Commonwealth Journal

January 24, 2012

Subsidies and Socialism

Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Dear Editor:

Robert Moore is totally wrong about the Black Lung Program. I worked as a disability examiner when Black Lung was enacted. Black Lung was a political boondoggle for buying votes.

Like the mortgage boondoggle that lowered qualifications for loans and allowed people to purchase homes they could not afford, all through political pressure.

The Black Lung Program lowered qualifications and raised benefits to high levels, way above Social Security benefits. Through political pressure, the qualifications were whittled down to X-ray evidence of pneumoconiosis and any exposure to coal dust.

The social security qualifications for disability due to lung disease included  X-ray evidence of lung disease and loss of breathing capacity by pulmonary function studies (breathing tests). (And sometimes blood gas studies to show oxygen deprivation.)

These objective evidences led to a decision based on ability to exert yourself (function in any work setting).

The joke among disability examiners was that people in the coal field areas were going out and sitting on piles of coal and breathing deeply. We found that many of these people had excellent breathing capacity and excellent oxygen saturation of their blood.

Just having a diagnosis does not qualify anyone for disability under Social Security. Just having pneumoconiosis does not mean you cannot function in a job. The sum total effect of applying the more stringent disability requirements is less people will be allowed benefits.

The Black Lung program is a social welfare program that favors a group of people over other groups and redistributes wealth to a depressed area. Miners have had high incomes for most of their working lives and they would qualify for a significant benefit amount in most cases, if they are really unable to work, due to a physical loss of capacity.

The notion of a special benefit for one group of people over another is social engineering at its heights.

Politicians gone awry.

We need redistribution of people, not wealth.

I don’t favor additional bureaucracies, such as the one that resulted from Black Lung Laws. There is a retroactive element in all of this, that says someone must pay (the taxpayer always pays).

Time and free market principals take care of pollution and energy production. Energy use choices, based on an individual’s economic needs, will lead to cleaner air. This is transition without government influence.

Coal is an important transition fuel.

Kenneth Creekmore

Somerset, Ky.