I must have missed the Pierre press release on this one....

Forbes this month issued its ranking of the Best States for Business for 2014:

Rank State Business Costs Rank Labor Supply Rank Regulatory Environment Rank Economic Climate Rank Growth Prospects Rank Quality of Life Rank Population
1 Utah 5 4 9 6 10 16 2,923,000
2 North Dakota 9 9 18 4 2 24 733,200
3 North Carolina 4 7 2 24 9 31 9,901,400
4 Virginia 24 2 1 12 33 5 8,292,700
5 Colorado 35 1 13 8 4 9 5,307,800
6 Texas 13 11 16 1 1 33 26,654,300
7 Nebraska 8 22 9 2 46 14 1,873,500
8 Washington 20 6 30 17 6 29 7,002,500
9 Minnesota 33 18 22 7 23 2 5,439,200
10 Oklahoma 7 31 14 5 15 41 3,865,900
11 Delaware 2 8 26 31 27 36 930,000
12 Iowa 11 39 11 9 42 12 3,099,200
13 Massachusetts 49 3 33 11 16 1 6,719,000
14 South Dakota 1 16 31 10 45 30 848,500
15 Indiana 10 45 3 28 31 15 6,585,000
16 Georgia 27 21 4 38 13 38 10,019,900
17 New York 45 30 20 3 17 10 19,688,400
18 Oregon 12 12 39 32 8 35 3,946,100
19 Florida 38 10 15 36 7 32 19,708,200
20 Maryland 41 5 36 16 32 8 5,947,300

Four of six adjoining states outrank South Dakota, whose Republican leaders portray South Dakota as a business haven.

Forbes ranks South Dakota #1 for low business costs (including labor, energy, and taxes), compared to Minnesota, whose 33 in that category is its lowest ranking in Forbes's six metrics. Forbes says it weights business costs most heavily, but Minnesota turns the tables on South Dakota in four other categories, most notably quality of life, where South Dakota ranks 30th while Minnesota ranks #2.

Further showing that you get what you pay for is the split between South Dakota and Massachusetts. That den of East Coast liberal sin offers the second-highest business costs among the states, but it offers the top quality of life. Massachusetts also offers better prospects for growth, ranking 16th compared to South Dakota's 45th.

We were 17th on the Forbes list in 2010 and 2011. We jumped to 12th in 2012, then peaked at 11th in 2013. Minnesota jumped from 20th in 2012 to 8th in 2013. Minnesota beat South Dakota in 2010 and 2011.

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Thought you wouldn't have Larry Pressler to kick around any more? Think again.

Yesterday, Pressler released remarks he prepared for a speech he's making today to the Farmers Union Foundation in Aberdeen. The former Senator continues to press his "Pressler Pipeline Plan" to reroute Keystone XL through North Dakota to carry Bakken crude to Midwest refineries instead of piping tar sands oil down to the Gulf and away to China.

There is a great need to build one or two new pipelines across North Dakota, and the right-of-way for them already exists. The Midwestern refineries in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois are currently under capacity, and diesel fuel would be about $1 cheaper than having it refined in Louisiana.

It is more environmentally friendly to move crude oil and distillates by pipeline and we need to free up our railroad equipment to haul more grain. South Dakota farmers need rail access to get their grain to market, and having two pipelines in North Dakota to carry oil will relieve railroad congestion [Larry Pressler, press release, 2014.11.20].

I still prefer preaching conservation (we should less oil and less of the corn syrup to which most of that surplus ag freight is destined), but Pressler's economic details are better than anything our deluding Big-Oil-mouthpiece delegation will offer.

Larry Pressler, still on the hunt...

Larry Pressler, still on the hunt...

Getting into the swing, Pressler fires off another press release today, this one with three little ticklers. Humboldt's most famous John Deere jockey says he plans to "will work for centrist, independent, moderate thinking in politics." He says contributions to the foundation will be tax-deductible, which I assume means he plans to form a 501(c)3, which can register voters, encourage voting, maybe even form a think tank and host events featuring like minded Indies and centrists but cannot contribute to candidates.

O happy Independence and not having to check with Party Central to make sure he won't hurt anyone's feelings by forming his group! Two recommendations, Mr. Pressler:

  1. The Pressler Foundation should host a series of Lincoln-Douglas-style debates between prominent political figures on significant South Dakota political issues. Formulate clear resolutions, require speakers to stay on topic and focus on policy, and have you and other centrists serve as strict moderators and judges at the events. (First speakers: Stace Nelson vs. me!)
  2. Use these events and other fundraising to raise money to support and expand speech activities in South Dakota. Nothing promotes independent, rigorous, policy-oriented thinking better in our fair state than high school debate and Student Congress.

Along with promoting independent thinking, Pressler suggests we could also use some ballot education:

Several people told me they mistakenly double voted, as they innocently believed they could vote for two, and of course that invalidated their vote. There is a lot of misunderstanding about independent candidacies [Larry Pressler, Facebook message, 2014.11.21].

Clip from South Dakota general election sample ballot, 2014

Clip from South Dakota general election sample ballot, 2014

Several people? What? O.K., nothing personal folks, but we're voting for Senator. Yes, we have two Senators, but, as the ballot says, underlined, in bold, we only get to vote for one at a time. It doesn't matter how many guys are running for that one spot; you still only get to pick one... at least until the Pressler Foundation successfully passes an initiative to allow instant run-off/ranked-choice voting. (But oh my; if we can't mark bubbles correctly, can we handle marking our top picks 1, 2, 3?)

But before he launches a foundation or agitates for ballot education reform, Pressler's has to pay the bills:

Meanwhile, I have a more immediate task. Our campaign raised only a total of about $200,000, largely from individual contributions such as yours. I know you have contributed, and I have asked, and some of you have contributed again, and while I do feel a bit audacious and embarrassed (but not apologetic), I do have a $250,000 deficit. I will probably pay it myself, but if you have not reached the $2,600 limit, I would ask that you consider contributing more [Pressler, 2014.11.21].

According to the FEC, Pressler reported being $355K in the hole on October 15, so he's made $105K worth of progress. But we should all appreciate the softest sell in any campaign finance pitch this year: I'll probably pay it myself, but if you want to help, that's o.k.

If Pressler is willing to drop that much of his own cash to close out his campaign, it will be interesting to see how much of his own cash and time he'll be willing to dedicate to promoting further political discussion along the centrist lines he desires.

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The Nee York Times turns some socioeconomic statistics into a map of the quality of life in every county in the United States. Looking at "education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity," the Times calculates that much of South Dakota is in the top quarter of the nation's 3,135 counties. Lincoln County actually ranks 8th nationwide (if NYT included the impact of being Todd Epp's neighbor, Lincoln County would've made the top five).

Alas, the big islands of orange trouble amidst South Dakota's healthy blue on the NYT map are Indian Country. Shannon/Oglala Lakota County is not the worst in the nation, but it's down there, ranking 3,080 out of 3,135. That's still better than the ten worst counties by this measure, six of which are in eastern Kentucky in the Appalachian Mountains and all ten of which are in the South.

But Oglala Lakota County likely would have come out worse with a closer look at unemployment. NYT says unemployment on Pine Ridge is 13.7%. Some would argue that 13.7% is closer to the employment rate, not the jobless rate, on Pine Ridge.

Whatever the actual numbers, the gross disparity between economic metrics in Indian Country and the rest of South Dakota should call the Legislature to action. Instead of fussing about who wrote which parts of science curriculum standards, legislators (especially those from districts with large Indian communities) should focus their attention on the number-one economic development problem in South Dakota: providing infrastructure, jobs, and better quality of life on Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and the rest of our Indian reservations.

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South Dakota Republicans brag about their budget-balancing prowess. They don't like being reminded that they are balancing the budget by shifting burdens onto private citizens.

Consider higher education. South Dakota is part of a national trend in which states are reducing their proportional and real-dollar support for universities, leaving students to foot the bill through higher tuition. In South Dakota, that means that while the Governor can brag about meeting his statutory obligation to balance the state budget, college graduates are carrying more student loan debt. South Dakota has the second-highest percentage of students graduating in debt.

My friend Dr. Nesiba says that's a problem for anyone interested in upward mobility:

Economics Professor Reynold Nesiba says while public higher education is more affordable in South Dakota; wages are still low, making it difficult for families to afford it.

"Something has to happen. Either schools are going to have to figure out how to provide more aid, or the federal government has to provide more aid; or we're going to see a smaller proportion of our populations take advantage of higher education," Nesiba said [Angela Kennecke, "SD Second Highest Percentage Of Grads With Student Loan Debt," KELOLand.com, 2014.11.14].

Dr. Nesiba recommends more debt forgiveness and/or more state support for higher ed. The Opportunity Scholarship might be one place to start: Kennecke reports that the Regents would like to boost that merit-based scholarship from $5,000 to $7,000, which would cost the state $1.6 million a year. Heck, recoup the money the EB-5 scammers pilfered from the state, and we could pay for that measly increase for 80 years. Heck, fees from just one EB-5 project would cover eight years of such scholarship support.

Or we could just get back to taking higher education seriously. Maybe the start should spend less money on trickle-down handouts to corporations and more on trickle-up seed money invested in our universities. Make college affordable for everyone, and we can produce a lot more graduates who can add a lot more value to our economy, not just with their Regentally fostered knowledge, skills, and critical thinking, but with all their immediate spending power that they can pour into cars and houses instead of student loan debt.

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Can we all just get along?

Sixteen people (fourteen in the room, two on the phone) met in Rapid City Saturday to talk about how to elect more Democrats. These citizens discussed how to organize a quadfecta of political action committees that will recruit and support local and legislative candidates. The discussants included Pennington County Democrats, a former legislator, tribal members, a registered Independent, and LGBT advocates. Tentatively calling themselves South Dakota Progress, the group agreed enough to endorse a mission statement:

To elect Democratic Candidates to public office in South Dakota by drafting, implementing and following a cohesive plan that will support and facilitate the election of candidates for local offices up to the state legislative level.

They also agreed enough to schedule a second meeting for December 6 in Rapid City. The ball is rolling.

Friend of the blog Tasiyagnunpa Livermont is acting as steering committee chair for SD Progress. Livermont says she got involved with this project because she feels "disenfranchised" by the existing party mechanism. She saw great organization and outreach from Rick Weiland's Senate campaign, and she found a place for her desire to help in Robin Page's District 33 State Senate campaign, but she didn't see the SDDP making a similar effort to engage new, young volunteers across the state.

Echoing that sentiment is MRC Miller, a metallurgical student at School of Mines, LGBT activist, and former Page volunteer:

I'm involved out of anger.... Republicans didn't win 2014, Democrats didn't fight. Half the time there wasn't one on the ballot. What few candidates could be found were generally weak, because they were unsupported by what passed for a party [MRC Miller, South Dakota Progress, press release, 2014.11.19].

Some Democratic candidates and organizers may take Miller's and Livermont's criticism personally, making it difficult for SD Progress to live up the intention Livermont states of working in parallel with the South Dakota Democratic Party. But Bajun Mavalwalla, who helped build the Page campaign convened and advised Saturday's meeting, says the group assembled Saturday consists of "professionals who will lay down hard feelings and use their passion to further mobilize their constituents in a precise, organized way." In a sign that Democratic Party members can do the same, Pennington County Dems invited SD Progress participants to their regular meeting Tuesday night to further discuss how the groups can work together. Rapid City Police received no reports of shots fired.

Prior to Saturday's meeting, SDDP exec Zach Crago cautiously welcomed the new group's effort:

“Our state party welcomes input from any Democrat or others from across the state,” Crago said. “These kind of discussions with folks like Bajun are healthy for the party.”

But he defended the SDDP’s work raising money and recruiting candidates for local races — even if it hasn’t borne much fruit in elections the past few years [David Montgomery, "South Dakota Democrats: An Idea to Rebuild," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.11.14].

Former SDDP chair/exec Ben Nesselhuf dismisses the group as unnecessary:

“Everything that he’s suggesting there is (already) being done through the state party,” said Ben Nesselhuf, the former chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party, after reviewing Mavalwalla’s proposal. “I think Democrats would be much better served by putting their time and energy into the state party structure than dividing up their resources with competing organizations” [Montgomery, 2014.11.14].

There seems to be a difference of opinion as to just how much support the state party is offering to local and legislative candidates. We'll let Crago address that in his speech tomorrow at Democratic Forum.

There should not be a difference of opinion about what to do with South Dakota Progress. Democrats, a group of over a dozen activists want to help us win elections. Our immediate response should be, "Yes, please!" Party leaders should have open, thoughtful conversations to help South Dakota Progress develop a plan that is truly complementary to and not wastefully redundant with existing party efforts. But as long SD Progress does nothing that hinders the SD Democratic Party's efforts to raise money and recruit volunteers and candidates, we should welcome the help.

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The Democratic Forum of Sioux Falls (which sponsors this blog—thank you, friends!) hosts what could be a newsworthy program this Friday. Zach Crago, executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party, will deliver what I believe will be his first extended public remarks since the midterm election. Crago will discuss the recent election and, according to the Democratic Forum, "what the party needs to do to plan for the future."

Democratic Forum is open to the public, and speakers generally do big Q&A, so let's warm up some questions for Crago! Here are the top five that jump to my mind:

  1. What current SDDP projects are working and should continue?
  2. Closely related to #1: What metrics indicate those projects are working?
  3. How much money does the SDDP need to raise to be competitive with the SDGOP?
  4. What does the SDDP do to overcome disillusionment among donors and reach that competitive level?
  5. How long can we keep you as party exec?

Meanwhile, here are the top five things you won't hear Crago say on Friday:

  1. I'm quitting the SDDP and joining the Libertarians to help them capitalize on their role as South Dakota's true opposition party.
  2. Ssshhhh... we're luring the Republicans into overconfidence.
  3. I'll be bringing a proposal to the State Central Committee at its December 13 meeting to amend the SDDP constitution to choose all nominees for statewide office via online polls on the Madville Times.
  4. Now that South Dakota voters have declared that EB-5 is not a political liability, the South Dakota Democratic Party will raise $140 million by forming its own Regional Center to compete with the state in recruiting and managing EB-5 investments. (Hey, wait a minute—that's not a bad idea!)
  5. And now presenting our next Democratic Party chairman, Larry Pressler!

You can hear what Zach Crago really has to say and pitch your own questions about the future of the South Dakota Democratic Party Friday noon, November 21, at the Sioux Falls VFW, 3601 South Minnesota Ave.

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David Newquist never makes for a cheerful read. But his blog posts make essential reading for anyone joining the Resistance to South Dakota's corrupt one-party rule. In his latest post, Newquist connects 9/11, Nazis, and the perversion of education into an employee-training program to support his argument that America has surrendered its conscience and critical thinking to propaganda and oppression.

And then he turns to South Dakota:

South Dakota is a prime case in point of a state that has deteriorated into intellectual dysfunction.  It has been ruled by one political party which has withheld from the voter-taxpayers information about government transactions and the right to knowledge about what officials are doing.  It has allowed education to be neglected in its funding and tampered with in its function.  It has developed an uncurious and disinterested attitude toward government corruption.  In an instance that is defined with documents and the testimony of participants, the Benda-Bollen-Rounds EB-5 scandal, it has chosen to dismiss hard evidence and embrace the mendacity of its deniers.  It has lost the ability to function mentally and examine the evidence in a suspicious death, the misdealing in state funds, the vicious ripping off of foreign investors, and the incompetent, devious mismanagement of the Northern Beef Packers plant.  Instead, the people endorsed the perpetrators of the fraud and overwhelming elected them to control the state.  South Dakota has strongly defined itself as a corrupt state  by the will of the people [David Newquist, "Why America Is Not the Greatest Nation in the World Anymore," Northern Valley Beacon, 2014.11.17].

Newquist is probably not optimistic enough to run for South Dakota Democratic Party chair. But our party leadership and we hopeful liberals in general should heed Newquist's warnings about the enormity of the regime and the political and cultural defects against which we must fight to restore effective democracy in South Dakota.

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While the next executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party tells me that Democrats need to embrace God and guns, pollster Paul Nielson tells Todd Epp that we Democrats lost the Catholic vote this time out:

“If you’re evangelical Christian, you’ll almost certainly vote Republican,” Nielson said. “A mainline Protestant, probably a little more Republican than Democrat. Roman Catholic has tended to be more Democratic, but actually in this election, they went more Republican, according to our polling, toward the end, which was a really bad sign for Democrat[s]” [Todd Epp, "In South Dakota, Is Religion Electoral Destiny?" Northern Plains News, 2014.11.16].

Who's left for us Dems?

For Democrats, according to Nielson, about the only clear constituencies they won in this month’s election were reservation-based Native Americans and non-religiously affiliated voters [Epp, 2014.11.16].

Atheists and Indians—I think we're still outnumbered, Sundance!

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