Every time there is a horrific mass shooting in America, members of the National Rifle Association give media interviews decrying even the slightest attempt to pass gun control legislation. This phenomenon reached a peak in 2012, when, after the horrific shooting of elementary school children in Sandy Hook Connecticut, then president Barack Obama tried to pass an extended back ground gun check law that would have included gun shows. Despite polls showing a staggering ninety percent of the American public agreed with what was only a mild piece of legislation, the law went down to defeat in congress. Why? Because the NRA has an absolute stranglehold over many members of congress; they give letter grades to each congressperson and campaign heavily against any one of them that does not toe their line of opposition to virtually any kind of gun control.
The amazing thing about this is that the NRA's membership , according to their own website, hovers around five million people. In a country with three hundred and twenty million people, why does a group representing such a small part of the population have such influence? Part of the reason is that those five million members can be mobilized to vote and they can help sway an election in many states. Also, the NRA is extremely well funded: although they claim to speak for just gun owners, much of their money comes from gun manufacturers, who of course want their products to sold to as many people as possible. And given the fact that the Citizen's United ruling by the Supreme Court in 2010 put very few limits on campaign donations, the undue influence of the NRA is probably going to continue for years to come.
This leads to another group of people in this country who seem to have an undue influence today: coal miners. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly talked up the importance of keeping coal mining jobs in America. And as president he has passed legislation allowing coal mines to dump waste into streams under the belief that restricting such dumping costs jobs. All of this cow towing to coal miners would seem to imply that they are a large part of the American work force, but a recent article in the New York Times told another story: in energy jobs today, coal employs around one hundred and sixteen thousand people (about eighty three thousand of whom are miners), while natural gas employs a whopping three hundred and ninety eight thousand. Even the solar industry, often dismissed as a pipe dream by Republicans, now employs around three hundred and seventy three thousand people, more than double the number of coal workers. While conservatives have blamed the loss of coal jobs on government regulations, in reality more jobs have been lost due to either mechanization or the free market; energy from natural gas is now cheaper to mine and sell than coal. Put simply, hanging on to coal jobs in 2017 is like hanging on to horse and buggy wagons in 1917.
So why is Trump doing this? Why hang on to an outdated energy source? While part of it may be Trump's support from blue collar workers like coal miners, another part of the answer is, once again, money. According to Vice News, the Murray Company, the country's biggest coal company, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trump's campaign, and other coal companies made similar donations. And so we have a president who ignores the science of global warming and pretends to care about blue collar workers while letting companies pollute our air and water while hanging onto an energy source that is slowly dying off no matter how many regulations he removes, all so that the wealthy corporate CEO's that donated money to him can squeeze every last penny out of their dwindling business as they can. It's hard no to be disillusioned by the state of the country today, but despite our president's best efforts, the world continues to move forward, and someday soon solar, wind and water energy will be an important part of the world's energy. Even the president cannot turn back the clock.