When we talk about the Obama administration's inability to create plentiful good, full-time jobs, we often neglect to talk about the administration's outright job-killing–especially in two of the coal producing states. Julia Crigler and Jason Huffman address this phenomenon in today's Wall Street


Few states have been as devastated by the Obama administration’s war on coal as West Virginia and Kentucky. During the past seven years, they have reeled from bankruptcies in the mining and energy industries. Some 20,000 jobs have been lost.

But now legislators in these two states are fighting back with pro-growth policies that may rescue their citizens from Washington-imposed economic travails. Could right-to-work laws create growth and lead to some reversal of the devastation?

Crigler and Huffman write:

Democrats point to higher incomes in union states as proof that “right to work” really means “right to work for less.” Yet those states, concentrated in the Northeast and on the West Coast, are among the most expensive places to live. A 2013 analysis by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy adjusted for the cost of living and found that per capita personal incomes in right-to-work states were actually 4.1% higher than in union states.

These economic advantages would be a boon to West Virginia and Kentucky, where the war on coal has destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of families. Since President Obama took office, 335 West Virginia coal mines have closed, according to the West Virginia Coal Association. Nearly 10,000 mining jobs—over one-third of the industry’s employment in the Mountain State—have been eliminated, contributing to an unemployment rate of 6.3%, the fifth-highest in the country. Similar economic desperation exists in parts of Kentucky. Sixteen counties east of Frankfort had unemployment rates above 10% in December, and nearly every county was above the national rate of 4.9%.

These blighted areas are desperate for the economic opportunities that right to work could usher in. Many companies, especially manufacturers, cite these laws as one of the most important considerations when deciding where to locate their operations. Right to work is “the first lens on the decision,” Richard H. Thompson of the commercial real-estate company JLL said in the trade publication Area Development’s Q1/2015 Corporate Survey. A 2015 study from NERA Economic Consulting found that from 2001-12, the number of businesses in right-to-work states grew by 5.6%; in union states the number dropped by 0.8%.

Right-to-work laws, as I read this article, can't reopen mines that the president closed because of a childish prejudice against fuels derived from fossils but could such policies usher in prosperity through other industries moving into the blighted states.