Click here for an article at Daily Kos by Mark Sumner entitled "Republicns want to turn effort to save coal miners into gift for coal mining companies."
I've read that in the U.S., more people work at Arby's than in the coal industry. (There are fewer than 60,000 miners; U.S. employment in the wind power industry recently topped 100,000; wind turbine technician is the fastest-growing job category in the country.)
But the coal companies are being squeezed, and several of the biggest (including Peabody and Arch) are on the verge of bankruptcy; Peabody is $2 billion in the hole. If these companies go bankrupt, tens of thousands of miners will lose their pension plans.
The Democrats, led by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, have been trying to get the government to take over liability to fund these pension plans, but Republicans have been opposed. Now, though, Republican Tim Murphy, senator from Pennsylvania, has proposed a deal that Republicans support: Bail out the coal companies so they can stay in business.
That would mean the government would assume liability for the threatened pension plans. But it would also mean tens of millions in bonuses for the coal company executives and other expenses. And of course, bailing out the pension plans of the shaky companies would put the remaining healthy companies at an economic disadvantage, so the government would assume liability for their pension plans too.
Over the course of his career, Murphy has received over $350,000 in campaign contributions from the coal companies.