It’s difficult to imagine a more capricious, destructive and heartless governmental action than this week’s announcement from Washington that Anaconda’s Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center will close.
When you think about increasing taxpayer bang for the buck and rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in government programs, the least sensible target you could find would be our local Job Corps.
We understand the Trump Administration’s philosophy of making government smaller. But anyone who takes one look at what the Job Corps program really means on the ground in Anaconda would immediately look elsewhere to find something to cut.
The Job Corps is taking young people from across the state who have essentially no career direction, and providing one. It provides training in areas like heavy equipment operation, diesel mechanics, carpentry, masonry and welding.
Things that can provide livelihoods and improve our communities, one project at a time.
When federal infrastructure is crumbling, in what possible context does it make sense to get rid of a program that constantly helps patch it up? A program that also patches up lives and careers?
Among the disasters this decision creates is the loss of one of Anaconda’s biggest employers. It also means the Smelter City won’t get the benefit of the labor those training programs provide, labor that has meant so much to the city. It doesn’t take a long memory to recall the February snowstorm that brought Anaconda to its knees. The Job Corps helped dig the city out.
So many of our local businesses like Intercontinental Truck Body, Montana Precision Products, AFFCO, and others have depended on a steady flow of qualified, motivated Job Corps graduates.
“Make no mistake, this decision will lead to an immediate loss of jobs in rural America and undermine economic development in communities like Anaconda going forward,” Tester said, calling the decision to close the center “reckless and gutless.”
Republicans shared the outrage.
Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte both have urged reconsideration of the decision. Daines spoke Thursday with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Friday with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, urging that the program be preserved.
“The Senator believes this decision is devastating,” a Daines spokesperson said Thursday.
As ill-advised as the decision itself is, the lack of subsequent communication about it was also hugely frustrating, to local officials as well as to Tester, who said, “It’s been crickets from both agencies.”
Bipartisan efforts must be made to reverse this dreadful move before the full impact of the cuts are felt on lives, businesses and communities. We believe Montanans are owed a quick reversal of this closure, as well as an explanation of exactly why Job Corps programs, particularly the one in Anaconda, were targeted in the first place.