PDT

  •  You load 16 tons, what do you get?... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kpardue, Old Sailor

    Another day older
    nearer to death

    Christ. We've eliminated smallpox, but people are still allowed to die of blacklung?

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

    by richardak on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:58:47 AM PDT

  •  Mad Hatter crazy talk from Barr (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kpardue, Egalitare
    Worker safety is a top priority, but not at the cost of putting that family in a very precarious financial situation
    Actually an unsafe worker IS in a very precarious financial situation.
  •  Wow, it's shocking (to me at least) that (0+ / 0-)

    people in the USA still get this.

    Where's OSHA?

  •  Getting and Dying from Black Lung is personal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Job position is just filled by another body. No loss of profit for the corporation, just fill the opening with another person.

    GOP meme is personal responsibility so it is the miner's problem, not the corporation's responsibility protect the miner's health.

  •  It's all about the jobs! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I once, in a former life, worked for the federal agency responsible for processing workers compensation claims for black lung disease.  I interviewed some of the claimants, some of whom could not breathe without carrying around an oxygen tank.  No one would take a job if they thought they would end up like that.  No such jobs should even be offered, because people in desperate need might take them, and the companies will fight the claims tooth and nail.  

  •  Calling KY Kossacks! (0+ / 0-)
    [from Tweet] Rep. Andy Barr, who thinks miners should sacrifice their lungs for a job, has received $350,000 in mining industry campaign contributions.
    Any Kossacks in the Lexington Kentucky area who could relay this information to their local papers?
    "Worker safety is a top priority, but not at the cost of putting that family in a very precarious financial situation," Barr said.
    What sort of "precarious financial situation" would a family be in if the coal mining breadwinner developed black lung? Throw in the misery of dealing with that malady, or dying from that malady, and it's not even close.

    People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome. - George Orwell

    by paz3 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 10:38:07 AM PDT

  •  Start supporting Elisabeth Jensen for Congress! (0+ / 0-)

    Elisabeth Jensen is the Democratic challenger to Andy Barr, who defeated then-Congressman Ben Chandler in 2012.

    Elisabeth Jensen for Congress:




  •  Simply ask the miners. (0+ / 0-)

    "Worker safety is a top priority, but not at the cost of putting that family in a very precarious financial situation," Barr said.

    If you were to ask the actual workers, you might get a different answer to that question.  Especially since those workers may not have access to affordable health Insurance, thanks to Republican obstructionism.   Black lung disease with no health insurance, or health insurance with pre-existing conditions (black lung disease) or lifetime caps, or some other ginned-up reason to be dropped just when the worker needs the insurance, would be far more expensive than a monthly insurance payment.   But that would let the money-grubbing coal companies off the financial hook altogether.  If the coal companies want their employees to sacrifice their health while the company makes a huge profit, the company needs to compensate the workers appropriately.  Or not do business at all.

  •  Coal fuel of the past. (0+ / 0-)

    We all have to start looking for renewable energy suppliers in our local area. An, if possible purchase power from them. Even if it cost a little more. This is the only way we as a nation will move away from fossil fuels. The best way to support coal miners is to get them out of the mine and into industries that will be better for their health and the good of their local community. The best coal is the coal left in the ground.

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