Now that former Vice President Joe Biden has officially thrown his hat in the ring for the 2020 presidential race, expect him to lean heavily on the image of himself as a champion of blue-collar America.
With nearly half a century in politics, Biden keeps telling us he’s fighting for working men and women. Biden constantly reminds voters he’s "the guy from Scranton."
Here’s the problem: his record on fighting for rural America and Rust Belt cities is deplorable.
In fact, during his term as vice president, Biden presided over the decline of a major economic engine in many rural communities: coal.
Pressed by extreme environmental groups that poured millions of dollars into their 2008 and 2012 campaigns, President Obama and Biden made coal public enemy No. 1.
Obama and Biden tried and failed to win congressional approval for a costly cap-and-trade system soon after they were elected. They implemented unnecessary regulations on the coal industry, killing jobs in rural towns and cities without diverse economies. They limited coal mining on streams and mountain tops. They blocked coal export terminals. The decimated an industry, and entire communities were hollowed out.
Let’s look at the numbers.
During President Obama and Biden’s first term, 50,000 coal workers lost their jobs. During their second term, another 33,000 were put out of work. Obama and Biden left office with 400 fewer coal mines operating in America. Each coal miner supports 18 other jobs with his spending, so the loss in these regions extends far beyond the workers who were laid off.
The facts speak for themselves. The Obama-Biden administration’s "War on Coal" was unfortunately all too successful.
Places such as Greene County in western Pennsylvania are still struggling. They’ve lost a third of their coal jobs since 2012, and since 2010, 5 percent of the entire population has moved away in search of work.
In other parts of coal country, such as West Virginia, it’s even worse. There, the unemployment rate has more than doubled.
Throughout coal regions, school funding is depleted. Home prices have dropped. Poverty has increased, as has opioid use. And none of this was accidental or a response to market forces. This misery was brought very intentionally by the Obama-Biden administration.
The Obama-Biden administration’s "War on Coal" was unfortunately all too successful.
Will Biden bring up the plight of coal workers in cities like Scranton when he asks high-rollers for campaign cash? It’s doubtful. Coastal, liberal elitists — such as Biden — simply don’t care about politically uncool jobs like coal workers.
At any point during the Obama presidency, Biden could have stood up and fought for coal workers. He could have argued against burdensome regulations and recognized the economic contribution and human dignity of thousands of people his administration was driving into poverty.
He did none of this.
And that is not surprising. Biden has consistently opposed reasonable energy policy, even before he joined Obama’s ticket.
For instance, during his decades in the Senate, Biden repeatedly voted against opening up the 10-02 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska for energy development. From his perch in the Acela corridor, then-Sen. Biden told the people of Alaska where they could and could not conduct economic activity. The 736,000 jobs that could be created did not seem to matter.
Biden’s deserves credit for one thing: resisting the Democratic Party’s siren call of the "Green New Deal." Unlike nearly every other 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Biden has not yet endorsed it.
On the day of his announcement, environmental groups began pressuring him to weigh in. "Justice Democrats," a far-left activist group, called Biden "out-of-touch."
If Biden’s acquiescence to the eco-left under the Obama administration is any guide, he will sign on to the “Green New Deal” debacle soon enough. One thing Biden can be guaranteed to do is pander for votes.
Energy workers have long memories. They struggled under the Obama-Biden administration, but are now experiencing an energy revolution under President Trump. High-paying jobs, increased opportunities, and wage growth are returning to rural America. Don’t expect the Americans who have benefited to vote against their wallets. They will reject any presidential candidate vowing to reverse their economic success.
Even if he was born in Scranton.