President Trump released his budget proposal a few weeks ago, detailing what he calls his “Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” One of his first steps in doing so is cutting funding to the Appalachian Regional Commission, an entity charged with economic development and innovation in Appalachia. Such a cut is a leap in the wrong direction; to make America great again, we need more programs like ARC, not fewer.
Mostly composed of the 13 governors of Appalachian states, ARC provides a unique insight into the challenges posed to the Appalachian community. Like no other government or private entity, it has the tools and know-how necessary to aid flagging rural communities too often left behind. The people of Appalachia know better than most the concentrated cost of globalization and automation. Having suffered from regional decline for decades now, the Appalachian community is long overdue for its time of economic revival. If the president intends to keep his pledge to create 25 million jobs over the next decade, he will desperately need grassroots programs such as ARC to do so.
The Commission’s own data displays its impressive impact; over 400 million dollars invested to make Appalachian businesses more competitive, nearly $60 million devoted to expanding and empowering its workforce and another $46 million devoted solely to repairing its flagging infrastructure. With over 90 Appalachian counties considered “economically distressed” by the ARC, it is political malpractice to cripple regional rejuvenation efforts.
Furthermore, it’s in Appalachia that President Trump has one of his greatest chances for success. The people there are enamored with the outsider populist, with many having devoted themselves to him in the primaries and general election in 2016. One of the greatest hurdles faced by any president is delivering his message to the American people and getting naysayers onboard. In Appalachia, the president should use his significant clout not to slash programs that help the region but rather to inspire its people and push for an expansion of economic programs that may otherwise flounder in search of support.
There is no use in dancing around the issue: economically poor and rural regions such as Appalachia are far too often ignored or exploited because it is politically and socially affordable to do so. If this injustice is to ever stop, it necessitates a strong leader willing to stand up to power on behalf of the people who are otherwise voiceless. Such a figure sounds awfully familiar; President Trump has repeatedly promised to champion the American blue-collar worker abused by Washington. So, where is the president now?