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Grapevine Whine - Misleading Mine Stats?

Reported by Nancy - January 13, 2006 -

Thursday night (1/12) on Special Report, anchor Brit Hume used "picking" #3 on his Grapevine segment to tout the Bush administration's alleged record of improved mine safety. While this might seem rather callous in light of the recent tragedy at the Sago mine in West Viriginia, it's entirely in keeping with similar pronouncements by the White House. Not content with praising the Bush administration, Hume also threw in a little Clinton-bashing &, for good measure, some New York Times-bashing too. But it turns out that Hume's math skills may need a refresher course.

Here's "picking" #3:

Despite recent criticism of President Bush's policies on mine safety, the number of mining fatalities in the US has dropped every year President Bush has been in office -- that according to the Mine Safety & Health Administration. In fact, since 2001 mining deaths have averaged 63 per year, 30% lower than during the Clinton years. The trend has not been reflected in much of the news coverage. After the Sago mine tragedy, for example, a New York Times editorial argued that the President has littered the Interior Department with biased representatives from the coal, oil & gas industries, thereby impeding safety in the mines.

Comments: Here are the numbers from the Mine Safety and Health Administration website:

Fatalities - M/NM* - Coal - [total**]
1994 - 40 - 45 - [85]
1995 - 53 - 47 - [100]
1996 - 47 - 39 - [86]
1997 - 61 - 30 - [91]
1998 - 51 - 29 - [80]
1999 - 55 - 35 - [90]
2000 - 47 - 33 - [80]
2001 - 30 - 42 - [72]
2002 - 42 - 27 - [69]
2003 - 26 - 30 - [56]
2004 - 27 - 28 - [55]
2005 - 35 - 22 - [57] - Please see ADDENDUM below
[*Metal & Nonmetal Mining]
[**added by me, not part of the original]

It's immediately clear that Hume is wrong about the numbers: they have not "dropped every year" that Bush has been in office -- whether you consider only M/NM (which went up in 2002) or only coal (which went up in 20033) or combine them both (which went up in 2005). Maybe that's why this alleged "trend" hasn't been ballyhooed by more responsible journalists.

Numbers in a vaccuum are meaningless anyhow; it's impossible to tell, for example, whether death *rates* increased or decreased or stayed about the same, especially since the numbers of coal mines & coal miners have decreased over this same time span.

The Bush administration has gutted the Mine Safety & Health Admin the way it's gutted every federal agency in order to create the bloated "Homeland Security" boondoggle. A recent Knight Ridder investigation revealed that "Since the Bush administration took office in 2001, it has been more lenient toward mining companies facing serious safety violations, issuing fewer and smaller major fines and collecting less than half of the money that violators owed."

Among the Knight-Ridder findings:

* The number of major fines over $10,000 has dropped by nearly 10 percent since 2001. The dollar amount of those penalties, when adjusted for inflation, has plummeted 43 percent to a median of $27,584.
* Less than half of the fines levied between 2001 and 2003 - about $3 million - have been paid.
* The budget and staff for the enforcement office also have declined, forcing the agency to make do with about 100 fewer coal mine enforcement personnel.
* In serious criminal cases, the number of guilty pleas and convictions fell 54.8 percent since 2001. In the first four years of the Bush administration, the federal government has averaged 3.5 criminal convictions a year; in the four years before that the average was 7.75 per year.

Isn't it just a tad disingenuous for Hume to be touting the MSHA's safety record when that record is spotty at best?

If you'd like to complain to Fox about this, email: special@foxnews.com

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Hume's selective reporting of MSHA data, the Sago mine tragedy, the Bush admin's attitude towards regulation & worker safety). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.

ADDENDUM: As originally posted, the table contained a typocgraphical error (32 coal mining fatalities in 2005). This has been corrected to 22 coal mining fatalities in 2005. The total for 2005 has also been corrected, from 67 to 57.