In a radio interview yesterday, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul criticized actress Ashley Judd, who some suggest may be considering running for US Senate against Pauls colleague Mitch McConnell. Paul said that Judd was probably too liberal for Kentucky (which is probably accurate) but then he said She hates our biggest industry, which is coal.
Coal is certainly an important industry in the Commonwealth, but it is hardly Kentuckys biggest industry.
In fact, from the information I could find, coal mining is a fairly minor portion of the overall state economy. Unfortunately I didnt find any good, comprehensive data.
But the main point is that it is a bit disconcerting for a Kentucky Senator to so thoroughly misunderstand the economy of his state. If we are to solve this states problems, and this nations problems, we need to first understand them. That means understanding the factual reality of the issues.
You cant solve problems on hopes and dreams and wishes. We saw how the Republicans tried to solve the problem of the presidential election based on hopes and dreams and wishes, and it wasnt a pretty sight. We need politicians who can handle reality, and that doesnt appear to be Senator Paul.
OK, heres the data on industry in Kentucky:
According to fortune Magazine, there are Six Kentucky companies on the Fortune 500 for 2012. They are: Humana (Health Insurance), Yum Brands (fast food including KFC and Taco Bell), Ashland (oil and specialty petroleum products), Omnicare (Health Care and Pharmacy services), General Cable(electronics and electrical equipment) and Kindred Healthcare (Health care and medical facilities).
According to the State of Kentucky web site:
Kentucky’s Gross State Product (GSP) during the latest reporting cycle was $156 billion. The largest industry groups, based on their contribution to the total state gross product are: manufacturing, services, government, insurance and real estate, retail trade, transportation and public utilities, wholesale trade, construction, mining, farming and agricultural services, forestry, and fisheries.
Unfortunately I was not able to find anything that more accurately quantified that data.
According to the State of Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet, these are the top employer industries in the state:
2011 Manufacturing Employment
According to the State EDC, these are the top ten largest employers in the state:
Top 10 Manufacturers/Supportive Service Companies by Employment
Heres a good pie chart from MACED that shows the employment breakdown by industry in Kentucky.
As you can see, Mining accounted for about 1 percent of employment in Kentucky in 2004, and I could not find statistics showing that this number went up significantly. In fact, most data shows that it went down.
This MACED chart was the most inclusive data that I could find on the issue.