Speaking of wages, the Governor's Workforce Summit report isn't.

  1. Accenture (the international consulting shard of Arthur Andersen that incorporated in Bermuda, then Ireland, thus avoiding U.S. taxes—way to keep our dollars local, Governor!) does not mention wages in the executive summary.
  2. Accenture does say South Dakota's workforce problems come from stupid workers "Job seekers do not know the real potential of technical and other careers, or what is expected to succeed") and misfocused teachers ("Education is critical to providing the workforce South Dakota needs, and must be focused on the skills and competencies needed to grow and sustain South Dakota’s economy"). Obviously we are the dummies, not our business leaders.
  3. The executive summary damns us with limited thinking: "...South Dakota will never fully solve its workforce challenges."
  4. The key to South Dakota's economic success is "having enough workers with the right skills and competencies."
  5. The bullet list of the key difficulties in recruiting and retaining workers mentions "competition for available skills", lack of job seeker "soft skills", and lack of housing, but does not mention wages.
  6. Summit participants proposed that the business sector can boost recruitment and retention if it will "Increase workplace flexibility to meet needs of a changing workforce... expand the number of apprenticeships leading to jobs... [and] develop creative solutions to provide transportation for workers." Wages are not mentioned.
  7. The three scariest words in the entire report: Business-driven curricula.
  8. Once we retool our schools to do what business wants, we just need to build more complicated "centralized online hubs for job seekers and employers" built around "common language, data, and a unified agenda" so we can match up skills and competencies with openings (but not wages).
  9. In their discussion of "Creating a Roadmap" for recruitment and retention, summit coordinators asked business participants several questions, but not, "Do you think you pay your employees a competitive wage?"
  10. Participants at all six summits included low wages as a problem for recruitment and retention. But only the Brookings, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls sessions managed to get "increase wages" to bubble into the top suggestions for recruiting and retaining more workers. Watertown, Aberdeen, Huron-Mitchell-Yankton, are you that dense?

I'm sure Accenture's consultants were paid very well to conduct and summarize these Workforce Summits. If South Dakota would apply its attitude toward Irish consultants to its own workers, it might not need another Workforce Summit.

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As Governor Daugaard begins dog-and-pony-showing the results of his Workforce Summits, newly Hillsified Seth Tupper takes a look at the tight labor supply in Rapid City. Predictably, we get some smoke about how far a dollar stretches in South Dakota. John Tsitrian pounds down the relevance of this excuse for low wages.

Tupper's own article offers the best counterexample to South Dakota's faith in low cost of living and high quality of life to overcome low wages in attracting workers, the Bakken oil fields:

Duff Kruse, president and general manager of Adams ISC in Rapid City, said another factor is the demand for workers in North Dakota’s booming oil patch. His growing manufacturing and repair firm employs 68 workers, including steel tradespeople such as welders, mechanics and machinists.

“We pretty much run help-wanted ads for welders and other skilled people nonstop,” Kruse said. “The last two years, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when we haven’t had help-wanted ads running.”

While he’s paying skilled tradespeople $35,000 to $60,000 a year, he has heard workers in similar jobs are making up to $30,000 more for the same kinds of jobs in the North Dakota oil patch....

Benjamin Snow, president of the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership, also identified the pull of the North Dakota oil boom as a factor in Rapid City’s tightening labor market. Almost anyone who wants a job in the oil patch can have one immediately, he said [Seth Tupper, "On Labor Day, Jobs Aplenty in Rapid City Area, but Wages Are Low," Rapid City Journal, 2014.09.01].

Think about the Bakken. Under the South Dakota state religion, no one would ever go work in the Bakken. North Dakota sucks. In Williston, milk costs $5 a gallon, rent averages $2,000 a month, and dye and a haircut cost $100. And for that high cost of living, you get to live amongst a bunch tired, cranky men in worse terrain and winters than the bleakest corners of South Dakota.

And yet workers flock there instead of beautiful, sunny Rapid City for one obvious reason: better wages. It's that simple.

Whatever else Governor Daugaard tells you today and tomorrow, boil any prescriptions for bringing more skilled workers to South Dakota down to one simple plan: pay workers more.

12 comments

Ah, the Tuesday after Labor Day, when the reality of September hits us full force, and when school starts in a humane and moral society.

As I take my little one to her first day of school and then zoom across town to my first day in my new classroom (Bonjour, mes amis!), I read with relish this review of Garret Keizer's new book on the over-quantified state of American education. Keizer returned to the classroom after fourteen years and found some significant changes among the kids and his colleagues. Among the most appalling:

Besides the teacher who delivers pizza, there’s one who proclaims proudly: “We’ve just about eliminated class discussions.” Instead of conversing, his students record their comments using an app and vote in class polls with their phones [Nick Romeo, "A Teacher Returns to the Classroom and Gets Schooled," The Daily Beast, 2014.09.01].

Keizer suspects a vicious profiteering cycle in the technologization of classrooms:

Just as the economy profits from both the causes and cures of some health problems—smoking and chemotherapy, sugary sodas and diabetes medicine—schools sometimes pay companies for technologies that compound the very problems they pay other companies to solve. “We make kids illiterate by shrinking and/or wiring their libraries; then we build wired support centers to teach the illiterates how to read” [Romeo, 2014.09.01].

He recognizes my fundamental beef with Common Core and other reforms that take me away from students for the sake of codifying and quantifying our art:

The constant streams of evaluative data that teachers must generate present a similar irony. Every minute spent assigning numbers to student performance is time not spent imparting knowledge that could improve the skills the data is ostensibly measuring [Romeo, 2014.09.01].

Keizer knows that all this data we are gathering will be long forgotten when we and our students still remember those chance encounters.

There’s not an easy way to quantify the value of a conversation with a sophomore who has just decided to share her first poems with her English teacher. The poems were not mandatory, and the conversation occurs after class, so the event falls into a netherworld that the educational bureaucracy doesn’t recognize. But these are the moments that matter most to teachers and students long after the course material is forgotten [Romeo, 2014.09.01].

Good teaching is good conversation. Discuss. (You will be engaged and challenged, but you will not be graded.)

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Nebula Group labors on Labor Day producing press releases for two of its South Dakota Legislative candidates. District 12 House candidate Ellee Spawn announces that Senator Tim Johnson has endorsed her. Spawn also cites endorsements from Senator Angie Buhl O'Donnell (D-15/Sioux Falls), Rep. Paula Hawks (D-9/Hartford), and lieutenant governor candidate Susy Blake.

Meanwhile, District 33 Senate candidate Robin Page opens fire on Klan-shielding Republican Senator Phil Jensen. Campaign consultant and Nebula boss Bajun Mavalwalla portrays Jensen as the kid no one wants to play with.

“Look, there is no denying that Jensen is simply beyond the pale and the Republicans want to get rid of him. He’s an embarrassment to the South Dakota GOP who don’t want to be associated with him.”

Prominent Republicans from across the state are distancing themselves from him. “I found his comments to be completely out of line with South Dakota values,” Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard said “I don’t agree with him and I haven’t talked to anyone who does.”

“No one wants to be associated with him. Who wants their State Senator to be a pariah?” said Mavalwalla [Robin Page for District 33 Senate Campaign, press release, 2014.09.02].

The press releases tout both Spawn's and Page's support for raising the minimum wage. Spawn also mentions South Dakota's rock-bottom teacher pay as an issue worth considering on Labor Day.

Nebula Group has announced its work for four South Dakota candidates so far: Spawn, Page, Valerie Loudenback for District 14 House, and Angelia Schultz for Secretary of State. All Democrats, and all women. (It's probably sexist of me to notice, since I've never mentioned a campaign outfit whose candidates are all men.) Could Nebula be trying to capitalize on the gender gap that all of the national GOP's rebranding can't close?

A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups — including one backed by Karl Rove — paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past.”

Women are “barely receptive” to Republicans’ policies, and the party does “especially poorly” with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report obtained by POLITICO....

When female voters are asked who “wants to make health care more affordable,” Democrats have a 39 percent advantage, and a 40 percent advantage on who “looks out for the interests of women.” Democrats have a 39 percent advantage when it comes to who “is tolerant of other people’s lifestyles.”

Female voters who care about the top four issues — the economy, health care, education and jobs — vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Most striking, Democrats hold a 35-point advantage with female voters who care about jobs and a 26 percent advantage when asked which party is willing to compromise [Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, "GOP Poll of Women: Party 'Stuck in Past'," Politico, 2014.08.29].

The GOP poll and Politico chatter focuses on opportunities for Congressional office seekers and Hillary Clinton to capitalize on Republican Neanderthalism, but perhaps Nebula's client choices in South Dakota signal their view that some feminine mosquitoes can sting the GOP in state-level races.

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Religion alert—Rep. Hickey got me in the Jesus swing!

Sioux Falls author Dianna Anderson published this August 29 blog post before Victoria Osteen confessed her secular hedonism dressed up as Christianity. But Anderson's critique of American evangelical Christianity's claim to subversive minority status seems relevant to Osteen's prosperity gospel and other robed delusions:

...[B]elieving in American evangelical Christianity is one of the least subversive things that exists. And that’s because American evangelical Christianity exists to maintain a status quo of current power structures....

We’ve been fed this falsehood about what subversion is in American evangelicalism. We worship a Christ in our own image – a European, cisgender, heterosexual Christ who is more interested in making sure you don’t have to provide your employees with birth control than with whether or not you just made someone homeless by firing them because they’re gay [Dianna Anderson, "Queering Theology: Subversion and Grace," blog, 2014.08.29].

As a Midwestern atheist, I have regularly chortled at the persecution complex feigned by certain Christians. Anderson contends that persecution complex is a survival strategy... or maybe just marketing:

...[W]ithout thinking they are in the minority, American evangelicalism would not have nearly the fervor and tribalism they exhibit now [Anderson, 2014.08.29].

Dang, if that's the effect perceiving oneself as an endangered, countercultural minority has, where's all the fervor and tribalism among my fellow South Dakota Democrats?

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Of all the things I could be reading, Pastor Steve Hickey gets me to read the loathsome wingnut screed World Net Daily and cite it as reporting accurately and authoritatively on the most honest theological statement ever made by someone named Osteen:

Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch minister Joel Osteen... addressing the church’s large congregation as her husband stood by nodding his head in agreement, said, “I just want to encourage everyone of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God – I mean, that’s one way to look at it – we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy.

“So I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?" ["Did Joel Osteen's Wife Commit Blasphemy?" WND.com, 2014.08.30]

I call Mrs. Osteen's statement "honest" because it reveals what her and her husband's prosperity gospel is really about... and it reveals how thoroughly un-Christian that gospel is. WND.com gets a pastor to explain how Mrs. Osteen is putting pious lipstick on a secular hedonist pig; I prefer the response of our own Shad Olson:

The American pursuit of happiness and seeking first the Kindgom of God have nothing to do with one another. The Osteen's prosperity gospel and most of the megachurch sludge that presages it are apostate heresy. If only the early christian church had realized that God wanted them to have fake breasts and BMW"s....they would have been so much happier in their faith, what with all the nasty starvation and beheadings and crucifixions and what not [Shad Olson, Facebook comment, 2014.09.01].

Megachurch sludgeNewsCenter1 needs to let Shad use language like that on TV more often.

I don't do church. But even as I peek through the left-field knothole from my box in Atheist Alley, I can tell that Victoria Osteen is pitching something other than Christianity. Watch her say the words herself:

Such self-centeredness is necessary for the Osteens. Neither is an ordained (read: real) pastor. Neither has submitted to the vetting of a theological school. Neither has chosen to serve a denomination where congregations would call them; they instead establish a ministry around themselves and call the congregation to come to them. Victoria and Joel Osteen can justify calling themselves "pastors" only by convincing themselves that doing things for themselves rather than for others is fine by Jesus.

If you want an entirely self-centered worldview, secular hedonism comes with far fewer strings attached. But if you want to make money off your worldview, well, Victoria and Joel will tell you the same thing Chad and Annette will tell you: there's money to be made off Christian guilt.

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Want to meet the King of the Netherlands? Go to Emmetsburg, Iowa, Wednesday and see His Majesty Willem-Alexander break a wooden shoe across the bow of the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the country.

The King is coming because Dutch bioscience firm Royal DSM has partnered with Sioux Falls-based ethanol producer POET in Project Liberty, an effort to make ethanol out of something other than stuff we eat. DSM has developed the enzyme that breaks down corn-waste cellulose; POET has built the new processing plant in Emmetsburg that will use DSM's biotech to turn 770 tons of corn stover (cobs, leaves, husks, and stalks) into 20 million gallons (and eventually 25 million gallons) of cellulosic ethanol each year.

A UNL study earlier this year contended that making biofuel from corn stover would do more harm than sticking with gasoline by removing biomass from the soil and reducing farmland's capacity to capture carbon dioxide. The EPA says the study is based on the erroneous assumption that cellulosic ethanol harvesting would remove all of the stover from farm fields. POET says it is promoting sustainable corn waste harvest methods that would leave about 75% of the biomass on the ground to maintain soil nutrients and prevent erosion. We have to burn more fuel to make more passes over the corn fields to collect this biomass, but POET says removing excess corn waste will allow farmers to make fewer tillage passes over their fields to incorporate the remaining residue or make it easier to go to no-till farming.

So welkom Koning Willem-Alexander, and gefeliciteerd en veel geluk to Poet and DSM on making celluslosic ethanol commercially viable.

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What?! Nobody brought up the EB-5/Northern Beef Packers scandal at the State Fair gubernatorial debate? My belief is beggared! Debate sponsor Farmers Union is clearly showing its organizational bias toward Republicans, obviously shielding Governor Dennis Daugaard from questions about his involvement in the loss of millions of tax dollars and the privatization and exploitation of a federal program for personal profit on his watch. Obviously.

John Tsitrian agrees with me that Rep. Susan Wismer should not shield Governor Daugaard from her direct questioning. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate announced (unprompted, it seems, by any public criticism) that she would like permission to step down from the Government Operations and Audit Committee that is supposed to be investigating EB-5/NBP and send a proxy to question Governor Daugaard, former governor Mike Rounds, EB-5 exec Joop Bollen, and EB-5 lawyer Jeffrey T. Sveen (if they show) at GOAC's September 24 hearing. Tsitrian says stepping away from GOAC at this crucial moment cheats citizens and Wismer's own campaign:

...Wismer is still an elected official with all the knowledge and responsibilities that go with that position.  I have no doubt that during her work on this matter, Wismer has learned some things that give her a particular set of insights that no proxy could possibly possess. It's Wismer's job to bring that knowledge to bear on the hearings regardless of the political repercussions that will be an inevitable part of this process.

...Wismer's withdrawal from the committee would be doing voters a disservice because she's got a great opportunity to get some substantive media face time as the election approaches. Could there be a better way for voters to get the measure of her and Daugaard than in a face-to-face confrontation occurring during the routine work of government? I relish the chance to watch them doing what we hired them to do, along with all the comparisons and contrasts that go with it. Given her underdog status, Wismer should relish it too [John Tsitrian, "No Way Should Susan Wismer Withdraw From The EB-5 Hearings. No Way," The Constant Commoner, 2014.08.28].

As Tsitrian says, political theater is not inherently repulsive. Sometimes spectacle serves the public interest. Wismer as warrior on EB-5 is exactly the image that made her appearance at the Dakotafest debate a success. Wismer should keep that image ball rolling, stay on GOAC, and be ready to play Watergate inquisitor on September 24. What did you know and when did you know itwho wouldn't want to look Governor Daugaard in the eye and ask him those questions?

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