A Kentuckian working in the White House says President Trump’s first 500 days in office have been good for Kentucky.
Jessica Ditto, a graduate of Asbury College in Wilmore, worked in the press office for former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher and as communications director for current Gov. Matt Bevin, before joining the Trump campaign in 2016. She currently serves as deputy communications director in the White House.
She points to Trump administration economic policies as a boon to Kentucky. “Every month we see positive economic news. We look forward to ‘Jobs Day,’ as the President’s agenda is having a true impact for the American worker.”
She says the pundits were wrong in saying the Trump policies would not lead to increases in the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, which has seen growth of 2.9 percent and 2.2 percent in the last two quarters. “To see the results come out ahead of our 500 days in office to show record-breaking economic progress is certainly a top achievement.”
Action President Trump and Congress early during the administration helped with one issue of special importance to Kentucky, according to Ditto. “The executive orders and legislation that was quickly moved, ended the ‘War on Coal’ and support energy dominance, was so personal to my fellow Kentuckians, (it) was a very proud moment in the 500 days. We had coal miners in the Roosevelt Room cheering the President on and thanking him for defending them.”
Ditto said the administration has learned a lot from the state on one issue. “Kentucky being so aggressive on ‘Red Tape Reduction’ has had a huge impact on the President’s ability to unleash small business growth across the country,” she said. “Kentucky has served as a great model. Governor Bevin has been here numerous times talking about the effort to get rid of the red tape that is so burdensome to our small businesses.”
On another topic, Ditto said she’s proud of the work that has been done to confront the opioid crisis.
“I knew that was something that would impact everything that we are doing in Kentucky,” she said. “Seeing that effort take a hold of government has been very inspirational, but also motivates us, because it’s a crisis that confronts every community in some way.”
That also includes difficulties employers have when hiring and retaining people because of drug use. “We’re taking a comprehensive look at it and encouraging every agency that has any type of role in it to get engaged and help us move the needle, especially since it has a tremendous impact on economic development.”
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is considered another big accomplishment of the first 500 days, according to Ditto. “It’s not just an increase in money everyone will have in their pocket, it’s also utility companies cutting energy rates, having an effect on some of the poorest communities in Kentucky,” she said. “We saw that effect almost immediately.”
When it comes to negative feedback the President has received from raising tariffs on imports from countries such as Canada, Ditto recalled promises from 2016. “He campaigned on standing up for the American worker and trade and saying ‘no more’ to China and other countries who have been taking advantage of American ingenuity, American innovation and American products.
“We are on a long game approach to this. The reality is the President is the first one in decades to stand up for the American worker and put forth a very clear vision before the election, outlining the steps he was going to take to eliminate the disparity taking place.”
Speaking about U.S. agriculture producers, Ditto said, “There are strict areas, there are unfair regulations and limitations that thwart the ability to export, even when they claim to be open. This President is committed to defending the workers and the forgotten men and women who have like there was no more hope after factories were closed.”
She said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue is the greatest advocate we could have. “He is making sure that every step of the way, we are looking out and have a mitigation plan in place, in case any of these countries try to retaliate in an unfair and illegal way.”
Ditto said there are a lot of Kentucky connections in President Trump’s actions. That includes Matthew Bradford, a George Rogers Clark High School graduate who became the first blind amputee to re-enlist in the Marines, as a special guest during a State of the Union Address; Gina Haspel, an Ashland native who has become the first female director of the CIA; working with Congressman Andy Barr of Lexington to give veterans more options in their health care.
She said her time in Washington has been memorable, made even better by co-workers.
“I walked in on day one with Sarah Sanders and other staff I had never met, and these are lifelong friendships. We love working with each other and we actually have fun.”