Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mine Disasters

Hello Sinister ...well, I've been away so long I doubt anyone's still reading here comes a rare political post that hearkens back to the glory days of this once-mighty blog.

Yesterday's mine disaster in West Virginia is obviously tragic and upsetting for a great number of reasons. But I want to make a couple of points about it.

Rachel Maddow tonight pointed out that the company who runs the mine had literally thousands of safety violations over several years, and had been fined millions of dollars. The trouble is, the mine owners made a cold calculation: it was cheaper to pay the fines than it would be to fix the problems. Thus, they put profit over the safety and lives of the mine workers - and did so in a very conscious, calculating, capitalist manner.

The lesson I think needs to be drawn from this is quite simple: capitalists, left to their own devices, will kill people to keep their pocketbooks fat.

The "free market" offers absolutely no protection from this barbarity. And clearly, the regimen of fines set up by the government isn't working, because the fines cost less than would fixing the safety violations.

My first question to the government is this: Why doesn't the punishment for a violation require fixing the violation, instead of just a fine? Fine the company, and as part of that punishment, require that they pay the fine AND fix the violations - or face immediate shut down. Why is that not the case now?

Still, I fear that even such a solution as that would not be sufficient - capitalists tend to hire lawyers to help them weasel out of regulations so they can protect their bottom line. Or they just ignore them and buy Congressmen to keep the regulators out of their hair.

The "free market" clearly cannot be trusted with the lives of our coal miners. Too many have died because the capitalists literally decided that they'd rather pay a fine than create a safe work environment.

Of course, part of the problem is that we're running out of coal, and the coal that we're going after now is in much more dangerous places. But still - when you have such a blatant example of this kind of callous disregard for human life, this capitalist need to kill to protect profits - there's not much else that can be said.

I'd like to call on Congress and the President to consider a new spending program that would create safe mines, help us get control of our energy infrastructure, and probably create jobs in the process.

Nationalize the coal mining industry, and allow the United Mine Workers in to each site to unionize the workplaces. When mines are run by capitalists, union busting, just like safety violations, is rampant. When mines are unionized, mines are safe - as one commentator on Rachel Maddow's show put it, mining becomes a brotherhood, with all miners looking out for each other, and fire captains assigned to stand guard against accidents.

Nationalizing the coal industry will also serve another purpose, beyond creating safe, unionized, secure work places for miners. By nationalizing the coal industry, the government can take the profits gained from the industry to build new nuclear power plants, thus weaning us away from the need to use fossil fuels. Then, eventually, we can begin retraining programs, so that mine workers can enter safer, more healthy lines of work, and we can kill this dirty, unsafe industry once and for all.