Hey, Democrats! Do we get a 2014 electoral boost from steadily improving job numbers? Consider:

1. Ever since President Barack Obama's first budget kicked in, unemployment has trended steadily downward:

BLS: U.S. Unemployment 2004-2014

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, Gallup's Job Creation Index (percentage of firms hiring minus percentage of firms downsizing) has steadily increased:

Gallup Job Creation Index 2008-2014

3. Sandbagging those gains have been Republican resistance to government hiring. More public employers were firing rather than hiring during President Obama's first term:

Gallup Job Creation Index 2008-2014: Private vs. Public

President Obama has overseen steady recovery in the labor market since averting an economic depression. We'd be recovering faster if President Obama really had increased the size of government as Republicans have accused him of doing, as more teachers, police, case workers, park rangers, and researchers would provide more public services and boost GDP by buying more Cheetos, chain saws, and Jeep Cherokees.

Republican recalcitrance has kept every one of the curves above shallower than it could have been. Sending more Republicans to Washington on their vow to block or sue President Obama's every move will further brake economic recovery. Sending more Democrats to Washington will get the job done... and get more jobs.

8 comments

I don't always reprint press releases, but when I do, it's because they're useful.

South Dakota Democratic Party exec Zach Crago offers—with more evidence and hyperlinks than we ever get from the dreary stream of GOP dreckfive good reasons to vote for Initiated Measure 18, South Dakota's minimum-wage increase:

It’s been 5 years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage - but now South Dakotans have a choice on Initiated Measure 18 to raise the minimum wage on November 4th.

In recognition of this anniversary, here are 5 reasons to vote Yes on 18:

1) States that raised the minimum wage saw faster job growth. According to state by state hiring data released by the Department of Labor, states that raised the minimum wage at the beginning of this year actually saw faster job growth than states that didn’t raise the minimum wage – contrary to the scare tactics of special interest critics.

Everyday South Dakotans get it: Put money in the pockets of hard working people, and they’ll send it on the things their families need everyday. That boosts consumer demand at small businesses and grows the economy.

2) Small business owners support raising the minimum wage. According to a recent scientific telephone survey, 61% of small business owners support raising the minimum wage. Why? The report says,

“Small business owners believe that a higher minimum wage would benefit business in important ways: 58% say raising the minimum wage would increase consumer purchasing power. 56% say raising the minimum wage would help the economy. In addition, 53% agree that with a higher minimum wage, businesses would benefit from lower employee turnover and increased productivity and customer satisfaction.”

Small businesses get it too: Workers are customers. When workers earn more, they spend more at small businesses and boost the economy.

3) Prices for everyday goods continue to rise, but the minimum wage has stayed the same. That means a South Dakotan’s hard earned dollar actually buys less and less for her family. Since the last increase in the minimum wage:

  • The price of milk has increased 21.2%
  • The price of eggs has increased 30.3%
  • The price of cheddar cheese has increased 21.9%
  • The price of gas has increased 44.6%
  • The price of electricity has increased 9.2%
  • The minimum wage has increased 0%. 

Too often, South Dakotans are working harder and harder just to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage will help working moms and dads support their families in the face of higher and higher prices at the pump and in the supermarket.

4) 62,000 South Dakotans will earn more if Initiated Measure 18 passes. According to preliminary data from Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage will give 62,000 South Dakotans a raise. Who are they?

  • 78% are older than 20. These aren’t high school students like special interests will tell you.
  • 55% are women – many of whom are supporting families.

5) Raising the minimum wage lifts people out of poverty – and off of government assistance. A full time worker earning the minimum wage makes $14,500 a year, which qualifies many working families for government assistance. Raising the minimum wage will lift many working families out of poverty and reduce the demand for government assistance. It’s a win win for working families and the taxpayers: working families make ends meet, and the public cost of low wages decreases for taxpayers [South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2014.07.24].

Susan WismerPaula Hawks, Robin Page, Mark Remily, all you Democratic candidates, if you're looking for stump speech material, this is it. Every speech you make from now until November should borrow at least some of Crago's text. Telling people why they should vote for the minimum-wage increase also tells them how we Democrats support South Dakota's best interests better than Republicans. Vote for Dems, and vote for 18!

15 comments

KELO notes Google's claim that the search giant helped generate $55.6 million in economic activity in South Dakota in 2013. According to Google's nationwide economic report, that's the third-lowest amount of Googly economic activity, behind only Alaska and North Dakota.

A low raw-dollar figure is to be expected, since we have the fifth-lowest state population. But compare the per-capita economic impact Google has in our region:

  Google EconActiv (millions) Biz/Orgs using Google Ads population (2013) Google EconActiv per capita
SD $55.6 2,300 844,877 $65.81
MN $1,900.0 24,000 5,420,380 $350.53
IA $147.0 8,900 3,090,416 $47.57
ND $52.7 1,600 723,393 $72.85
MT $64.0 4,000 1,015,165 $63.04
NE $1,400.0 6,000 1,868,516 $749.26
WY $70.2 1,800 582,658 $120.48

Google stirred up $65.81 in economic activity per South Dakotan in 2013. Google thus rang the relative till harder here than in Iowa or Montana. But in Wyoming, Google generated almost twice as much business per person. In Minnesota, there was over five times as much Google economic juice per person, and in Nebraska, over eleven times.

The national per-capita figure for Google economic activity was $353.65. Here's a list of all states (plus DC) with population and Google economic impact per capita:

Rank State population (2013) Google Econ/Activ Google Econ/Activ per capita
1 District of Columbia 646,449 882 $1,392.43
 2 New York 19,651,127 18300 $934.81
3 Massachusetts 6,692,824 5800 $872.80
4 Vermont 626,630 522 $833.93
5 Nebraska 1,868,516 1400 $754.57
6 California 38,332,521 25400 $668.42
7 Illinois 12,882,135 8100 $629.46
8 Utah 2,900,872 1760 $616.49
9 Washington 6,971,406 4200 $609.11
10 Nevada 2,790,136 1280 $464.72
11 Connecticut 3,596,080 1520 $423.19
12 Minnesota 5,420,380 1900 $353.18
13 Colorado 5,268,367 1800 $346.86
14 Florida 19,552,860 6500 $336.43
15 Arizona 6,626,624 2100 $320.55
16 Delaware 925,749 283 $308.60
17 New Jersey 8,899,339 2200 $248.09
18 Georgia 9,992,167 2400 $242.04
19 Pennsylvania 12,773,801 2800 $219.36
20 Maine 1,328,302 286 $215.28
21 Texas 26,448,193 5600 $214.88
 22 Kansas 2,893,957 611 $211.76
23 Virginia 8,260,405 1700 $207.66
24 Maryland 5,928,814 1200 $203.91
25 Oregon 3,930,065 780 $200.01
26 Missouri 6,044,171 1200 $199.19
27 Michigan 9,895,622 1700 $172.02
28 Rhode Island 1,051,511 173 $164.71
29 New Hampshire 1,323,459 206 $155.87
30 Ohio 11,570,808 1800 $155.80
31 Wisconsin 5,742,713 862 $150.58
 32 South Carolina 4,774,839 650 $137.61
 33 Tennessee 6,495,978 815 $126.26
34 Wyoming 582,658 70.2 $121.74
35 Indiana 6,570,902 762 $116.55
36 North Carolina 9,848,060 1100 $112.84
37 Idaho 1,612,136 164 $102.78
38 West Virginia 1,854,304 174 $93.72
39 North Dakota 723,393 52.7 $75.14
40 Arkansas 2,959,373 201 $68.14
41 South Dakota 844,877 55.6 $66.66
42 Montana 1,015,165 64 $63.65
43 Hawaii 1,404,054 82.3 $59.20
44 Kentucky 4,395,295 255 $58.22
45 Oklahoma 3,850,568 199 $52.15
46 Iowa 3,090,416 147 $47.80
47 Alabama 4,833,722 203 $42.14
48 Alaska 735,132 27.3 $37.38
49 Louisiana 4,625,470 170 $36.94
50 New Mexico 2,085,287 75.5 $36.24
 51 Mississippi 2,991,207 60.2 $20.16

Notice that the top ten are an interesting mix of urban centers and rural places, while the bottom ten have are more uniformly large, rural states. If we take Google economic impact as a sign of overall online economic activity, these data suggest that rural states can exploit online tools (not just search, but online ads, YouTube, and analytics) to generate revenue as effectively as urban places like New York and Massachusetts.

These numbers may also suggest something about interstate trade. It is possible that the states with lower Google economic impact per capita have more insular markets, with more businesses relying on local sales and word of mouth. I am really curious, though, what difference has Nebraskans spending so much more time and money on Google tools than we South Dakotans next door.

14 comments

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds another show vote tomorrow to boost the Keystone XL pipeline. Big Oil and friends are thus cranking out a little extra Keystone XL baloney.

Prairie Business offers up the American Petroleum Institute's laughable claim that building TransCanada's pipeline across the Great Plains will create 42,100 jobs. This claim is old news, based on fuzzy math that assumes those construction workers spending a month or two in each county along the construction route will create a booming demand for ballet dancers and speech therapists at the man camps.

Alas, Big Labor is on board with Big Oil's Keystone XL snake oil:

[President of AFL-CIO’s building and construction trades department Steve] McGarvey said the project also would bring $3.1 billion in construction contracts, support and materials to his industry.

“I think there comes a time when as a country you circle wagons and get behind what’s gonna be in our best long-term interest,” he said [Katherine Lymn, "American Petroleum Institute: Approve Keystone XL for the Jobs," Prairie Business, 2014.06.17].

Long-term interest? Let's see, when Keystone XL clears the glut at Cushing, closes the price gap between North American and offshore oil, and raises our gasoline prices 20 to 40 cents per gallon, it will shackle our economy with an ongoing drag. Just a 20-cent rise knocks $22 billion out of the economy, swamping the $3.1-billion temporary pipeline infusion McGarvey cites. More expensive gasoline reduces the amount consumers can spend on other goods and services.

A $20 increase in the price of a barrel of oil increases unemployment by 0.1% in one year. One tenth of one percentage point of the current U.S. workforce is about 150,000 jobs. If Keystone XL raised the price of oil on this continent just $6, we'd lose about 50,000 jobs, more than enough to wipe out even the indirect, induced, magic-math jobs the API and other pipeline dreamers want you to think Keystone XL will bring. So even if API were telling the truth, we'd see 42,100 jobs come and go for the few months it takes to build the pipeline, then sandbag ourselves thousands more jobs long-term.

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven and Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer now say TransCanada will get the green light to build Keystone XL by next spring. Even if that happens, we should thank Keystone XL opponents for getting the President to at least delay the pipeline's long-term economic damage for another year.

Related Reading: TransCanada's permit to build Keystone XL in South Dakota expires June 29. When they resubmit their application, we could boost the economy by bringing a thousand Keystone XL opponents to Pierre to testify, protest, and buy sandwiches.

But don't wait for the hearing—protest now! Dakota Rural Action is among the participants in a Day of Unity and Action against Keystone XL on Saturday at the Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp in Bridger, the Wiconi Un Tipi Camp in Lower Brule, and the Oyate Wahacanka Woecun Camp in Ideal.

20 comments

Speaking of favors for Big Money, economist Mark Thoma points out how America's preference for corporate welfare left us with lingering recession hangover.

Thoma explains that the 2008 recession was a "balance-sheet recession." The housing bubble popped, the financial sector got silly, and lots of paper assets disappeared. Households cut back spending and increased saving to restore the balances they lost. Banks got tight with their loans. Both actions put the brakes on economic growth.

The government threw its banker friends TARP to help restore their balance sheets. But regular folks?

A policy that would have provided households with mortgage debt relief could have made a big difference to those trying to rebuild their balance sheets and eliminate debt.

But households didn't get the kind of attention that big banks got. Instead, Americans were forced to mostly rebuild on their own, and this is a primary cause of the ongoing, slow recovery. It would have still taken time to recover even if households had been helped the way banks were helped. A nation can't quickly dig out of a recession that's so deep -- but it didn't have to take as long as it has [Mark Thoma, "The Great Recession's 'Biggest Policy Mistake'," CBS: Moneywatch, 2014.05.29].

Note Thoma's use of the word primary. If you're really cheesed about the slow economic recovery, you should be wishing we'd have thrown mortgage holders a TARP as well. But such are the policy mistakes we make when corporations are first in line at the government table.

28 comments

Before the 2014 Legislative session, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations had two University of Nebraska–Kearney profs study the potential impacts of Medicaid expansion in South Dakota. Today the South Dakota Budget and Policy Project finally posted that December 15, 2013 study online.

Professors Allan Jenkins and Ron Konecny estimate it would cost South Dakota $157 million over ten years to expand Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. In return, Jenkins and Konecny estimate South Dakota would receive the following direct economic benefits:

Jenkins & Konecny, SDAHO, 2013.12.15, p. iv

Jenkins & Konecny, SDAHO, 2013.12.15, p. iv

For every dollar we'd spend expanding Medicaid, we'd get $9.81 back. Our state economy would net $1.383 billion.

Someone, anyone, tell me why we say no to $1.383 billion.

Plus we help sick and injured neighbors get well.

Jenkins and Konecny calculate that for every $100 million of federal funds injected into our economy, we get 2,131 jobs, $75 million more in labor income, and $5.7 million more in local tax revenue. Multiply all of that by 14. 29,500 jobs. Holy cow: Mike Rounds brags about creating more than 28,000 jobs during his eight years as Governor through all of his policies combined. Dennis Daugaard could beat that job number with one policy decision that costs South Dakota pennies on the dollar. Dennis Daugaard could be a job-creating hero.

Plus we help sick and injured neighbors get well.

Jenkins and Konecny note that the Affordable Care Act funds the Medicaid expansion in part via "the national reduction in Medicare reimbursement for healthcare providers." South Dakota doctors already eat that cut, regardless of what we do on Medicaid. As Larry Pressler said yesterday, the ACA is not going away. Therefore, it only makes economic sense to recoup some of those reductions by expanding Medicaid.

Plus we help sick and injured neighbors get well.

Read the report. Look at the experience of North Dakota and other states expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Then tell me why you vote for anyone other than Rick Weiland, Joe Lowe, and Democrats who recognize that the Affordable Care Act is good policy that's good for our economy... and helps sick and injured neighbors get well.

25 comments

Senator John Thune thinks that 65% of Americans want the Keystone XL pipeline. Maybe 65% of Americans say that, but that "support" may signal that they don't understand the real effects the pipeline would have.

Consider this subsequent poll that finds that 77% of Americans support restrictions on oil exports if those restrictions help keep domestic gasoline prices down. The absence of Keystone XL is a significant practical export restriction. As we've discussed here numerous times, TransCanada's business case for Keystone XL is to make more money by clearing the North American glut, pushing its oil out to China and other global bidders, and raising our gasoline prices here in America.

People who support Keystone XL may operating, like Rep. Kristi Noem, under the hopeful assumption that a new pipeline means new oil for us and cheaper prices at the pump. But TransCanada's last big pipeline project produced no such result.

You and I don't stand to benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline. But the Koch Brothers do:

The biggest lease owner in Canada's oil sands isn't one of the well-known international oil giants. It's a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.

The Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres — an area nearly the size of Delaware — in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist group that studied Alberta provincial records.

...[T]he International Forum on Globalization... is arguing that Koch will benefit indirectly. The IFG contends that the Keystone XL pipeline will create competition among rail and other pipelines and lower transportation costs for all oil sands producers, bolstering profit margins and making additional reserves economically viable [Steven Mufson and Juliet Elperin, "Koch Brothers' Quiet Play: Oil Sands," Lincoln Journal-Star, 2014.03.22].

Once again, Senator John Thune and the Republican Party put the interests of Big Oil over the economic and environmental interests of South Dakotans. Thanks, John!

14 comments

Rick Weiland makes clear he's my kind of Democrat. In a March 10 interview with Tasiyagnunpa Livermont on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, Weiland says that, polls be darned, he opposes the Keystone XL pipeline:

Weiland says proponents are exaggerating the domestic energy and jobs benefits:

The problem I've got with the Keystone piepline as its been proposed is that it's an export pipeline. Very little if any of the oil, tar sand oil, that's going to be coming through South Dakota is going to stay in the United States. Most of it's going overseas.

The other thing you hear about too is that it's supposed to create all these jobs, and... the last report I read, which was put out by the Government Accounting Office... basically says we're talking about 35 full-time jobs, permanent jobs, and we don't even know how many of those are going to be in South Dakota, and the 2,000 that its going to take to build the pipeline, those are temporary jobs.

The oil that's going to be shipped is really not going to contribute to our energy independence. And the jobs? It's not a jobs bill. Those are the two things that the proponents, the people that want to build Keystone are focused on, and... from the research I've done, that's just not the case.

So what you end up having... is an awful lot of risk associated with the construction of this and the potential for impacts on the environment and very little reward, and that's why I'm opposed to it [Rick Weiland, interview with Tasiyagnunpa Livermont, Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, 2014.03.10].

With such illusory benefits, South Dakota and the United States wouldn't really receive compensation for the significant risks Keystone XL would bring to, for example, the Ogallala aquifer:

...You look at what it takes in terms of the extraction of the oil and the energy that is consumed to do that, the transportation... they have to heat the tar sand up so it becomes almost liquefied, through a pipeline that crosses over precious water resources like the Ogallala and the potential for the damage that could occur, and the fact that we're not really getting anything for taking on that risk. I think that in and of itself is reason not to build it [Weiland, 2014.03.10].

Only demerits here: Weiland skips the part of Livermont's question about Keystone XL's crossing of Indian treaty land. Our Lakota neighbors are ready to wage war on the pipeline, in part because they contend TransCanada and the federal government have not sufficiently consulted with them in the permitting process. The bogus claims of jobs and energy independence are headline issues, but Keystone XL opponents should never miss the chance to build allies on the reservation and to remind all of us that TransCanada is pushing Keystone XL in ways that perpetuate centuries of abuse and neglect of Native interests.

But Weiland's explicit opposition to Keystone XL at least makes clear the door is open to the conversation about treaty rights, not to mention the property rights that South Dakota courts have surrendered to the foreign pipeline profiteers at TransCanada. This opposition is also one more sign that Weiland is willing to challenge big money when it acts against the best interests of South Dakota.

71 comments

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