a different kind of rupture

We knew that summer recess was going to be a problem: schools are closed, farmers are seasonally busy, and, well, that’s about it in our rural district. How would a Congressman not exactly eager to see his voters fill his days?

Soldiers! So, as usual Rodney went into Memorial day frenzy and posted yet another tweet on how he is proud/happy to honor WWII soldiers buried near a village of Benld. We recalled that he already was happy/proud honoring these soldiers a few weeks ago; searching for Benld in Rodney’s Twitter feed brought up another interesting item.

Houses started to crumble in Benld, and Rodney, as usual, wouldn’t miss the chance to show the is “fighting”, the usual way, by rather nonsensical grandstanding. During natural disasters Rodney habitually urges folks to contact @RedCross – because clearly, twitter is the way to go if your house starts to crack, and methane seeps in.

RD_tweet_minecollapse

The thing is though, this disaster in Benld was not natural at all. It was man-made, with a lot of men having worked hard to make it happen. Coal was mined there, for decades, and as abandoned mines started to collapse, the earth surface above them was giving way as well, destroying buildings and roads.

Sure, that’s not the first time it’s happened near mining operations, and the government routinely forces companies to take care of their abandoned mines – by fortifying them, so they stay stable, – and to contribute to the recovery funds.

But the planning horizon of any business is five years at best – enough to make an executive rich, but hardly making it worthwhile to pay attention to the life cycles of people nearby. What happens often, and what did happen in Benld, is that the firm that owned the mines did a shoddy job, and more or less disappeared from the horizon (was restructured, bankrupted, resold, what not). So, when the earth started to yield, there was nobody around to sue for restitution. The railroad that grandfathered the liabilities is thus far successfully deflecting legal challenges.

This time, in 2015, private residences were damaged. In a previous Benld episode, in 2009, a school collapsed. Most of the funds necessary to build a new school fell on the state and the village…

It is not really an exaggeration to say that extracting stuff from the earth is evil. Necessary, for now, but evil. Wealth obtained by rent, not by skill or market savvy, leads inevitably to predatory greed of the mines’ owners, to corruption of governments that oversee the land, to lost health and often livelihoods for the miners, and ultimately to a very bad deal for the folks living on the land that is misused.

We described earlier how coal companies file for bankruptcies to avoid contributing to miners’ health and retirement benefit funds (but still trying to pay their executives “retention bonuses”), and how the federal government – us, taxpayers, – is forced to take over. The earth surface in Benld rupturing under the feet of its inhabitants is just yet another story of coal companies privatizing the profits, and socializing the losses.

This disgrace could not have happened over and over and over again without politicians like Rodney Davis abetting it. Abetting it without shame, a proud member of the Coal Caucus as he is.

There is something singularly obscene in Rodney’s stomping the subsiding burial grounds, while aiding profiteers who deny even the dead their rest.  The basic good governance principles that could prevent this disgrace, he abrogates and subverts rather than embraces and fortifies.

So far Rodney is successful. It is on us to stop him.

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