Tom Eblen

As Trump returns to Kentucky, his budget cuts target people who voted for him

Donald Trump spoke last March during a campaign stop in Louisville.
Donald Trump spoke last March during a campaign stop in Louisville. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

Average Kentuckians have fallen in love with Republican politicians determined to hurt them. So President Donald Trump should get a warm welcome Monday night when he flies to Louisville for one of his pep rallies.

Not only has Trump endorsed the GOP plan to take health insurance away from 24 million people nationwide, his new budget proposal slashes billions from programs that make average people’s lives better.

Trump even wants to kill the Appalachian Regional Commission, which for five decades has helped prop up poor Kentucky counties enslaved to the boom-and-bust coal industry.

Trump’s budget proposal Thursday calls for slashing most federal agencies so an additional $54 billion can be spent on the military. The United States already spends $600 billion a year on the military — more than the world’s next seven nations combined — but that’s not enough for Trump. So everyone must pay.

Kentuckians love to hate “wasteful” government — except when it helps them — and the Appalachian Regional Commission is a great example.

The 13-state ARC spends a lot of money for desperately needed infrastructure in Kentucky’s small towns and rural communities, including roads, water and sewer systems.

For example, Olive Hill in Carter County received a $243,000 ARC grant this month to replace corroded water lines, which were leaking nearly half the system’s water supply and raising health concerns.

The ARC’s website lists 37 grants totaling more than $9 million that were made to Kentucky communities during fiscal 2016. They included $500,000 for rural dental education; $370,000 for teacher training; $500,000 for a sewer project in Pike County, and $500,000 for career education as part of the Appalachian Technology Initiative.

I can’t wait to hear what Rep. Hal Rogers and Kentucky’s other Republicans in Congress — who love to take credit for ARC grants — have to say about Trump’s plans to kill the agency. Let the spin begin!

Here are more things Trump’s budget proposal would do to average Kentuckians, according to a Washington Post analysis:

The National Institutes of Health, which pays for much government-supported medical research, would be cut by $6 billion. That’s bad news for a state with some of the nation’s highest rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.

The Agriculture department would be cut 21 percent, including $200 million in nutrition assistance for mothers and children, and $95 million that goes to the Rural Business and Cooperative Service.

The Commerce department would be cut by 16 percent, and the Economic Development Administration, which makes grants to struggling communities, would be killed. Trump also would kill the $3 billion Community Block Grant program and several efforts that help people buy homes and help low-income seniors find jobs.

The Education Department would be cut by 16 percent, slashing $3.7 billion in grants for teacher training, and after-school and summer programs at schools.

The Energy Star and Weatherization Assistance programs, which have helped Kentuckians make their houses warmer and lower their electricity bills, would be killed.

Trump would slash the Environmental Protection Agency by a whopping 31 percent, which might be fine with Kentuckians who have been fooled by the coal industry into believing that dirty water and air are necessary for jobs. But a lot of people who have to live amid mining pollution know better.

Trump made a lot of big promises about improving the lives of average Kentuckians. But, like many of his other announced plans, Trump’s budget targets the very people who put him in office. Anybody feeling great again yet?

Elliott County residents, who supported a Republican for president for the first time in more than a century, reflected on their hopes for the future as President Donald Trump took the oath of office in Washington, D.C.

Tom Eblen: 859-231-1415, @tomeblen

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