Driving through much of Appalachia you’ll still see tar paper shacks, people living in dilapidated homes with no electricity, and scant signs of economic opportunity. I grew up in the mountains of Western Maryland, across the Potomac from West Virginia, in the dying days of the coal and manufacturing industries there.
For the past two years I've lived in the foothills of Georgia’s Blue Ridge mountains. Not much is different. The economy in many towns is dependent on tourism. The best jobs—sometimes the only jobs—are at Wal-mart, state prisons, or the gas stations that dot the flawed Interstate Highway System, a project that the Appalachian Regional Commission pushed through the area to spur economic development.