Policy For Dummies

Permit me to channel–okay, parody– Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

How do I ridicule thee? Let me count the ways.
I sneer to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach…

President Trump–in his obsessive effort to eradicate anything and everything that his predecessor did (he was black, you know)– has reversed Obama’s moratorium on new leases for coal mining on federal lands.

Although that moratorium was good for the environment, the impetus for it was actually financial. As Think Progress has reported,

Taxpayers are estimated to be losing $1 billion a year in revenues because coal companies are not paying royalties on the actual market price of coal extracted from federal lands. Royalty payments are split between the federal government and the state where the coal is mined, and coal lease sales in the in the past decade garnered close to $1 per ton in bids.

This is above and beyond the so-called “royalties loophole,” which allows coal companies to sell publicly owned coal to subsidiaries at artificially low prices. An Obama-era rule had closed that loophole, but the Trump administration has already stayed the legally binding rule, and has initiated court proceedings to throw it out entirely. Under the loophole, taxpayers lose millions of dollars annually.

So–let’s just “count the ways” that this latest impulsive eruption was both stupid and venal.

As noted, it will cost taxpayers. And it will cost us without doing anything at all for coal miners.

Even if new leasing goes forward, critics say Trump’s order to lift the moratorium will do more for coal industry executives than it will for coal communities. Coal jobs have been in decline for decades — and not just because coal production is falling. Automation and new mining processes have diminished the number of jobs per ton of coal.

“This order won’t bring the coal industry back, but it will ensure coal companies rip off American taxpayers for years to come,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, advocacy director for the Center for Western Priorities.

Trump has already loosened regulations that prohibited coal companies from polluting the nation’s drinking water, alarming public health officials, among others. But his love affair with coal also ignores market economics. Between coal companies’ massive amount of reserves (over 20 years worth) and the rapidly declining use of coal, the market has sent a strong signal about coal’s future.

Receiving such signals–or, let’s face it, comprehending reality–isn’t Trump’s strong suit.

Reporting on the move, Reuters made similar observations.

Since 2012, coal production has plunged more than 25 percent to the lowest levels since 1978 due to falling prices. The industry has been hit with massive layoffs and bankruptcies.

Even if the rollback of the moratorium helped coal miners– an outcome analysts uniformly dispute–the number of Americans employed as coal miners is far fewer than Trump evidently believes. According to the Washington Post, more people work at Arby’s than in coal mines.

Experts in the industry have already pointed out, repeatedly, that the coal jobs are extremely unlikely to come back. The plight of the coal industry is more a function of changing energy markets and increased demand for natural gas than anything else.

Another largely overlooked point about coal jobs is that there just aren’t that many of them relative to other industries. There are various estimates of coal-sector employment, but according to the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns program, which allows for detailed comparisons with many other industries, the coal industry employed 76,572 people in 2014, the latest year for which data is available.

That number includes not just miners but also office workers, sales staff and all of the other individuals who work at coal-mining companies.

Although 76,000 might seem like a large number, consider that similar numbers of people are employed by, say, the bowling (69,088) and skiing (75,036) industries. Other dwindling industries, such as travel agencies (99,888 people), employ considerably more. Used-car dealerships provide 138,000 jobs. Theme parks provide nearly 144,000. Carwash employment tops 150,000.

Maybe we can get Trump to turn his attention to carwashes. Used-car dealerships would be a natural fit…

Or maybe he can enlist a new ghostwriter and publish another book; it could be titled The Art of the Very Bad Deal or Policy for Dummies.



  1. Turning Trump’s attention to anything beyond his comprehension for more than two minutes…or half a page of written information…would be a miracle. We are watching this mentally unstable “world leader” disintegrate daily in the media as Congress, “plays dumb” and sits idle. Trump is turning his personal vitriol on our elected officials now that he has alienated our former allies to the point we might not be able to count on them if Kim Jong Un stops making threats and takes action against us. His reference to Guam may be a red herring; North Korea’s nuclear capabilities may be higher than we believe…or lower. This may all simply be a pissing contest between Trump and Jong Un as Russia furtively moves forward against U.S. sanctions. We must now return a watchful eye on Cuba.

    Speaking of Russia; Putin has “expelled” American workers from our Embassy, he cannot fire United States government employees…contrary to Trump’s bragging about cutting the payroll due to Putin’s action.

    Trump tacks the term “policy” on his rants, blathering and Tweets; is it we Americans who need a lesson in “Civics For Dummies”? We need to step up our anti-Trump rallies, protests and marches to the level which began on January 20, 2017, we were getting attention nationally as well as internationally and remember those Senators and Representatives who were booed off the stages in their hometowns and those who refused to return home when not in session. Coal and coal mining is but one issue; staying alive to continue the fight while keeping a close watch on what Congress is doing while we are distracted by Trump’s failing comprehension of anything related to government and leadership must be uppermost in our minds.

  2. JoAnn is right. Trump continues in what would be a death spiral in a normal universe. How long can he endure?

  3. royalties? i was in the black thunder mine at wright wyo. a decade ago, delivering propane to the rail loadig facility. two tracks constant movement of cars being loaded 20 hours a day. I asked how much coal was available in the mine, answer from a employee, we ship 490.000 tons day and we have 40 years left. theres a equal size mine across the highway.. if, the royalies are 1 buck a ton,and its not being paid, id say the government is being again,ripped off by poor ol corprate america. we know coal is not investor friendly anymore,and trumps dream is up in smoke,along with his brainless followers who support coal. but,the times say, we need the money,and its time to collect. i havent a clue how long black thunder has been shoveling coal,but im sure it would build some needed homes and services… funny what a dumb trucker knows,eh?

  4. #45 doesn’t have the intellectual capacity of knowing much of anything. Just listen to the idiot answer a question or speak. I saw a clip of him from 1999 with Tim Russert from Meet the Press and he said a paragraph that actually made sense. Not that I agreed with him, no way, but he was able to complete a paragraph of speech that had some form of intelligence back then. What happened to that man since is unknown but he cannot complete a simple sentence without going on a tangent and the sniffling he does makes me wonder what kind of drugs he is on. The guy is the biggest “Yes Man” we’ve ever had. He doesn’t know Jack about policy or government. He’s doing what his advisors are telling him and taking all of the credit. Even when he’s botching up everything, those are not his ideas. He is being spoon fed. You all need to turn off the tv and live your life for a few weeks because once he pulls the trigger on those nukes, the world will end quickly.

    Have a nice weekend, go outside and hug your family. Call your friends and tell them you love them too.

  5. Daniels’ administration did the same type of thing in Indiana for the timber industry in state forests. Harvesting has gone from 3.4 million board feet to 17 million since his and Pence’s term of office. The harvest is sold for about half the price companies would pay to a private woodland owner. The DNR was directed by Daniels then Pence to pay their own way. So instead of a conservation and protection model, it became a business model. And a gift to the logging companies. Very similar to the Bear Run Mine Co. deal. Loosen regulations to generate more revenue for the private sector.

  6. I was angry when I read about the coal royalties reversal a couple days ago, but also wondered if Pence is the one who brought coal to Trump’s attention. Pence was given a lot of money over the years that he represented Indiana in Congress and as governor.

    Does anyone know if Trump cared about coal before Pence joined his campaign?

    Pence has been raising money for his PAC – could coal be a huge recent contributor to his future election campaign? Either way, Pence has proven that he has no soul.

  7. It takes a great deal of practical wisdom, political savvy, compelling personality and scrupulous honesty to be President.

    We have none of those now.

  8. Trump is trying out the 6th grade comic book version of the MAFIA BUSINESS MODEL for running the government as if government were some sort of protection racket. Hence, we see Trump’s awkward attempts to apply the Mafia Business Model Rules:

    1. Introduce yourself to the new territory with intimidation, bust a few heads (anyone will do) and knees, get everyone’s attention.

    2. Keep their attention with daily muggings; such random acts of violence keeps it fresh in mind that anyone could be next.

    3. Inspire loyalty with little rewards and big random slap-downs of underlings; this will teach everyone that there is only one way to be assured of survival–there is no rational way, no ethical way, no moral way, no principled way; there is only the boss’s way.

    4. Never show that you adhere to facts; people might get the idea that you can be reasoned with.

    5. Force everyone in your organization to propagate your legend; make it up and repeat, repeat, repeat.

    6. Make offers that cannot be refused; must be made in private so that no one knows the offers that get refused.

    7. Leave a severed donkey head in Barack Obama’s bed; once may not be enough.

    8. Never let some smart guy disseminate the fact that Mafia bosses, who dropped out of fourth grade, do the Mafia business model much better and with a lot more charisma than does a Wharton grad; especially, keep hidden the fact that the Mafia boss did more homework in four years of elementary school than you did in your entire school life.

  9. There will be no atomic war with North Korea because even the terminal narcissists who run North Korea and the U.S. know arithmetic. However, do call your relatives and friends to tell them you love them – always a good idea even in the midst of the Pax Romana (had we had phones and peace during such time. Trump is cultivating our fear syndrome in order to come in as the messiah and I am not buying it, nor should anyone else. I for one fear his mindset more than that of Kim, who is just having fun with all this international attention, but fear generally is not on my personal menu. Let’s not stampede into Trump’s corral as we did with Bush’s adventure. As for today’s topic, I happen to be the son of a coal miner born and raised in southern Indiana, and coal as an industry is on its last legs. Horse and buggy energy sources are headed the way of the horse and buggy, and most people are not of Amish extraction. The industry is on the way to yesterday and no amount of political chatter or even subsidization of its operations will save it. It’s over. RIP.

  10. Setting aside the saber-rattling yesterday, Tangerine Man continues to amaze: he actually PRAISED Putin for kicking out US diplomatic personnel on the grounds that it would save on payroll, apparently not understanding that they don’t work for Putin, and he actually CRITICIZED the majority leader of his own party because he couldn’t immediately deliver on a bill to strip millions of Americans of their health care. The main difference between various proposals was the actual number of Americans losing coverage. Of course, none of the bills came close to delivering on fatso’s campaign promise of better coverage for all at a lower cost. Chubby has been sitting at his desk or on the golf course, waiting to sign away Americans’ health care, but McConnell didn’t deliver. After all, isn’t McConnell’s job to make him look good? How dare Republicans in Congress prioritize the needs of their constituents over his ego? Lastly, via his lawyer, he supposedly sent a message of appreciation to Mueller for his work. Does anyone actually believe he really appreciates Mueller’s work? Why bother with this subterfuge?

    Chump claims to be an awesome deal-maker. How is the coal deal good for Americans?

  11. After reading and re-reading today’s blog topic ‘Policy for Dummies’, I’m considering a topic revision to read ‘Policy for the Naive’.

    To be sure, only those of unabashed naive thought would consider that the reduction of Arby fast food employees, of used car salesmen, and of bowling alley employees would equate in any form worthy of discussion to the reduction of those employed in the production of 1/3 of our nation’s energy source, of 1/3 of our current balanced portfolio of energy.

    Speaking personally, I can live without ever eating another fast food item from Arby’s, I can exist rather nicely without ever setting foot on a used car lot, and without a doubt, I can say I’ve never spent one dime in a bowling alley; however, I do depend on a steady and reasonably priced source of electricity which may include energy produced by coal.

    Only those my college educated late grandfather termed city slickers, those raised and accustomed to living in the city, would display such naivete and such unusual prejudices that rise to the level of vileness attributed to the average redneck.

    According to Glassdoor, the average ‘crew member’ salary at an Arby’s restaurant is $8.28 per hour, and the average Arby’s restaurant manager earns $46,000 annually. Jumping to the energy section salaries, the average underground Peabody production member earns $32.00 per hour with ‘time and a half’ paid for all work beyond 40 hours per week. Aside from the hourly pay and the overtime pay, underground energy workers also receive 100% paid family health insurance including 100% covered prescription medication benefits.

    Full disclosure partially explaining my heightened response to today’s blog…while checking out the financial status of energy groups, especially Alliance Resource Partners operating in the Illinois Basin, I ran across a 5/17 article where I was taken aback, maybe a bit stunned, to see my younger son’s picture, his profile pic, as representing Alliance Resource Partners released picture for publication. https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/05/15/why-alliance-resource-partners-lp-is-the-best-buy.aspx

  12. Gerald,
    “….even the terminal narcissists who run North Korea and the U.S. know arithmetic.”

    I agree that a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea is NOT PROBABLE for the reasons you have stated. On the other hand I believe it is POSSIBLE because of the potential of a disastrous miscalculatation. The present situation is much more dangerous than the one during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. There was the possibility of communication if something went wrong. We had a “hotline”with the Soviet Union. And it can.

    In the 60’s, my deceased partner, Professor Harvey Wheeler was the co-author with Eugene Burdick, who also was the author of “The Ugly American,” of “FAIL SAFE” which was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda and Walter Mathau. It’s available on Amazon. It’s a movie about things going wrong. And they did. It led to a disastrous nuclear exchange.

    AgingLgrl has just come back to the US after living in Europe. Europeans have a much clearer picture of America than we do. Don’t discount AgingLgrl’s perception. She can see things that the BOTH of us cannot.

    Just in case, enjoy your weekend.

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