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Odds and Ends
Everything is possible when you don't believe
26 10, 11:15pm
I'd like to put it this way - we seem to draw the same rational conclusion from the same available hard data.
I said that only as a way to emphasize that an issue like this isn't actually a question about different opinions that one can agree or disagree with - it's a question of hard facts that you either accept or refuse to accept.
Claiming that coal mining was hindered only by regulation and that it will make a huge comeback if you just deregulate every environmental protection is simply not true - there are hard economic truths here that needs to be faced one way or another.
Every responsible person of course cares at least in some part for the miners and other people in these and other rural communities. They didn't chose to be born there but they where and if they've spent years just doing that job and have little other education of course it'll be hard for them to find something else. Especially if there are no new companies moving in.
But it's also a fact that this kind of rationalization has always happened and will always happen and there's no sense in supporting industries that can't financially sustain themselves in the long run.
Every rural area can't survive and we have to accept that and not demand that time stands still just because that would suit our personal opinions about how things "should" be.
Most of the mining communities probably didn't exist before the mines opened anyway. They might have been there for centuries by now but the only reason they are is because of the mines and if they close - do people really have some natural right to demand that the nation invents new job for them there so they can stay?
It's not a black and white question, to be sure.
But what society at least can and should do is to help in transitions like this.
Put money into re-education of the old miners, offer subsidies and incentives to small start ups that can grow locally if they have a viable financial plan for the long run, offer people that want to move financial support for doing so and so on and so forth.
Politicians are very fond of getting big, splashing headlines in the papers - like the recent news that technology-giant Foxconn have said they will build a big new factory in Wisconsin:
But Foxconn already promised another big plant in Pennsylvania in 2013 and nothing ever came of that.
Huge players like these also demand huge taxbreaks and sweetheart deals because they very well know that local politicians want their business. But these are also the manufacturers that will just as easily leave once they no longer get the preferential treatment they demand - or someone else offers them even more.
So instead of bending over backwards for multinationals like these, local politicians should help locals set up their own businesses or expand local businesses, or attract smaller entrepreneurs that can offer a divers mix of smaller corporations as employers.
Some will probably fail and the taxpayers might even loose some money - but all won't and some of those might well expand as time goes on.
The fact that coal as a commodity production can't be outsourced abroad isn't something to hold on to, really.
Commodity production is the lowest end of the production chain and a modern industrialized nation should move away from that whenever it can - not try to hold on to it.
Food is another matter as local food production has great environmental benefits.
Regarding drain or gain by import or export, that's not really anything most people think about - nor should they have too.
That's up to national policy, and economically speaking there's no question that freer trade is more beneficial to every nation. Not completely free - all nations employ some quotas and regulations - but my point is that what's usually called "free" trade is actually not completely unregulated - just freer.
What's important is however that the wealth this free trade generates doesn't all end up in very few pockets at the very top.
It's because the wealth for a long time has ended up there, and ordinary workers see few gains for themselves from this free trade, that people turn against it.
Which is completely understandable of course.
But the US as a nation is far richer today because of free trade policies. In fact, you're the richest nation in the history of the entire world.
But most ordinary Americans don't benefit from this in at all the same way as the teeny tiny handful of billionaires at the top that rake the profits in.
Do something about that inequality in distribution of wealth and you've solved the problem. But you won't see any Republicans and hardly even any Democrats talk about that elephant in the room - because it's from those billionaires they get their campaign funding.
So they are the ones setting the American political agenda - not the ordinary citizenry.