The tragic news about the death of 12 mine workers this week has brought up all sorts of questions about the Bush administration's record protecting mine workers. Back in 2002, I was working for the House Appropriations Committee. At the time, you may recall there was a big mining accident in Western Pennsylvania. President Bush held a big photo-op to pretend like he cared - but he never responded to the fact sheet that House Democrats put out questioning why he had made so many cuts to mine safety programs. You can view this fact sheet in Microsoft Word right attached to this email (I still have it from my time at the Appropriations Committee). It was released to the media and the administration on August 5, 2002 - the same day Bush did his big photo-op (You can also find this fact sheet at http://www.davidsirota.com/mineworkers.doc).
In case the administration claims it didn't remember being warned, check out this excerpt from the big Chicago Tribune story from 6/20/02:
"We call on the Bush administration to fully fund the Mine Safety and Health Administration to ensure that coal mines are inspected more thoroughly and that the mine act is enforced more stringently," Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers Association, said in a statement.
"It would be cynical to portray himself as the hero of mine safety by simply doing photo ops," said David Sirota, spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.
Democrats also released a report from the Labor Department's inspector general--the agency's in-house watchdog--concluding that the Mine Safety and Health Administration was "unable to complete statutorily mandated inspections of ... mine operations," in part because of a lack of inspectors.
At a Senate subcommittee hearing last month, lawmakers were told that the Jim Walters Resources mine in Brookwood, Ala., where 13 miners died last September, had 31 outstanding safety violations that went unchecked because of a lack of government inspectors.
The mine workers union also has criticized Bush's choice of Stanley Suboleski, an executive at coal operator Massey Energy, to serve on the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. That agency judges disputes over alleged safety violations.
Now, after another bad accident, we find out that since the last accident in 2002, not only did the President ignore calls by Democrats to address the situation seriously, but he actually enacted more cuts to mine safety programs and weakened mine safety regulations.
The 2002 fact sheet and the Chicago Tribune story shows that Bush knew full well that mine safety was suffering - and now we know he didn't do anything about it, to tragic consequences. They can put out GOP hacks and administration spokespeople to deny this reality - but the facts are there.
2002 Pennsylvania mining accident:
Bush 2002 photo-op on mine safety:
Bush enacted more cuts to mine safety programs/regulations after 2002: