Contrary to what many of us liberals think, Trump voters in coal country aren’t dumb. They know they’re screwed without healthcare, they know they get it through Obamacare, and they know the GOP is champing at the bit to repeal it.
So why the hell did so many of them vote for Donald Trump? Because he said what Hillary Clinton won’t (and can’t without lying). He promised to bring their lost coal mining jobs back. And when push comes to shove, coal country voters don’t want Obamacare. They want well-paying jobs with healthcare, paid vacation, and all those other great benefits so many of us don’t get anymore.
On the campaign trail, Mein Trumpf vowed to fix those job-killing EPA standards and get those coal mines up and running again.
“We’re going to get those miners back to work … the miners of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which was so great to me last week, Ohio and all over are going to start to work again, believe me. They are going to be proud again to be miners.”
After decades of decline, despair, and economic struggle in towns across coal country, this was music to their ears. Too bad Donald Trump can’t deliver on his promises. As the AP points out, clean air standards aren’t the only reason for coal’s decline. Other reasons for the coal mining slump are automation, dwindling reserves of coal, and the increased availability of cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas.
Coal country voters also have another beef with Obamacare: While small business owners and other workers struggle to afford their ever-rising premiums on their bare bones, high-deductible plans, those lazy, undeserving, not-working poor get the good healthcare: Medicare and Medicaid.
Sarah Kliff from Vox reports “the uninsured rate declined 60 percent under Obamacare” in Whitley County, Ky. Yet, despite so many voters having access to healthcare for the first time in years, 82 percent of them cast their ballots for Donald Trump.
Many expressed frustration that Obamacare plans cost way too much, that premiums and deductibles had spiraled out of control. And part of their anger was wrapped up in the idea that other people were getting even better, even cheaper benefits — and those other people did not deserve the help.
After spending time there and talking with people, Kliff found the people of Whitley County fiercely believe Donald Trump can fix these issues and make Obamacare work better. Some even hope the Medicaid expansion “might become even more robust” so the working poor can receive the same healthcare the poor receive: In other words, a public option for healthcare.
This may sound naive, given that the GOP and Donald Trump himself have vowed to repeal Obamacare. But Greg Sargent from The Washington Post points out that the president-elect also promised to replace this botched healthcare program with “something terrific.”
In fact, he touted himself as being different than other Republicans. Trump sounded like he believes in a social safety net, but only for deserving people who work hard. And of course, we all see ourselves as “deserving”…Especially when we’re white. During the primary debates, he even told his fellow Republicans he won’t allow people to “die on the street.”
Trump also repeatedly vowed not to touch Medicare, explicitly holding this up as proof he is not ideologically aligned with Paul Ryan on the safety net.
Donald Trump likely won the White House more on these empty promises than on his bigotry. But now, he’s got a big problem.
If coal country voters lose their healthcare, there will be hell toupée.
Coal country voters went out on a limb for Donald Trump, but if he doesn’t deliver, a lot of them will be done with him. According to CNN report, there’s a little-known provision in the ACA that makes it easier for coal miners with black lung disease — or their widows — to get disability benefits, which include payments and healthcare. Now folks in coal country are deeply worried about losing these benefits.
One man who worked in the coal mines for over three decades fretted:
“When they eliminate the Obamacare, they may just eliminate all of the black lung program. It may all be gone. Don’t matter how many years you got.”
A miner’s widow who has applied for the benefits even told CNN’s Miguel Marquez that if the ACA gets repealed, she’ll see it as a rank betrayal.
“If he [Donald Trump] don’t come across like he promised, he’s not gonna be there next time. Not if I can help it.”
Alas, even if Donald Trump really wants to improve healthcare, he can’t do it without either more spending or a public option, both of which his party adamantly oppose.
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