As the end of 2018 approaches, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is receiving lots of media attention as Congress plays chicken with the deadline to prevent the Trust Fund from spiraling into debt—as a GAO report explained earlier this year.
I point out two pieces in particular but also link to some other recent stories below.
1. The Guardian
The Guardian ran an excellent article by Elyssa East “Black lung disease is still killing miners. The coal industry doesn’t want to hear it.” The piece profiles a Kentucky radiologist, Dr. Brandon Crum, who was pivotal to recognizing the recent resurgence of black lung. The article connects black lung’s resurgence with the industry’s efforts to shift the cost of the disease away from the industry and onto federal taxpayers by reducing the tax that pays for the Trust Fund. The article even gave a shout out to this blog. (Which may or may not have motivated me to post here more frequently.)
2. Ohio Valley ReSource
So what’s going on in Congress? A great summary, “Black Lung, Red Ink: Residents Press McConnell As Deadline Looms For Black Lung Fund,” was done for the radio by the Ohio Valley ReSource, a joint reporting project from public radio stations in Kentucky, West Virginia & Ohio.
As it explains, politicians in both the House and Senate have backtracked—apparently at the pressure of the coal industry’s lobbying group, the National Mining Association.
Coal miners and others though have been fighting back and putting pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who back in October told a ReSource reporter: “That’ll be taken care of before we get into an expiration situation. . . It just won’t be allowed to be unfunded.”
But no action yet from McConnell and the rest of Congress.
The above two pieces are particularly worth your attention, but there are plenty of other interesting pieces out there.
For example, today, New York Magazine’s Intelligencer site—not exactly a regular outlet for black lung news—ran a story by Sarah Jones called “Congress Is Giving the Coal Industry a Break, and Sick Miners May Pay the Price.”
Last month, the Associated Press (AP)’s Dylan Lovan wrote an article “Coal miners urge Congress extension of black lung funding” that got picked up by lots of outlets.
And then there have been a wave of editorials and letters to the editor urging Congress to protect the Trust Fund. For example:
- The Lexington Herald-Leader’s November 30, 2018 editorial, “Mitch McConnell Owes Coal Miners an Answer as Clock Runs Out on Tax for Black Lung Victims.”
- The Mountain Eagle (from Whitesburg, Ky.)’s December 12, 2018 editorial, “Leave federal trust fund in place to help black lung victims“
- The issue is even attracting attention in Minnesota where New Ulm’s The Journal wrote a powerful piece, “Keep disability trust fund just like it is.”
If people in New Ulm can care about the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, then maybe the coalfield politicians who control Congress can as well.