Since Trump took office, Wall Street hasn’t taken a break. The stock market has continued to rally, with — as the president and members of his inner circle have touted over and over again — the value of investments going up and up since corporations have been essentially given a free pass in many circumstances via the president’s policies to put their profit margins above all else.
This state of affairs is ironic, of course, since the president came into office promising to support the cause of the “forgotten” people of the United States above all else, but that hasn’t stopped him from trumpeting the cause of Wall Street anyway.
While Wall Street hasn’t taken a break and the president has barely taken a break from singing its praises, there is an important task that the federal government did go on break from thanks to the president’s seeming utter incompetence — overseeing the safety of America’s miners, a group of people that the president has often specifically singled out for vocal support.
Trump, in the description of Newsweek, has actually taken steps that make his words just that, words, and little more. The publication grimly reports that the top position at the Mine Safety and Health Administration sat vacant until Donald Trump had been in office for over half a year.
Finally, in August, Trump adviser Wayne Palmer was tasked with leading MSHA, but Newsweek reports that he had essentially no relevant experience. Palmer’s official title is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Labor.
Months later, someone was finally confirmed to fill the top position at MSHA, but that individual, David G. Zatezalo, has a questionable at best commitment, just like Palmer, to advancing the cause of American miners’ safety. Zatezalo’s official title is Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health at the Department of Labor.
Remarkably, Zatezalo, a retired mining executive, himself has a questionable history of compliance with federal safety regulations, but now the president expects us to believe that he’s equipped to oversee the execution of those same regulations. Altogether, Newsweek reports, mines Zatezalo led were slapped with “$2.1 million in fines for 162 workplace safety or health violations since 2000.”
Under the leadership of these men — or the lack thereof — deaths in American mines spiked significantly, with a total of 15 miners dying across the United States in the months after Trump took office in 2017. In 2016, eight miners died in American mines.
President Obama, notably, presided over mining deaths reaching the then-lowest level in American history, going under 20 a year for the first time ever back in 2009.
Joe Main, who helped lead MSHA under Obama, is among those who have sounded the alarm about the president’s pro-corporation de-regulation push.
As he puts it:
‘When you look at the Trump administration policies and his ratcheting back of regulations … this administration has no moral compass about ethics. Companies now think we have a less aggressive sheriff in town.’
He added that “if the perception of the industry is these guys are backing off, it won’t play out well for safety. Word gets around the industry, and you know what’s going to happen there.”
MSHA has taken concrete steps to soften the bite of the federal government on mining companies, such as through no longer having miners’ representatives accompany so-called “compliance assistants” in mines.
Even the generally centrist West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin called this development “particularly alarming because, no one is better suited to spot inconsistencies or unsafe conditions that the very people who work at the mine day in and day out.”
On top of these issues, Congress wants to cut funding for MSHA programs, meaning that miners’ lives would be put in further danger.
Even through all of this, the president’s only take on the state of American mining is that the industry is supposedly booming because of him.
Featured Image via Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg