One of my favorite West Virginia spectator sports is watching our ruling class throw hissy fits. They're really good at it. In fact, they are now starting year four of a protracted hissy fit aimed at the Obama administration's "war on coal."
Short summary: the Bush administration let the industry do pretty much anything it wanted to all the time. The Obama administration has sought to mitigate some of the negative impacts of mountaintop removal mining and to take steps to deal with carbon emissions and climate change.
No self-respecting WV politician would admit willingly to either the possibility that mountaintop removal isn't the best thing since sliced bread or that climate change is real and caused by human activity. That's just not where the money is.
So, anytime a mountaintop removal permit is challenged or denied or the EPA takes steps to cut down on carbon, it's on.
One favorite tactic of the hissy fit is to accuse the administration of killing coal jobs, as the above billboard on I-64 illustrates.
The only problem is that coal jobs here have actually increased by 1,500 or 7.4 percent since 2009, the highest level since 1995.
Now, I wouldn't expect these facts to get in the way of a good hissy fit. In fact, the rhetoric is only likely to be amped up at a series of taxpayer funded coal pep rallies that will take place this week. Everybody who is anybody, politically speaking, is sure to be there.
My favorite part of the whole thing is a comment by a coal association official about the job numbers: "We're glad to provide gainful employment."
Just in case anybody missed it, let me unpack that a bit: if coal jobs numbers are up, it's because of the benevolence of the industry. BUT if they go down (even when they don't--in fact, even when we pretend they go down when in fact they really go up) it has nothing to do with automation, competition from other areas, with plentiful and cheap natural gas or with market conditions. Rather, it's the black guy's fault.
Everybody got it?
The sad part is that it seems to be working.