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Congress should move to save miners’ pensions

Retired coal miners and their families receive little enough from the pension program they and their companies supported for many years. Taking even that away as a result of government action ought to be viewed as unacceptable.

Yet unless Congress acts, which many lawmakers have been unwilling to do, it will happen.

For many years, the United Mine Workers of America Pension Fund provided a few dollars a month to retirees and their families (the average benefit is $596 a month). The fund was and is supported by contributions from companies, based on tonnage of coal produced.

But many mines were closed by government policies which, for eight years, were calculated to do just that. Coal production is down. As a result, the pension fund faces insolvency.

On Wednesday, a House of Representatives committee heard testimony on a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia to help bail out the pension program. This is the sixth year McKinley has pushed for the measure — with the support of other representatives and senators from West Virginia and East Ohio.

“Given the federal government’s role in making this situation worse, Congress has an obligation to fix it,” McKinley testified. Precisely.

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