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Muir: Another election year ... another coal bill

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There is an old adage that states: ‘Fool me once, shame on you … fool me twice, shame on me.’

That sage piece of advice crossed my mind when I read a story this week that Illinois lawmakers are proposing what is being labeled as “an innovative investment plan for Illinois’ coal industry.’

The story related that the bill was introduced by Democratic lawmakers exactly six months prior to the general election.

The story had only one voice detailing the new legislation. Interestingly, that voice was not an elected official. A gentleman by the name of Ryan Keith, who was listed as a “PR Specialist” in the story offered some quotes. Keith said the new legislation is “a creative plan to get some life into the coal industry, and hopefully do it in a more friendly way than it has been done before."

He went on to say: "Financial well-being is tied to the success in the coal industry. Different mine closures and other challenges puts people in a real state of hardship, so this legislation is hoping to offer some incentive for the industry to get on its feet."

Let me enlighten you about this ‘spin’ story and also establish a cold, hard fact – this legislation has nothing to do with coal. It has nothing to do with the coal industry. It has nothing to do with correcting the hardships the coal industry has suffered. It has nothing to do with innovation or an investment plan. It has nothing to do with incentives for the coal industry. It has nothing to do with getting the coal industry on its feet.

Instead, this same old tired song has everything to do with getting re-elected, period. It has to do with spouting off platitudes during stump speeches about fighting for the coal industry. It has to do with color glossy mailers that will soon be appearing in our mailboxes detailing this bogus legislation. It has to do with November 8, 2016 – Election Day!

In short, it’s another election year and so it’s time to trot out yet another feel-good coal story.

Isn’t it interesting that we have Democratic state lawmakers introducing legislation they claim will offer incentives for the Illinois coal industry while at the federal level President Obama continues to work feverishly to keep his 2008 campaign promise to bankrupt the coal industry? By the way, that word ‘bankrupt’ is Obama’s word, not mine. It’s the word he used when detailing his plans for the coal industry while being interviewed eight years ago by the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle. Never let it be said that Obama never kept a campaign promise, because he made good on that one. And if elected, the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has stated clearly and unequivocally that she will continue Obama’s legacy to kill the coal industry.

Just for the record the list of coal companies that have filed bankruptcy during Obama’s fight against coal includes Peabody Coal Company (the largest privately-owned coal company in the world), Arch Coal, Patriot Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, James River Coal and Walter Energy. The common denominator in all these bankruptcies boils down to one thing: federal regulations. And it should be pointed out that most of these over-reaching regulations were implemented through executive orders handed down by Obama. Interestingly, the same lawmakers who are touting all they’ve done for coal are the same ones who endorsed Obama eight years ago.

On the same day that I read the ‘vote-for-me/coal story’ I read another story that documented that the state of Illinois has had no job growth in the private sector during the 21st Century. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Illinois has actually lost approximately 1,000 jobs in the private sector between January 2000 and March 2016. That’s zero job growth during the past 16 years. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. The only state with worse numbers in this category than Illinois is Mississippi.

So, pardon me for being cynical about this new sure-fire legislation to revitalize the coal industry, but you see I’ve been fooled before. But, I won’t be fooled again.

Jim Muir has been a journalist in Southern Illinois for 24 years working in newspaper, radio and magazine. Follow Jim Muir on Facebook or on Twitter @jmuir1153. He can be reached at jmuir@frontier.com or at 618-525-4744.

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