HL Mencken once said of Harry Truman, while he ran for president, that if there had been a sizable number of cannibals in the country, he would have promised them a steady supply of missionaries, fattened at public expense. With that in mind, Romney gave a talk earlier this week to coal miners in Ohio, telling them that he’ll be better for them than Obama, and Obama responded by saying no, he’ll be better for them than Romney.
For months, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has been buying ads in Ohio, talking up coal jobs and blasting the Obama administration’s “heavy-handed regulations” on coal.
In turn, the Obama campaign launched a radio ad a week ago, praising the president’s record on coal. It claims that coal jobs are up 10 percent, and that a $5 billion investment in clean coal technology is one of the largest ever.
The ad also blasts Romney for misrepresenting President Obama when it comes to coal, and it notes that Romney said at a 2003 press conference in front of a coal plant that he “will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant kills people.” …
Romney’s campaign stop Tuesday took place at another coal plant owned by Murray Energy. Speaking with dozens of hard-hatted mine workers behind him, Romney referenced the Obama radio ad, saying it’s “not true.”
Romney told the crowd that Obama’s policies are helping the development of alternative energy at the expense of the coal industry. And Romney quoted Vice President Joe Biden saying that “coal is more dangerous than terrorists.”
Here’s the problem with all of this talk: What is best for those particular workers keeping their jobs is not necessarily what is best for the country. Coal is extremely abundant and relatively cheap and it has certainly fueled our economy, literally and figuratively. But it’s also very, very bad for the environment and for our health in almost every conceivable way. And at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, we’re going to have to find new, cleaner ways to produce energy.
And yes, that’s going to put coal miners out of a job. And that’s bad for them, obviously. But public policy has to be based on what is best for all of us, not for each particular group and their immediate needs. Moving to an economy based on renewable and cleaner sources of energy will hurt coal miners, but it will also create whole new industries that provide jobs to millions of other people. And it will make us all healthier and help the environment immensely. That makes it good public policy. And making promises to every subgroup that relies on bad public policy for their continued well-being, at the expense of everyone else, is a very bad thing for the country as a whole.