Thursday, January 19, 2017

Obama left a legacy in Appalachia that Trump should continue, Ky. paper says in editorial

President Obama's legacy in Appalachia was greater than people give him credit for, says an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader. "The coal miners and young people who are learning computer coding in Paintsville and Pikeville are part of Obama’s legacy. So are local food producers and tourism entrepreneurs, businesses that will grow because of better access to the internet, and thousands of working people who for the first time can see a doctor or dentist."

"Kentuckians may remember the 'war on coal,' which more than anything was a PR invention by the coal industry," states the editorial. "But, under all that noise and flak, the Obama administration was helping seed an economic transition. Under Obama, the Appalachian Regional Commission’s highest funding in 30 years—$146 million—is juicing an array of ideas and projects, including Shaping Our Appalachian Region, the 54-county network whose mission is to spark innovation and opportunity."

Obama and Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican who represents most of Eastern Kentucky, "pushed hard for Congress to enact the RECLAIM Act, which would free up $1 billion that’s already owed to Appalachian states for reparing historic environmental damage by the coal industry," the editorial says.

"Obama created Promise Zones, which give poor places extra points in the competition for funding," the editorial notes. "Thanks to the latest round of Obama administration grants, mine electricians in Kentucky will be retooling their skills to work in energy efficiency and the University of Pikeville’s new optometry school will be spinning off jobs."

"Obama set an important precedent of support for local economies disrupted by the shift away from fossil fuels," the editorial adds. "And his health-care law was a godsend in a region that suffers high rates of disease and addiction. In addition to subsidies for buying health insurance and expanded Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act also guarantees benefits for coal miners who have worked underground for 15 years and have black lung and their widows, at a time when the debilitating disease is on the rise and too many sick miners have been unjustly denied benefits by coal company lawyers and doctors."

The editorial's forward-looking point: "President-elect Donald Trump should honor the many votes he received in Kentucky and West Virginia by supporting and expanding the efforts that are underway."

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