ThinkProgress reports that H.R. 3219, a so-called spending “minibus” bill, stipulates cuts to Appalachian Regional Commission funding, weeks after Trump’s “skinny budget” proposed cutting funding altogether:
The “minibus” also reduces spending in coal communities where recent economic and workforce development programs have started revitalizing the local and regional economy and offering new opportunities to miners and their families. The bill proposes a 14.5 percent cut to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), which has used its funding in recent years to create or retain 8,600 jobs in the region.
Appalachia is ostensibly “Trump country,” but that’s always been a bit of a misnomer. McDowell County, West Virginia, frequently cited as a bastion of Trump support, actually recorded the lowest voter turnout in the state of West Virginia. The counties with next-lowest numbers of voter turnout also record some of the highest unemployment numbers in the state, a trend in keeping with national norms. Cuts to ARC will further disenfranchise these communities, and they should therefore concern any progressive with an interest in reducing wealth inequality. Whatever is bad for poor white Trump voters in Appalachia is also bad for the people of color who are their neighbors.
ARC funding is just a front in a broader Republican war on the poor: If the GOP successfully repeals Obamacare, many individuals will once again rely on employer benefits for health care. That’s a problem for people who live in areas with high unemployment, and it may eventually be a problem for the GOP.
Appalachians aren’t strangers to class warfare, and the Appalachian left shows signs of life. There are now two active chapters of Democratic Socialists of America in West Virginia, with a third organizing committee based in Huntington; a Bernie Sanders–inspired candidate has launched a longshot bid to unseat Joe Manchin. In the highlands of North Carolina, progressive Matt Coffay has challenged Representative Mark Meadows. The left still has a long way to go in Appalachia. But if the GOP keeps slashing the social programs Appalachians have come to value, it gives the left major advantages in the battles to come.