Defund It: Appalachian Regional Council has done little

Just as some in Charleston are scrambling to hold on to pieces of a bloated bureaucracy that serves itself much better than it serves West Virginians, there are some in Washington, D.C., looking to save themselves from President Donald Trump’s decree that a $54 billion boost in defense spending will be covered by the elimination of some programs and agencies. One of the agencies on Trump’s chopping block has spent more than 50 years sucking up taxpayer dollars in return for doing almost nothing to help the people it is supposed to serve: the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Brainchild of President John F. Kennedy, led in its early form by Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., and given the full weight of the Appalachian Regional Development Act by President Lyndon Johnson, the ARC was an elitist liberal idea supposed to bring the 420 counties in 13 states it called Appalachia out of isolation and move it toward economic prosperity. It has done neither of those things.

West Virginia is the only state fully under the ARC’s umbrella. After half-a-century of federal handouts, it is the second-poorest state in the nation. Mississippi, which is partially covered by the ARC, is the poorest. The Mountain State is routinely near the bottom of rankings for education, health care, transportation/infrastructure and general wellbeing. For years we have had a higher drug overdose rate than any other state.

And as for all that ARC infrastructure help, as one pundit put it “the real halt to federally funded state projects came when (late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.) died in June 2010.”

Even one of the ARC’s federal co-chairmen, Earl Gohl, acknowledges the poverty level in Appalachia remains up to 13 percent higher than the rest of the country. “We’re leaving some folks behind,” he said.

Why then would Trump and Congress spare a redundant agency that has thrown billions of taxpayer dollars at a region in which it has not accomplished its mission?

Predictably, ARC officials say shutting it down now would leave its work unfinished. They just need a little more time, they say.

It has been 52 years. Defund the ARC.