It's pretty hard to get excited about spring when winter never made it to town. But spring has officially sprung, weeks after the first blooms of the year.
Normally the first days of spring bring a fresh new attitude. This year, our long not-winter season has dulled that enthusiasm. Who can get excited about 60 degree weather on the way when we've had it every week since November?
I know I can't. There must be something else to get excited about as we roll into the spring months.
What's that you say? There's a proposal by the Fraud in Chief to defund the Appalachian Regional Commission? Am I supposed to be surprised by that?
I hope not. Of course the Donald wants to shut down the ARC. It doesn't matter what good it might do, and it does a lot, because it doesn't do anything for the Trump brand. Ever see a Trump hotel in West Virginia? How about a Trump Casino in Tennessee? No you haven't.
Conservatives and progressives alike have decried the idea of shutting down the ARC, and for good reason. The ARC provides funding for infrastructure and other kinds of development that are out of reach for most Appalachian counties.
There isn't a newspaper in the region that hasn't condemned the move. You can bet that our Congressman and Majority Leader Senator will throw their weight behind keeping the ARC alive. There's not much they have to offer without an ARC for backup..
But many question the effectiveness of the ARC. It covers too many states, too many counties that aren't really Appalachian. After over 50 years, our region is still in trouble and indications aren't good for the long haul.
If the Appalachian Regional Commission was so great, why are we still in bad shape? If it hasn't fixed us by now, why let it keep trying?
I don't have an answer to those questions, other than you keep trying to make things better until you can't. The ARC has done great things but it will never fix the core problem. And the problem isn't what you think.
The core problem in the Appalachian coalfields is simple. Our land and our resources are not owned locally. The majority of everything around, if you live in this region, is owned by outsiders.
We don't own the land. We don't own the coal. We don't own the gas. We don't own the limestone. We don't own the oil. We are really just sharecroppers. A few families have managed to hold on to tiny percentages of the wealth, but most of it goes away.
What we do own is the ruined streams, the slag heaps, and the bent backs that come with working half your life for someone else's benefit. There can be no sugarcoating of this. Most Appalachians are tenants working for billionaires who could care less about health, or education, or living conditions.
And that is why we need the ARC. If the ARC could buy the 80% of Pike County owned by land companies we'd all be better off. But, of course, it can't. So it helps us with water and sewage projects, with road jobs, with development of business that might actually be owned right here. That's a good thing,