Panhandle Progressive

Electric Power Generation and the Environment: An Insider’s View of Successful Air Pollution Reduction and the Coming Transition to Low Carbon Power

Today there is much concern about climate change driven by the burning of fossil fuels. Twenty years ago the immediate problem was somewhat different -- harmful gasses and particulate matter emitted from the stacks of power plants. Since then we have had huge success in solving that problem. Our air is the cleanest it has been in decades. An engineer and industry insider gives an explanation of how this was accomplished and what it can tell us about dealing with the problem of greenhouse gasses.

MOONEY WATCH

SNAP Benefits, Work Requirements and West Virginia’s Hungry

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the centerpiece of the nation’s food security safety net. In FY 2016 SNAP benefits, formerly called food stamps, provided $500 million in nutrition assistance to low income West Virginians. On average, 358,000 West Virginians received benefits each month, roughly 20% of our population. These benefits amount to about $1.29 per meal. Yet our state government seems determined to cut recipients from the SNAP rolls. Governor Justice recently signed a law imposing tighter work requirements on under-employed individuals, justified entirely by the old “welfare Cadillac” myth about recipients taking advantage of public benefits. These new state restrictions will reduce the number of SNAP recipients among the vulnerable low-wage population. Furthermore, the 2018 federal Farm Bill is proposed to do much the same. In the next several weeks, conferees from the U.S. House and Senate will meet to work out whether the Farm Bill will impose not just temporary disqualification for certain under-employed people, but actual penalties. This harsh approach was favored by House Republicans, including Congressman Alex Mooney, for the emptiest of reasons.

What Campaign Contributions Tell Us About Congressman Alex Mooney

The Federal Election Commission recently published the 2018 First Quarter campaign contribution filings by candidates for federal office. Among these was the filing of our own Congressman Alex Mooney. Mooney has been very successful in raising money, both for the primary just past (he was unopposed) and for the general election coming up in November. Running for Congress is expensive and anyone who hopes to be elected must raise money. But the sources of Mooney’s contributions for this election cycle raise substantial doubt that he will be much interested in the welfare of West Virginia and her citizens.

The Rich Benefit Bigly From Trump's Tax Reform

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has added mightily to the already serious income and wealth inequality in America. Yet our state's Republican representatives in Congress seem oblivious that most people in this state are poor relative to the rest of the country. They have boasted about what amounts to the crumbs on the table that middle and lower income West Virginians gain from this Act. For example, Rep. Alex Mooney, who represents much of the Panhandle in Congress, announced that he voted for "tax cuts for all West Virginians." Always obsequious when it comes to the White House, Mooney said "President Donald Trump has been a true leader on delivering tax relief for all Americans and I am looking forward to continuing to work with him to create more jobs and to keep our economy growing." There is no other way to put it -- this emphasis on the illusory benefits enjoyed by the broad middle of our society is just willfully deceptive. The true winners under the TCJA are the rich, who will benefit at the expense of the rest of us.

Congressman Alex Mooney Fails Economics

President Trump recently cut a deal with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government for three months. Republican leadership had wanted a deal to fund the government for eighteen months so they would not have to revisit the issue before the 2018 mid-term elections. When the components of this deal reached the House for a vote, 90 Republicans voted against raising the debt ceiling, including Rep. Alex Mooney (WV 2d). Mooney issued a statement, saying "I voted against raising the debt limit because our national debt is already too high. West Virginian families have to balance their budgets each month and the federal government should do the same." Really? Balance the federal budget each month? This statement shows that Mooney misunderstands the issues of public debt and deficit spending, or assumes that his constituents do. It is probably both.

Rep. Alex Mooney’s Feckless Vote on Healthcare

On May 4, 2017, the United States House of Representatives voted to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by a narrow margin of 217 to 213, sending the bill to the Senate for deliberation. This Bill would repeal the majority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) known as Obamacare, a promise made by Donald Trump and numerous Republican legislators during the 2016 campaign. It is hard to describe in measured tones the destructive impact the AHCA would have on West Virginia, starting with the fact that 175,000 of us would be rendered without health insurance by the stroke of a pen. However, Rep. Alex Mooney (WV 2nd) voted in favor of this law. How could this have happened?

Rep. Alex Mooney Ignores the Panhandle's Economic Needs

Let’s face it. Panhandle voters did themselves no favor when they elected Alex Mooney as West Virginia’s 2nd District Congressman. Characteristics we’d like to see in a Congressman – independence of thought, sensitivity to constituent needs, flexibility in problem solving – appear to be lacking in Rep. Mooney. His actions and statements show him to be one dimensional. Whatever outrage President Trump proposes for the environment with the false promise of putting coal miners back to work is just fine by him.

Rep. Alex Mooney Deals a Blow to West Virginia's Mountain Streams

Rep. Alex Mooney (WV 2nd) is celebrating the demise of the Interior Department's Stream Protection Rule. This Rule, made effective in the waning days of President Obama’s tenure, would have created a buffer zone between mountain streams and mine sites and would have protected drinking water in accordance with modern technology. The Rule would have mainly affected mining done by mountaintop removal where mining refuse is pushed into stream valleys. But Rep. Mooney and his Big Coal backers claim that the Rule would have killed over 70,000 jobs in the coal industry. Unfortunately, Rep. Mooney’s grasp of coal economics and employment numbers is feeble, perhaps influenced by his ideological impulse to dance on the grave of the Obama Administration.

Immigration and Our Prosperity

With so much heated rhetoric about building a wall at our Southern border and the cruel separation of families who seek asylum, it is easy to overlook what is perhaps the fundamental question in the immigration debate. That is whether immigration has a positive or negative effect on our collective prosperity.  Are we are better off with more immigration or less?

The Environmental Disaster of Mountaintop Removal Mining

Coal has contributed substantially to the development of civilization over the last 250 years. The steam engine was designed and first used to pump out flooded coal mines.  The railroad was first commercially used to move coal from mines to towns and river transportation. Coal powered the industrial revolution in England and the United States.  But burning coal produces the greenhouse gasses chiefly responsible for global warming. It also produces noxious particles that cause heart and lung disease and many deaths. And in West Virginia the search for cheap coal has led to mountaintop removal mining, a practice with an entire catalog of harmful environmental effects.

Coal Is Killing Us

On June 1, 2018 President Trump directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take all necessary steps to stop the closure of coal-fired power plants on national security grounds. This directive was issued simultaneously with a draft memo arguing that the reliability of the nation’s power grid will be threatened if coal-fired plants are allowed to disappear through market forces that now make them the most expensive method to generate electricity. Trump’s directive was roundly criticized by many as an unprecedented intrusion into the market for electricity that “picks winners and losers,” something Republicans have long criticized Democrats for doing. But none of the debate about Trump’s directive has focused on the undeniable fact that small particulate matter emitted from coal-fired power plants is killing thousands of Americans each year.

What Campaign Contributions Tell Us About Congressman Alex Mooney

The Federal Election Commission recently published the 2018 First Quarter campaign contribution filings by candidates for federal office. Among these was the filing of our own Congressman Alex Mooney. Mooney has been very successful in raising money, both for the primary just past (he was unopposed) and for the general election coming up in November. Running for Congress is expensive and anyone who hopes to be elected must raise money. But the sources of Mooney’s contributions for this election cycle raise substantial doubt that he will be much interested in the welfare of West Virginia and her citizens.

The Left, the Right, and the Center

Socialism, or its less incendiary cousin, Progressivism, conjures up in the minds of some people images of dysfunctional societies doomed to decay through inefficiencies, corruption, restrictions on business, and constraints on freedom. But then when you look at the "happy socialist leaning" countries of Denmark, Norway (one of the President's favorites), Canada, and so on, you have to wonder what's there to be afraid of? I'm personally more frightened that the prevailing and dominating conservative politics we have in government today is turning us into a mean, uncharitable, and violent society. Aiming to be richer and more powerful than the rest is not a way to be better than the rest. And, because it alienates and denigrates so many of our own people, neither is it a pathway to continuing prosperity.

If You Voted in the Primary, You Probably Did Something Irrational

May 8 was primary election day in West Virginia and several other states. Typically, a primary election picks the candidate who will bear one party’s standard in the November general election against the other party’s candidate. The expectation is that the candidate with the more attractive qualities or the better policy views will be able to persuade a majority of voters in the general election. Perhaps this winning candidate will even be able to attract a substantial number of voters from the other party. Of course, this is the storybook version of democracy. It is based on the fiction that voters behave in a rational way, voting for a candidate only after thoughtful evaluation of the contenders. This is simply not what happens.