Washington-based progressive think tank Institute for Policy Studies has issued its 2012 Inequality Report Card, which scores members of Congress on their support for the 99% rather than the richest 1% of Americans. IPS bases its scores on 40 important votes during the 112th Congress, such as...

  • capping the Bush-Obama tax breaks to apply only to the first $250K of income
  • cracking down on offshore tax havens
  • supporting a minimum tax rate for upper-income Americans (the Buffett Rule)
  • eliminating tax subsidies for Big Oil
  • opposing Paul Ryan's budget
  • resisting calls to weaken protections for labor

South Dakota's 99% have one champion, Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, who scores a B+ (one ding for voting to weaken Securities Exchange Commission regulations). Republican Senator John Thune gets an F, failing every test applied by IPS. Rep. Kristi Noem gets a D. As I review IPS's spreadsheet, it appears that the only thing that saved Noem from complete failure was not showing up to vote for the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, which would have averted military cuts by cutting assistance to the poor, and not signing on as a co-sponsor to a corporate tax holiday bill.

Put Johnson, Thune, and Noem together, and South Dakota gets a GPA of 1.4, a D+. 12 states' Congressional delegations got worse grades, including neighboring Nebraska (0.9) and Wyoming (0.8). However, that bad grade runs opposite South Dakota's Gini score: according to IPS's data, South Dakota ties Idaho with the 44th lowest level of income inequality in the nation.

p.s.: Did I mention that Matt Varilek, that nice fellow who wants to replace Kristi Noem in Congress, worked for that nice income-equality-minded Senator Johnson for a fair chunk of the 112th Congress during which Johnson scored that B+? Given that economic development was a big chunk of Varilek's portfolio, Varilek must have had a little something to do with Johnson's strong score in income equality.