Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich went on NBC’s Today Show this morning to talk about health care and politics, but before doing so, he took a moment to praise the network’s coverage of the mining disaster in West Virginia and asked Americans to pray for the victims’ families. He said it was tough to go from that story to talking about politics…but he nevertheless managed to immediately begin attacking the health care bill without skipping a beat:
GINGRICH: Well, let me just — if I could — take 10 seconds to say I really was touched by your coverage just now of West Virginia, and I really hope every American will take their governor’s request seriously and pray for those families. You did a tremendous job this morning, and I found it very touching.
I think on politics — and it’s hard to shift, frankly, from that story to politics — First of all, this is a really bad bill. The more we learn about it, the worse it is. You say to the average American, do you really want to have 16,000 more IRS agents as a brand new health police? They’re going to say no.
Coal mining remains one of the most dangerous professions, but not only because of tragic disasters like the one at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine yesterday, where 25 people died and four remain missing:
— The American Lung Association reports that there are 24,000 premature deaths every year due to coal power plant pollution. In addition, ALA estimates that coal pollution causes over 550,000 asthma attacks, 38,000 heart attacks and 12,000 hospital admissions.
— A report by Physicians for Social Responsibility found that coal combustion releases mercury, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health. These coal pollutants are associated with increased congestive heart failure, lung cancer, infant mortality, stunted lung development, and Ischemic stroke, among other diseases.
Nineteen percent of West Virginians lacked health insurance in 2009, underscoring why making health care coverage for all Americans — even those who have pre-existing conditions from working in dangerous jobs or living in environmentally unsafe areas — is so essential. Nevertheless, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which is largely backed by the coal industry, aggressively fought against health care reform.
Chris Bowers writes, “What is perhaps more shocking is that 29 workers dying on the job in one day is actually only about twice the daily average in America, and that about 50 coal miners in China die on the job every week.”