Not quite 5,000 people have died in this year's Ebola outbreak. One of those deaths has taken place in the United States.

In response, Senator John Thune is advocating bigger government, specifically in the form of banning travel to the U.S. from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Senator Thune says he would consider expanding those restrictions.

Ebola spreads only through direct contact with infected bodily fluids. In other words, to catch it on the bus or plane, an Ebola carrier would have to bleed, pee, or poop on your broken skin or mucous membranes.

An estimated 43,000 Americans have died of influenza and pneumonia this year. (The CDC will say that number is hard to pin down and probably less than that, but from 1976 to 2007, influenza killed between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans each year.) Influenza can spread through the air, via coughing, sneezing, or talking.

Guns have probably killed a good 9,000 Americans this year. Drunk driving has put another 27,000 Americans on a permanent travel ban. Yet Senator Thune is not advocating any big government solutions to those deaths.

Senator Thune has a very selective freak-out-o-meter, and an equally selective aversion to big government.


Big Ag groups in South Dakota are raising a stink about the EPA's latest proposed regulations to keep our water clean. As we know, this industry-manufactured fuss is mostly myth. The EPA is using science to make clear, consistent rules to protect South Dakota tourism and agriculture.

Mike Rounds won't let truth stop him from advocating that we "shut down" the EPA. But wait—an eager notes that shutting down the EPA would pull the rug out from under farmers who count on the EPA to maintain the ethanol mandate. Rounds liked the federal subsidy that boosted ethanol. Rounds's fellow farm-state Republicans really want the EPA to stick around and force folks to buy more ethanol.

Perhaps Rounds should ask to change his answer: he doesn't really want to shut the EPA down. He just though the E stood for "Ethanol," not "Environment."


Rep. Kristi Noem retools Mike Rounds's "South Dakota common sense" mantra to say the the economy would be fine if the feds just did things the way South Dakota does. Her weekly column cites the new French cheese plant as affirmation of South Dakota's tax policies and work ethic:

...Our state tax policy makes it cheaper to run a business. The workforce is one of the most dedicated and talented in the country. We put our hearts into everything we produce. And we are surrounded by communities that generously support each other during the good times and pull together like a family would during the hard times.

It’s probably no wonder, then, that I joined Gov. Dennis Daugaard to welcome a new manufacturer to Brookings. In addition to 3M and Daktronics, Brookings is now home to a new Babybel cheese manufacturing facility. It was an honor to welcome them to our state [Rep. Kristi Noem, "SD's Economic Policies Worth Copying," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.10.07].

First, let's be clear: most people everywhere work hard and help their neighbors. South Dakota workers are not uniquely virtuous. Working folks in New York or Texas or California are not uniquely lazy or anti-social.

As for the Bel Brands cheese plant, let's review the main reasons the French decided to build in Brookings:

  1. South Dakota saved its dwindling dairy herd by luring foreign investment through a government program to sell green cards.
  2. South Dakota handed Bel Brands $5 million in corporate welfare.
  3. Brookings offers Bel Brands access to skilled graduates of one of only two university programs in the country offering degrees in dairy production and manufacturing. That program is at South Dakota State University. State University, as in, made possible by good big government.

So really, Republican Kristi Noem is telling the country to be more like South Dakota: use big government to benefit big business.


Northern Plains News puts more lie to South Dakota Republican assertions that South Dakota is a model of the GOP smaller-government philosophy. From 2007 to 2012, South Dakota added workers to government payrolls at a faster rate than our neighbors and the national average:

The Mount Rushmore State, along with fellow Northern Plains states Wyoming and Nebraska, had government employment grow by more than 4 percent during that period.

North Dakota and Minnesota had a 2 to 4 percent decrease in state and local government employees during the period while Montana’s government workforce grew by less than 2 percent and Iowa’s by 2 to 4 percent ["SD State, Local Government Employee Growth Among Fastest in Nation," Northern Plains News via Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.07.18].

Bigger government payrolls, faster state budget growth... that doesn't sound like what South Dakota Republicans tell us they're about, does it?

Republican-dominated state government pays its workers a lot more than do local governments:

Average annual state government wages in South Dakota were $50,000 to $55,000 and $35,000 to $40,000 for local government employees [NPN, 2014.07.18].

And in a remarkable and unexpected assertion of priorities, check out which field draws the biggest government paychecks in South Dakota:

State employees working in education were the best paid, at an annual salary of $60,000 to $65,000 and the lowest paid were local natural resources employees at $30,000 to $35,000 [NPN, 2014.07.18].

State workers in education get great salaries! It's too bad the state can't shake some of that $60K down to the K-12 teachers pounding the whiteboards for $40K to help with recruitment and retention.


Hat tip to Larry Kurtz, who notes another ugly irony in South Dakota politics. First Governor Dennis Daugaard asked the President his party wants to impeach to send disaster aid for South Dakota's June tornado and flood victims. The President, via FEMA, turned him down.

Still not ready to return to his self-reliant roots, Governor Daugaard is barking up another federal-handout tree. Encouraged by fellow Republican Senator John Thune, Governor Daugaard is asking the Small Business Administration to provide low-interst loans to help home- and business owners clean up their storm messes.

Matt Varilek, Region VII Administrator, Small Business Administration

Matt Varilek, Region VII Administrator, Small Business Administration

And who oversees SBA operations in South Dakota? Matt Varilek, that nice fellow from Yankton who ran for Congress a couple years ago but was portrayed by South Dakota Republicans as too smart and well-traveled to be a real South Dakotan. The SDGOP ran Varilek through exactly the wringer of character assassination that David Newquist says drives good public servants out of the state.

But those Republicans sure want Region VII Administrator Varilek and the Obama Small Business Administration to be forgiving and generous and spare Pierre the burden of providing for its own citizens in times of need.


In our discussion of the various Obama outhouses, one of my commenters suggested that the next time Governor Dennis Daugaard and impeach-happy South Dakota Republicans came asking for disaster assistance, the President should respond, "'And how many outhouses would you like?' He might even send them pre-loaded for our convenience."

I don't think the President would poop on all of South Dakota for a cheap, half-hearted partisan insult. But he's not sending Governor Daugaard any disaster money this week:

...the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has rejected the state’s request for Individual Assistance programs to help residents impacted by tornadoes and flooding.

The denial of Individual Assistance came in a letter from FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who said damage to homes and businesses fell short of the severity and magnitude to warrant federal assistance.

...Governor Dennis Daugaard called the denial disappointing but said South Dakotans will continue to work together to help individuals and communities recover over the coming weeks and months. He said the state is examining all its options, including a possible appeal of the federal decision [South Dakota state government, press release, 2014.07.10].

Republican Senator John Thune is also disappointed and is encouraging South Dakotans suffering from the storms to seek other federal handouts.

Note that the three counties most affected by last months tempests—Jerauld, Lincoln, and Union—all voted against the SDGOP's presidential impeachment resolution. So denying these FEMA handouts can't be direct political retaliation.

Impeachment talk is supposed to be a way for Republicans to make money. The ironic possibility that such talk is losing South Dakota money is unlikely.

But hey, if the Governor feels that the storms were bad enough that local folks can't bear the cost of cleaning up the damage themselves, and if the federal government just won't come through, why doesn't the Governor Daugaard just bite the bullet, do the right thing, and help those storm victims with some state funds?


In good conservation news, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture is handing out money to six communities (including Watertown, via the Lake Area Zoological Society) to help plant more trees for us liberals to hug.

But wait: is this $11,076 of government largesse just another effort by S.D. Ag to introduce more invasive species onto the prairie? Heck, as a member of an invasive species, I'm fine with more trees. Let's acquire conservation easements along the rail right of ways from Canton to Belle Fourche and from Yankton to Aberdeen, lay two trans-Dakota bike paths, and plant mile-wide forest strips around them for shady, wind-free rides across the state!

Or just plant a couple shady groves around Watertown, Gary, Freeman, Wall, Lead, and Sturgis. Every tree helps.

Wherever these communities plant their trees, they should be sure to include a little placard reminding everyone that these wonderful trees were brought to them by socialism... or, more accurately, by the generosity of the United States Forest Service, for which federal largesse the Republicans running South Dakota's Department of Agriculture gladly take credit. The tree funds come from Urban and Community Forestry Assistance legislation in which Congress recognizes that "tree plantings and ground covers such as low growing dense perennial turfgrass sod in urban areas and communities can aid in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, mitigating the heat island effect, and reducing energy consumption, thus contributing to efforts to reduce global warming trends."

Yes, your Republican South Dakota Department of Agriculture is accepting and spending federal money to reduce CO2 emissions, reduce energy consumption, and fight global warming.


The Republican candidates for South Dakota's U.S. Senate seat debated on South Dakota Public TV last night. Click on SDPB 's archived video, and you can watch Stace Nelson, Mike Rounds, Larry Rhoden, and Jason Ravnsborg all spending 90 minutes saying that government is bad! We need less government!... except when we want more government for military spending, veterans' health care, crop insurance, livestock disaster relief....

With their slogan-policy schizophrenia, perhaps our GOP candidates are simply struggling to realign themselves with the worldview of younger voters. A new survey (yes, by a Democratic polling firm; add the grains of salt you deem necessary) of 2,000 Americans age 18 to 33 finds 72% of these "Millennials" support greater government involvement.

Results of Harstad Strategic Research survey of 2,000 voters age 18 to 33, March-April 2014; graphic by Governing

Results of Harstad Strategic Research survey of 2,000 Americans age 18 to 33, March-April 2014; graphic by Governing

On every major issue—college costs, welfare, civil rights, health care—the youngest voting bloc says greater government involvement is fine. This result seems to challenge Cody Hausman's assessment that his generation is deeply suspicious of government. The survey may support Ryan Casey's thesis that Millennials are civic problem solvers who won't let political ideals or slogans stop them from using government to get things done.

The Millennials' values will jar Republicans as much as their policy preferences. HSR asked respondents to identify their two most important values. The most popular choices? Equality and opportunity (hey! Cody Hausman was right about equality!). The least important values: patriotism and competition (curse all that cooperative learning in school, right, Sibby?).

But the He-Man Government-Haters Club on parade at last night's debate need not sweat too much. Millennials can answer all the surveys they want, but they aren't showing up to vote yet:

The survey also reported a one cause for concern: They’ll be a sharp drop in Millennial turnout this November, with only 28 percent reporting they’ll definitely vote in the midterm elections. For the 2016 presidential election, 55 percent said they definitely planned to vote.

A separate poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics published a few weeks ago found conservative Millennials are more enthusiastic about voting in November [Mike Maciag, "How to Appeal to Millennial Voters," Governing, 2014.05.16].

Rick Weiland doesn't need to win the message war with the youth. He needs to put absentee ballots in their hands and get them to vote on their values.

Bonus Rick Booster: HSR finds that 71% of young respondents believe "The system is rigged in favor of the rich."


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