A story recently appeared in the Lexington Herald Leader reporting the results from the economic summit held in Pikeville. The first glaring omission that jumps out is the obvious lack of any blame placed on the Obama administration for the total disaster that is the East Kentucky economy. But I would expect no less, it is the Herald Leader after all. Obama made it clear both before the election and since that he was determined to eliminate all coal use. He is well on the way to fulfilling that goal at the expense of what few jobs actually remained in eastern Kentucky. With this administrations war on coal, an already bad situation has turned desperate. Having said that, what can be done?
The economic summit put on by Governor Beshear and Congressman Hal Rodgers was largely for show, short on any real substance. While talking to people from Minnesota about what was done in similar situations there could yield some ideas, Kentucky government is hamstrung due to a lack of money meaning no real help for “training” and “tourism” projects. Having more government bureaucrats study the situation is just grandstanding.
If anything is ever going to change this region, government needs to think outside the box. Recent proposals by Senator Rand Paul to set up Economic Freedom Zones could be a good start. Why not get the government out of the way and let capitalism take over? This region is traditionally dependent on government handouts with a large percentage of the population living off welfare in one form or another. Food stamps, unemployment, welfare, and disability checks fuel what little economy there is. If some high paying jobs with good benefits were introduced here, it would be a win- win situation for the local population and for government. Unfortunately, for far too long Kentucky politicians have played with the population of this region for personal gain. Keeping the status quo of high unemployment and government dependency means they keep their votes.
I really don’t look for any economic improvement for Eastern Kentucky until the Obama Administration is gone. He has no incentive to help a state that voted heavily against him and his personal gripe with the coal industry means we are on our own. Current state leadership, headed by the Democrats, doesn’t really want to change what has worked for them for years and even if they did their mismanagement leaves no money for improvement.
If the people of Kentucky want improvement, we need to start making changes locally and get rid of the established politicians. Personally, I am not yet convinced that a majority of citizens actually want change either.