by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The latest outrageous example of corporate welfare comes from West Virginia, where Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Republican governor Jim Justice is asking for $4–5 billion in subsidies for coal-powered utility plants. The Trump administration is reported to be favorably inclined to the idea.
Trump, of course, made support for the coal industry a key part of his campaign, and that was undoubtedly a major reason he carried West Virginia by 45 percentage points. But Justice now admits that, even after Trump’s efforts at deregulation, the West Virginia coal industry is in trouble, challenged not just by alternative fuels but by bigger and cheaper sources of coal from Indiana and Wyoming.
Like corporate welfare queens everywhere, Justice pitches his plea for taxpayer bailouts in terms of jobs. Yet Governor Justice’s proposal, for example, would simply prolong the dying of an industry that has been declining for years, because West Virginia coal is increasingly expensive and difficult to mine, in the face of national and international competition. Just over 12,000 West Virginians still work in the coal industry.