The Snake: Trump’s Coal/Rural Allies’ Rude Awakening

March 19, 2017

Above, during the campaign, candidate Trump was fond of reading a bit of dog-whistle doggerel about a kindly woman who shelters a bedraggled snake, only to come to grief, because, well you know why..
“You knew I was a snake when you took me in..”


During the campaign, Donald Trump billed himself as the “last shot” for coal country. He alone could save regions like Appalachia that had long suffered from poverty and dwindling coal jobs. And voters in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky believed him — choosing Trump over Hillary Clinton by wide, wide margins.

So it’s striking that President Trump’s first budget proposal would slash and burn several key programs aimed at promoting economic development in coal regions — most notably, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration. In recent years, these programs have focused on aiding communities that have been left behind as mining jobs vanished.

Even some of Trump’s staunchest allies were livid at the proposed cuts. “I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, a senior House Republican from a key coal-mining district in southeastern Kentucky.


So what gives? It’s possible Trump just didn’t put much thought into these reductions — and didn’t realize (or didn’t care) that he was backhanding his biggest supporters. Or it’s possible Trump genuinely believes he’s going to bring back coal jobs in Appalachia, as he’s promised, and hence figured there’s no need for all those other government programs.

Except Trump can’t bring back all the mining jobs that have disappeared over the past 30 years — it’s just not feasible. That’s a promise he won’t keep. And now he’s cutting the region’s safety net, too.

Crain’s Detroit:

In 1965, unlined wastewater lagoons holding chemical sludge spilled contaminants into a nearby tributary stream of Muskegon Lake, separated only by dunes from Lake Michigan.

In the years that followed, Kathy Evans would eat the fish her father caught out of the lake. But not all of them. While cleaning his catch, Evans’ father would toss a few fish in the trash — the smell of chemicals and petroleum was too strong to stomach.

Today, Muskegon Lakes’ fish are designated as safe to eat as other lakes in the region thanks partly to millions of dollars in federal funding. But the funding that saved Muskegon Lake and dozens of other Michigan waterways is in jeopardy under the Trump administration’s 2018 budget, which proposes cutting the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to zero.

In a move that threatens Michigan’s ecology and economy, the White House on Thursday proposed to slash Environmental Protection Agency funding by 31 percent and go further to eliminate the GLRI, which was reported earlier this month to see a cut of 97 percent in early budget speculation.

At Muskegon Lake, small portions of the overall cleanup predating GLRI, started in 2010, had large economic impacts. The work tied to a $10 million grant under the Troubled Asset Relief Program during the Great Recession in 2009 led to 6.6 times that amount return on investment, according to a 2012 study by Grand Valley State University.

The single project, removing toxic sediment from the shoreline, boosted property values by $12 million, creating $600,000 in new annual tax revenue and led to 65,000 more visitors to the lake, Evans said.

However, most municipalities and states don’t have the “political will” to finish the projects without the federal funding, said Candace Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner and former Republican U.S. representative.

“I am very cognizant of the deficit and understand we have to have budget cuts, but this isn’t the way,” Miller said.

Miller is overseeing a project in Macomb County funded by GLRI that will rehabilitate the Clinton River spillway — most recently funded by a $5.7 million GLRI grant. That project will be completed this year, narrowly avoiding the cuts.

Miller said the project is critical to the vitality of local communities, but also the Trump administration’s threats to cut GLRI ring hollow.

“I am in support of many of the things Trump is trying to do, but this is a principal advocacy of mine,” Miller said. “This is a really small amount of money, really, and it’s of great significance to the states that voted for him. These states can’t absorb (this cut). This is a time where I hope the president will reconsider.”
Trump won five out of the eight Great Lakes states — Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. New York and Minnesota went to Hillary Clinton.

Vox – again:

Trump wants to kill two big programs aimed at helping coal country

First, Trump’s proposing to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an independent agency set up in 1965 “to address the persistent poverty and growing economic despair of the Appalachian Region.” Since October 2015, the ARC has invested $175.7 million in 662 projects around the region, with a disproportionate focus on “distressed” counties and coal towns. In some places, that means new highways or broadband infrastructure. In others, it means grants to help former coal communities develop, say, outdoor recreation industries instead.

A government review estimated that, last year, the ARC created or saved at least 23,000 jobs and provided 25,500 households with infrastructure services such as water or broadband. There have been criticisms of the program over the years — it’s odd to have a standalone agency for this one region, and the ARC often focuses on bigger towns and neglects rural areas — but it’s also broadly popular with Democrats and Republicans alike in Appalachia.

Second, Trump is proposing to zero out the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which sits within the Commerce Department and provides about $250 million per year in grants to support economic growth in certain regions. During the Obama years, the EDA began devoting a sizable portion of that money to coal communities around the country that were suffering economically as cheap natural gas and new air pollution rules shriveled the coal industry. (The EDA also supports non-coal communities, providing trade adjustment assistance and other services.)

It’s unclear if the White House conferred with coal-state politicians before proposing these cuts. Rogers, who helped double the ARC’s budget as chair of the House Appropriations Committee from 2011 to 2016, was absolutely scathing in response:

While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive.

In particular, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has a long-standing history of bipartisan support in Congress because of its proven ability to help reduce poverty rates and extend basic necessities to communities across the Appalachian region. Today, nearly everyone in the region has access to clean water and sewer, the workforce is diversifying, educational opportunities are improving and rural technology is finally advancing to 21st Century standards. But there is more work to be done in these communities, and I will continue to advocate for sufficient funding for ARC and similar programs, like the Economic Development Administration.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the few Democrats who tends to side with Trump on various issues, told constituents at a town hall on Thursday that he was not happy with these cuts, either.

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader who hails from Kentucky, has stayed silent so far. In the past, McConnell has vocally opposed efforts by his colleagues to defund the ARC — though he has supported reforms to the program. On Thursday, all he would say was: “I look forward to reviewing this and the full budget when it is released later this spring.”


Small-town America relies on a steady flow of doctors from around the world to deliver babies, treat heart ailments and address its residents’ medical needs. But a recent, little-publicized decision by the government to alter the timetable for some visa applications is likely to delay the arrival of new foreign doctors, and is causing concern in the places that depend on them.

While the Trump administration is fighting, in the courts of justice and public opinion, for its temporary travel ban affecting six countries, the slowdown in the rural doctor pipeline shows how even a small, relatively uncontroversial change can ripple throughout the country.

In Montana, for example, where nine counties do not have a single physician, it means Benefis Health does not know when a Romanian doctor trained in kidney transplants will arrive. The health care company spent months recruiting the doctor and had been expecting her in July.

“Our health system already has nine months invested in her, and now we have no idea when she can start,” said Erica Martin, who recruits doctors for the company.

The doctor, Silviana Marineci, who is completing a fellowship at the University of Minnesota, said she was frazzled by being in limbo.

“I won’t have an income, I don’t know if I will afford rent, I don’t know where I will be,” she said. “It’s insane.”

The Hill:

President Trump’s job approval rating has dropped to a new low of 37 percent, according to the latest Gallup tracking poll.

Only 37 percent of respondents approve of the job the president is doing, compared to 58 percent who disapprove.

The daily results are based on interviews with about 1,500 adults. The margin of error is 3 percent.

The drop comes as Republicans pitch the GOP healthcare plan, seeking to rally members behind their proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare.


30 Responses to “The Snake: Trump’s Coal/Rural Allies’ Rude Awakening”

  1. “The story describes his relationship with the Republican Party perfectly. They knew Trump was a snake when they took him in. And now they’ll feel his venom.” – Ezra Klein, Oct. 9, 2016

  2. Jim Housman Says:

    All of this budget seems much more ultra-right wing than Trumpy. I suspect that some libertarian just wandered into the oval office while he was watching” Fox and Friends” and told him that the best way to bring back those coal jobs was to gut the environmental regs and the welfare programs that made the people so lazy, then let the free market do it’s magic.

    Unfortunately for the ex coal miners that was the last guy to talk to him before Ryan told him to write a budget.

    Lewis Carroll couldn’t write this stuff.

    • andrewfez Says:

      Trump literally gets his information off of Fox, Breitbart, Alex Jones, &c. His reading comprehension level and attention span are probably below average so it’s beyond him to actually read enough high quality information to make competent decisions at his level of government.

      And what do all these sights say? Regulation bad for economic growth. Deregulation good for economic growth. Tax cuts (for rich) boost economic growth. All economic rhetoric on these sights is variations on these themes. It’s from these three snippets of disinformation – these three easy to remember memes – an entire political movement thrives; such being heartily conducive to messaging, marketing, and public appeal, secondary to their simplicity.

      Then there are nebulous memes that grow about the periphery of these: Foresight bad. Modeling bad. Anticipation bad. Abstract thought bad; Hindsight good. Reaction good. It’s these little memes that are the building blocks of free market ideology where macro economic progress only occurs as a reaction to events already realized in the system, and any type of central planning is considered artificial, corrupt, and unsustainable.

    • funslinger62 Says:

      Jim Housman,
      You need to stop listening to the fringe libertarians who would prefer total anarchy. Most libertarians simply want a much smaller federal government and bigger state governments as the Constitution lays out. The Founding Fathers knew well that governance works best when it’s local. The federal government should defend individual rights, defend the country, and facilitate interstate cooperation. Nothing else.

      Is it really fair to take massive amounts of taxes from wealthy states and give most of it to poorer states? Let each state governor itself by spending its tax revenue locally to benefit the ones paying it.

      The advantage to this way of governance is that it’s possible to attempt multiple solutions to national problems. After each solution has been evaluated by the states that implemented them, the best ones can be implemented in all states that choose to. This will provide better solutions much more quickly than simply implementing national solutions. And if states who need it are unwilling to implement state health care programs, the federal government could potentially coerce it under the guidance of defending individual rights.

      With a significantly reduced burden the federal government could focus more strongly on the jobs it was chartered to do by the Constitution. It would be much more effective at defending individual rights. Same-sex marriage and civil rights would have been accomplished much earlier, IMO. With federal politicians taking a backseat to state politicians they would probably be better at doing their jobs. We’d have a more efficiently managed military industrial complex.

      And lastly, the federal government could also oversee the job of coordinating assistance between states allowing the individual rich states to aid poorer states in the proportions that they are able and willing to provide by loaning money at very good interest rates or even gifting money. A much less stressful environment than a draconian federal government taking it by force.

      • funslinger62 Says:

        I might add that this would mirror the EU in which each small country is governed mostly by its own government with the EU overseeing.

        • andrewfez Says:

          And that would add financial contagion risk, a la Greece, where other states would continuously have to bailout out places like West Virginia who is already heavily reliant on federal money to stay afloat. The EU isn’t the poster child for a stable federal system.

      • funslinger62 Says:

        This website is full of economic illiterates.

      • schwadevivre Says:

        The Founding Fathers knew well that governance works best when it’s local

        The Founding fathers were living in an era when communication was slow, hence the Thursday election day and the Electoral College. We do not know what they would have done with modern communications.

        The fact is that devolving large portions of legislation and control to local groups increases costs and decreases efficiency, corruption is cheaper to implement and harder to investigate, social and personal mobility is curtailed while lastly local prejudices take the force of law.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        “The Founding Fathers knew well that governance works best when it’s local”

        Ahh…. so THAT’s why they made a Federal government and a Bill of Rights and a *United* States. Got it.

        ” The federal government should …. defend the country…”

        You mean with the standing army that the Constitution provides for, right? Oh, sorry…….

        “. A much less stressful environment than a draconian federal government taking it by force.”

        That would be the same dollars going to the same place you already agreed to, but now it is “draconian” and “taken by force” because it’s done by a national entity as opposed to a State entity? Because there is zero need for planning, coordination, investments, standards, policy, or spending on a regional or national level, only State level or smaller. Gotcha.

        Ain’t libertarianism enlightening?

        • funslinger62 Says:

          Sorry. The same dollars wouldn’t go to the same places. Outside of the significantly smaller amount of taxes going to the federal government, California dollars would stay in California, Texas dollars would stay in Texas. And when California dollars went to help another state, California would get compensated. That doesn’t happen now. Animosity is bred between states as some get more than they give and others give more than they get.

          Funny how you all favor distributed energy creation but not distributed government. I guess you all want to live in a socialist country rather than a social democracy.

          It’s no different than the smaller countries of the EU governing themselves while the EU council coordinates between EU countries.

      • andrewfez Says:

        The Koch Brothers and every other multinational corporation would love to see power fractioned off and diluted by destroying federal level regulations and authority in favor of independently run state operations. For it’s only the concentrated and synergistic power the public holds at the federal level that is any match for reining in the unfettered greed of billionaires and mega-cap corporations.

        The founding fathers had no notion of large cap multinationals, which are basically amoral machines that seek to maximize short term profit, and which own enough power to capture governments in a manner that they act against the best interested of the public for which they are obliged to govern, all for the sake of corrupt profiteering on the part of their masters. Though their contemporary, Adam Smith, warned to beware of the Masters of Mankind and their Vile Maxim: All for them, and nothing for anybody else.

      • andrewfez Says:

        …it’s possible to attempt multiple solutions to national problems. After each solution has been evaluated by the states that implemented them, the best ones can be implemented in all states that choose to.

        This already happens in the present system and is not hindered by the presence of federal government:

        1) Some large corporation buys up the state legislature and they implement Right To Work legislation which has been proven to bust unions; then other states’ corporations see this and think, “Hey that’s a wonderful bill!” and go on to buy up their state’s legislatures and spread that method of union busting to their regions.

        2) local towns pass anti-fracking ordinances; fracking cronies buy up the state legislatures and the state passes legislation making fracking bans illegal. This sort of thing is rinsed and repeated across the country.

        However the presence of a governing body in a system, which will become corrupted over time, secondary to the immorality/amorality of man with regard to competition, precludes the ability of a ‘free market fantasy’ to exist. It starts a volatile chain reaction that eventually results in a stable system i.e. what we have now. Further federal laws and regulations that have stood the test of time were generally not born out of unnecessary artificial planning, but arose to satisfy a true discrepancy in the system that the states themselves could not resolve.

      • Lionel Smith Says:

        But oh look, a new federal government is going to fleece taxpayers to enrich coal companies, you know, those friend and paymasters of the likes of Lamar Smith.

        The Trump administration filed in court Thursday to preserve a loophole that allows coal companies to evade royalty payments owed to U.S. taxpayers.

        By repealing the Office of Natural Resource’s Revenue popular valuation rule, Western states and all federal taxpayers will lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars annually that could go to schools, roads, and other local projects.

        When will the USA start exporting bananas?

  3. Earl Mardle Says:

    I am trying hard to find in my heart a sliver of pity for the people who voted for him. Its not there. Even sheep will choose the risks of the wide open paddock to the narrow gate of the slaughter house, but Trump voters have chosen suicide with eyes wide open. They will now get their choice.

    • So will the rest of us, who saw what he was LONG before election day.

    • funslinger62 Says:

      The sad thing is that the majority of Trump voters are people who have not received an adequate response from the federal government to their continuously declining salaries since 2008. Automation is having a big impact on them and the federal government basically ignored their plight.

      The time for a Universal Basic Income has arrived. Yes, this libertarian is not an evil shit who has no concern for those in need. I just despise unnecessary regulation. Probably more than 90% of federal regulation is unnecessary or overburdensome and I don’t put most of the EPA regulations in that category. The EPA is of the utmost importance.

      • timingila Says:

        If states need to be left to their own devices (as you said a couple comments up), how do low income states afford Universal Basic Income without money from states that are better off?

        • funslinger62 Says:

          I guess you did thoroughly read my posts. The federal government would be responsible for individual rights. In a world dominated by automation (creating a lack of jobs) a UBI would become an individual right.

          Or, a rich state could provide funds to a poor state with a smaller interest rate than banks. Let citizens finance citizens rather than letting individuals get rich.

  4. Sir Charles Says:

  5. andrewfez Says:

    Town halls aren’t going great for Joe Manchin as of late. Here’s a water protector in my ‘Friends of Water’ lobby group (a reaction to the ‘Friends of Coal’ propagandists) berating Manchin (click link if video doesn’t embed):

  6. andrewfez Says:

    And here’s a ‘before and after’ snapshot story I found on Wiki regarding the US EPA helping coal country:

    ‘During the first few decades that the station existed, the hazard of fly ash was a big problem for the employees of Mount Storm Power Station as well as for the people living in the surrounding communities. These people were constantly exposed to the asbestos not even knowing of its existence. It was not till the 1970’s where rules were passed to regulate the exposure of these toxicants. Due to the lack of regulation, people who worked in the power station prior to 1980 have been diagnosed with “asbestos-related illnesses, including asbestosis and the much more deadly mesothelioma.”‘

    And of course Mt Storm doesn’t want anyone to pollute its lake that it gets its water from to run the plant:

    Prohibited Activities

    No person, individual, firm, company, association, corporation, institution or group shall be allowed to use any Dominion-owned properties at Mount Storm Lake or lake waters for the following uses, activities or actions:
    Commercial purposes of any kind (including fee-based scuba instruction, sale of merchandise or food, etc.).
    Burning of any kind, or creation of fire from any source, for the purpose of cooking or for the purpose of discarding trash, leaves or other vegetation.
    Use of motorized land vehicles in other than areas specifically designated for such use such as paved roads, parking lots and public ramps.
    Polluting the waters of Mount Storm Lake and adjacent Dominion-owned property with hazardous liquid/material, sewage, garbage, rubbish, vegetation, debris, petroleum products, or debris of any kind.
    Possession or use of any kind of firearm, gun, pistol, firecracker or fireworks on Dominion property or on or within the waters of the lake, excluding law enforcement personnel on duty with jurisdiction of the Mount Storm Lake area.

  7. Lionel Smith Says:

    The nasty capricious ridiculousness of Mulvaney’s Trump inspired (but in turn inspired by Fox News) cuts is revealed here in Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.

    But then Trump is just a puppet, such an empty vessel as head of state makes it easy for those with cruel, short-sighted, bigoted agendas to be empowered.

  8. mboli Says:

    The war on coal miners was during the mid-20th century, it happened while production was still increasing. The miners lost. Nothing that happens now due to displacement of coal can compare, there simply aren’t enough miners left.

    — Employment in US coal production peaked in about 1920 at a bit under 800,000 people.
    — By 2010 was down to a little over 80,000. Down between 85% to 90%, depending on when you measure.
    — Coal production more than doubled in that time. It didn’t start to decrease until between 2000 and 2010.
    — In 1920 the average worker produced a bit under 1,000 tons of coal per year.
    — Nowadays, the average worker in Wyoming produces over 50,000 tons of coal per year. The average in the whole industry is something like 13,000.

    All the coal jobs evaporated LONG ago. The declines that have been happening due to declining consumption in the past few years (since 2000) come out of the pitiful few percent that remain after productivity increases.

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