Please, no more help!

The Obama Administration has created a new government program that is supposed to help coal communities that have been hurt by what it calls the “rapid energy transformation, particularly in the power sector.”

The Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative is, according to the White House fact sheet, “a coordinated effort, involving multiple federal agencies, with the goal of effectively aligning, leveraging, and targeting a range of federal economic and workforce development programs and resources to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry and the power sector.”

That brings to mind the late President Ronald Reagan’s famous admonition: “I’ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

The White House POWER announcement fails to mention the administration’s own policies that are contributing to the economic devastation and human suffering in our coal communities. The EPA’s unilateral actions cutting carbon emissions at coal-fired power plants to unobtainable levels have thrown West Virginia’s primary industry, which is already struggling with competition in the marketplace, into decline.

Washington’s answer is to throw some hush money at the problem.  This year, the POWER initiative will award grants using $28 to $38 million to pay for “planning and preparation” for the post-coal era.  The administration promises more money in future years, but that’s uncertain.

Obama supporters and a few desperate souls will appreciate Washington’s benevolence, cheering the federal government’s attempts to foster the long-desired “economic diversity” the state needs.  And it’s possible that the POWER creators actually believe central planning and yet another underutilized job retraining program will help.

Even if Washington’s efforts are in good faith, they pale when compared with the damage done by the administration’s policies. It’s as though the White House stabbed the coal industry in the heart with the right hand, while the left hand offers a tissue to help clean up the mess.

What POWER will do is give the national Democratic Party some cover, a useful political diversion.  Federal Democratic candidates campaigning in coal country in 2016 can try to temper the impact of the EPA’s decisions by pointing to ways Washington is helping to, according to the White House, “build a better future.”

If politicians really wanted to help they would reign in the EPA and/or spend money on badly needed infrastructure. But that’s not going to happen, at least not with this administration or with the current direction of the national Democratic Party.

POWER is an appropriate name for the program.  Although it’s not meant to be, the word is a stark reminder that Washington is assuming greater control over West Virginia’s economic destiny.






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