Much of rural Appalachia relies on federal funding for even its most basic services. Take Hancock County, Tennessee, which lies on the Virginia border. Up to 90 percent of the population receive some form of government assistance, including things like school lunches and health care, with almost a third of its residents living in poverty, reports Laura Reston and Sarah Jones New Republic. A little known federal agency called the Appalachian Regional Commission, or ARC, is responsible for Hancock’s sewage system, hospital and even its sidewalk maintenance.
Trump’s proposed “skinny budget” eliminates the commission entirely.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, bragged recently, “He probably didn’t know what the Appalachian Regional Commission did. I was able to convince him, ‘Mr. President, this is not an efficient use of the taxpayer dollars.’”
ARC was founded in 1965, after John F. Kennedy came face to face with the region’s abject poverty for the first time while he was campaigning through West Virginia in 1960. “ARC is an example of big government at its best,” say Reston and Jones. “It is responsive to local needs, and it achieves demonstrable results with a minuscule portion of the federal budget. Its success—and uncertain future—provides an opportunity for Democrats to make inroads in a region that has taken a hard turn toward the Republican Party in the past few decades.”