Kentucky politics has always been a contact sport where brute force is favored over strategic thinking. During most of the 20th Century, national leaders and media thinkers left us alone to do our worst to each other. As long as Kentuckians only destroyed the futures of their own people and kept the pain and suffering inside the boundaries of the state, our state leaders could enjoy years of spoils and political pay offs at the expense of the ordinary citizens of the estate.
Ever since the 1900 murder of William Goebel in Frankfort by the special interests of the day (big railroads), Kentucky has been the domain of big business. Megacorporations have been granted a unique blend of special laws, tax incentives, and friendly state government’s contracts for over 100 years. The result is that Kentucky has become a third world state close to being morally and financially bankrupt.
Of all the megacorps, coal is king. The end product of 100 years of coal dominance and control over state government is Kentucky big business activities now cross state and national boundaries with harmful air and water pollution impacts.
A second century of Kentucky exploitation by King Coal was foreshadowed by the overwhelming show of support by the industry and their supporters for Governor Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth speech on January 6, 2010. At the Governor’s mention of helping big coal, in his yearly speech to a joint session of the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate, the room exploded a with long and sustained applause that Big Coal would be protected from any outside harm.
Over this opening night performance of the Governor and the legislators was the shadow of things to come from a world now forced to address the ugly realities of “pure capitalism” where profits mean more than people.
As the hands of big coal strangle any attempts to contain their special interests or rein them in through new laws or regulations, more people in the progressive movements will organize and fight to take back their water and air.
This new intense struggle between big coal and the progressive organizations for saving Kentucky’s environment will play out in the elections of 2010, 2011, and 2012. The winner between big coal and big environment organizations will define how Kentucky truly enters and functions in the 21st Century.