Dead Miners and Ethically Dead Senators

Here's the perfect cure for lawmakers' job grievances: Become coal miners for a while.

Some members of Congress complain that they have a really tough job. Also, they say their hard work is not appreciated by the public and that they're really not paid enough.

Well, not to worry, Congresspeople, for I have the perfect cure for your job grievances: Become coal miners for a while.

Talk about hard work, bad conditions, poor pay, and unappreciative bosses! Then there's that irritating thing about being killed on the job.

You might remember that 29 miners were killed in April in a horrific explosion inside West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine, owned by Massey Energy. Massey, a $2-billion-a-year coal giant, is notorious for putting its workers down in inexcusably unsafe coal mines. Last year, it was cited for more than 500 safety violations--and it had just received two more citations at Upper Big Branch on the very day of the murderous explosion.

Such killings happen because coal corporations have used their campaign cash and lobbyists to make mine safety rules a cruel joke. After Massey's April explosion, however, public outrage prodded Congress to write tougher rules and put some teeth in safety enforcement.

Great! But wait--Senate Republicans are now sitting down on the job, refusing to move this life-and-death legislation to passage. Their shameful work stoppage is meant to stall any action until after the November elections. Wealthy mine owners, you see, are pouring money into this year's Republican efforts to win control of the senate, in exchange for assurances that a GOP senate would water down or kill these vitally needed safety reforms.

What a disgrace. And they wonder why the public has no respect for them. I say that every soft-handed, pampered Congress critter who opposes these reforms should be sent to work in the mines for at least two years.

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This column was distributed by OtherWords.