Monday, October 20, 2008

The Appalachia mountains grow thru politics

Over 40 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson began the war on poverty. He made the speech to introduce the "war" from the Appalachian Mountains. An area in the eastern US that has had deep problems with poverty for generations.

A great story from the Associated Press explains the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal program that tries to fight poverty in the mountain region.

Thru the years the area served by this commission has expanded. It grows either to get the necessary votes to pass the funding. Or by politician who want to get that same funding into their districts.

The Appalachian Regional Commission now spreads to areas in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee, that do not have the deep seeded problems of the mountain.

Our snippet wont do the story justice, so I encourage you to read the entire piece from Roger Alford. Our clip explains how expanding the area effect who it was originally intended for.

The Appalachia served by the ARC is political, not geographical, said Ron Eller said, an Appalachian scholar and former director of the University of Kentucky's Appalachian Center.

Eller said Johnson recognized that when in 1965 he agreed to add portions of New York to get enough votes to push the Appalachian Regional Development Act through Congress. The geographical expansions have helped the ARC politically by increasing its clout in Washington.

The legislation signed this month not only expands Appalachia's boundaries, but also calls for $510 million to be spent in the region over the next five years to build roads, install water lines, fund educational improvement projects, encourage economic development, even purchase computers for poor children. The proposed spending total is a $64 million increase over the last 5-year allotment.

That could have meant more money for core Appalachian counties, Eller said, if politicians hadn't opted to spread it across a larger area. "When you continue to expand the counties, ultimately it creates a smaller pool of resources for use in the most severely distressed areas of the region," he said.

Nicholas County's top elected administrative official, Judge-Executive Larry Tincher, has been lobbying for the past seven years to get the communities he represents declared part of Appalachia so that they can tap into the funding source. He said job losses in Kentucky's textile industry have hit Carlisle hard over the past decade. The state has lost more than 7,000 jobs since 2001 in apparel manufacturing.

Eller doesn't dispute that the additional counties have economic problems that may even rival conditions in the heart of Appalachia. But, he said, the core Appalachian counties have had long-standing problems.

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