For all those who have said Sen. Mitch McConnell does nothing for Kentucky, we’d like to point out a recent story in Politico that credits McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, with steering at least $78 million into the state.
According to Politico, Chao has created a special position within her department to do nothing but handle grant requests that McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, wants funded.
We have always believed that pork is in the eye of the beholder. Money that a Congressman or Senator nudges to his or her home area might actually be needed by the people there.
So where did the $78 million go?
It could have been to Letcher County, where the median household income is $30,293 a year, compared to the U.S. median of $59,039.
Maybe it was Magoffin County, where the unemployment rate is the highest in Kentucky — nearly 14 percent last year, compared to 4 percent for the state.
How about Owsley County, the poorest majority-white county in the United States with a poverty rate of 36.8 percent?
No, no and no.
The two counties that benefitted from that $78 million were Daviess County and Boone County.
According to the Politico story, $11 million of the $78 million obtained by McConnell and Chao went to improve the road to Owensboro’s river port.
Owensboro is the fourth largest city in Kentucky and the county seat of Daviess County, the state’s seventh largest county. Daviess County has an annual median household income of $48,371 — 59.7 percent higher than Letcher County.
Boone County, which Politico describes as “rural”, is actually the fourth largest county in Kentucky with a population of 130,728. It’s the state’s second richest, with a household income of $72,731.
The first $1.85 million awarded last week went to Laurel County, population 60,174 and a median household income of $37,235 — not so well off as the others, but the rest — $9 million or so — went to Sparta, Ky., population 231. Tiny Gallatin County, where Sparta is located, has a population of just 8,776, but a median income of $50,250. What will a county that size spend $9 million for? The same thing Laurel County will — a general aviation airport.
Meanwhile, when asked about attempts by the Trump administration to take back $505 million appropriated to build a prison in Letcher County, partly so the money could be used to enforce immigration laws, McConnell answered not with legislation or a condemnation of efforts to take the money bacl, but with a wishy-washy one-line response saying he will continue to work to ensure the Letcher County prison project moves forward.
Surely a man who can bring millions of dollars to large counties or those with deep pockets in central and northern Kentucky can speak a little more strongly for distressed counties with busted budgets and crushing poverty in the mountains.