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Noem Has No Idea What She’s Cutting

Last updated on 2011.04.03

Congresswoman Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-SD: still no clue

Kristi Noem made her infacility with policy details clear to me at the State Fair debate last summer. Now Congresswoman Noem is making her talking-point emptiness clear to the press. Seth Tupper of the Mitchell Daily Republic raps Rep. Noem with this headline: "South Dakota's Rep. Noem Does Not Name Cuts When Questioned."

The Daily Republic asked Rep. Noem about her priorities for federal programs to cut. That's a pretty basic question. As a lowly school board candidate asked that question about a measly $6.5 million general fund, I can muster at least a few specific suggestions. How about Congresswoman Noem, who's being paid a heck of a lot more government money to have answers to such questions?

"You have to put everything on the table and have discussions about everything the federal government does," she answered.

She also said national defense is a vital function of the government and Congress should "go down from there," making sure to create jobs and aid the economy, while avoiding "duplicative programs" and things the federal government "shouldn't be funding." She went on to say the federal government accumulates more debt per day than South Dakota's government spends in an entire year.

She did not provide any specific examples of what should be cut from the federal budget... [Seth Tupper, "South Dakota's Rep. Noem Does Not Name Cuts When Questioned," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2011.04.01].

Now Kristi and I both have a penchant for rambling back to our talking points. Tupper the reasonable journalist thus attempted to redirect, thinking that asking a second time might shake loose some specifics on what programs would be cut and what people would be impacted:

Noem responded that the cuts she supports are contained in a House bill that was passed almost 40 days ago and is known as HR1. That bill proposed about $60 billion in spending reductions, but it was defeated in the Democrat-controlled Senate. In the meantime, Congress has been funding the government with temporary resolutions, while negotiations continue on a budget for the rest of the fiscal year.

Noem said HR1 is "tied to discretionary spending" and includes some "reductions," as well as "the zeroing out of some programs."

Again, however, she did not cite a specific example of what should be cut from the budget [Tupper, 2011.04.01].

Can you smell the fear? The retreat to generalities? Remember when Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin what newspapers and magazines she read, and Palin said "All of them"?

Surely Rep. Noem read H.R. 1 before she voted on it. Surely she knows the programs it cuts, like the federal loan guarantee program Poet is counting on to finance its cellulosic ethanol project. Surely she remembers some key cuts that made her say, "Yes, those cuts are great ideas. I'll remember those so I can rattle them off when voters and reporters ask me questions."

Tupper gave her one more swing at the question of specific cuts:

[Tupper]: "But can you give us any one example of something that will be cut by these proposals?"

Noem then referenced an amendment she added to HR1 that she said would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing stricter standards on dust control [Tupper, 2011.04.01].

Read that carefully. Dust control. Noem isn't talking about an existing program. She's reverting to her talking-point of the month on the evil EPA and the dust rules it hasn't even implemented yet. Even Noem's own spokesboy Joshua Shields, surely pulling his hair out as he listens on the other line as the boss makes herself look stupid again, confirmed that Noem's EPA point didn't answer the question:

After the conference call, The Daily Republic asked Noem's spokesman, Joshua Shields, if warding off EPA dust regulations is something Noem thinks will result in reduced federal spending. He acknowledged that it's "more of a policy rider" and not a spending cut [Tupper, 2011.04.01].

But not to worry: Wonderboy Josh can pull out the save on this one, right?

Shields also said more attention should be focused on the impact of the country's massive debt and budget deficit.

"There hasn't been a lot of writing on the big picture numbers," Shields said.

Good grief! Shields is sitting there in a fancy office in Washington. He's surrounded by highly paid policy wonks and computers. He can consult all of his notecards and the Internet to list specific cuts the Congresswoman voted for:

  1. Inter-Lakes Community Action Program services
  2. tsunami warning funds
  3. community health clinics
  4. public broadcasting
  5. women's health care
  6. arts funding
  7. foreign aid to fight poverty and hunger and save children's lives (and indeed, what can possibly be more important than saving innocent human lives?)
  8. subisides to big oil companies (oh, wait, H.R. 1 extended those)

That's the list I can come up with in a few minutes of free Googling on a Saturday when I should be helping my daughter build castles. Or you could just read the list of cuts provided by the Republicans on the Appropriations Committee.

But all public servant Shields can muster is a weak effort to blame Tupper for asking about budget cuts and not writing enough about the deficit. Never mind that a reporter writing about the federal deficit can ask no more logical or practical question of a Congressperson than what cuts we can make to eliminate that deficit.

I'm not sure who's the bigger kakistocrat: Kristi Noem, who can't answer a simple question without her handlers' help, or handler Joshua Shields, who can't spin good lemonade out of the boss's lemons. But clearly the boss and her handlers need to seek work more suited to their talents, like riding horses and shoveling the by-products.

Update 17:32 CDT: Bob Schwartz saw a lack of preparation in Noem's non-response before I did.

Fox News trotted out Congresswoman Noem to criticize Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for not naming specific cuts:

We're still waiting for them to come back with some real solutions, and it's interesting: when he talks about having principles and priorities, this is the perfect time to identify them [Rep. Kristi Noem, Fox News interview, April 1, 2011].

Oh my, and at 3:06 the Fox News gal asks Noem for specifics... and Noem doesn't give any! I could write a computer program that could give varied and more specific answers than Noem does!

Update 2011.04.03 22:50 CDT: Rep. Noem's weekly column on her fervent belief that the federal budget can be balanced just like her and Bryon's subsidized checkbook also fails to offer a single specific budget cut that would achieve her oft-sloganed goal.


  1. larry kurtz 2011.04.02

    Could it be that Rep. Noem is really just a Mitchell Infacile Lemon Fancier being handled by shielded joshers and bankrolled by misappropriating tupperware-armed earth haters?

  2. Garyd 2011.04.02

    The only thing I can add is we are getting what we voted for! ( I was being sacastic for the simple minded.)

  3. Thad Wasson 2011.04.02

    Its clear the GOP likes having the power of the purse and has no intentions of making that purse smaller.

  4. Troy Jones 2011.04.03

    This is a symptom of a crisis in Leadership.

    In South Dakota, our Governor led us through the crisis. Like or disagree, with the decisions of the Governor and Legislature, we got our fiscal house in order.

    The President has proposed nada with regard to deficit reduction, the Democrats Leaders in the Senate oppose even token cuts in virtually anything, and the GOP Leaders in the House are tentative in discussing big issues. The President's Commission on Deficit Reduction recommendations have been put on the shelf in a pretty frame like a picture.

    President Obama won't be specific on his intentions on Libya,

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.04.03

    Troy's comparison of the feds to Pierre is valid. I certainly don't like Governor Daugaard's specifics, but at least he gave us specifics, allowing us to have a serious debate about the practical value of specific programs. Noem's non-response leaves us debating a general principle—balancing the budget—but doesn't give us nuts and bolts. Her non-response demonstrates either a lack of leadership (i.e., an unwillingness to lead us in an adult conversation about difficult choices) or a lack of knowledge about a bill for which she has already voted.

    And I'll even agree with Troy that the Dems' budget is disappointing as well. I thought post-stimulus we'd be getting back to at most the pre-recession norm of a deficit of a few hundred billion dollars. I suspect a case can be made that the government still has to keep priming the pump, lest we double-dip, but I'm not hearing that case. Nothing appears to have come of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations; maybe that's a good thing, but I'd like to hear more serious discussion from our leaders of why.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.04.03

    ...and national defense is the only vital function of the government she can identify? Why take $700 billion of death and destruction off the table from the start? Why not look for ways to save money by shooting fewer people? Why not try the Greg Mortenson method of getting more bang for the anti-terrorism buck through education?

  7. Charlie Johnson 2011.04.03


    What fiscal house in order? There is major problems in budgeting for ALL school districts. Nursing homes are comtemplating closure, raising rates on private pay clients, and reducing staff that is underpaid and overworked already. The mess just continues on and on at the local level. GDD is a falilure in leadership.

  8. tonyamert 2011.04.04

    I feel bad for Noem. At this point, I'm convinced that while campaigning she really and truly believed that the federal government was this incredibly wasteful beast and thought it would be simple and easy to identify things that could be cut to balance the budget. Now, she actually gets to Washington and finds out that most things are vetted quite extensively and cutting most anything would be difficult. Much like has happened here in SD. The state government couldn't find anything obviously wasteful that could be cut so they are choosing to cut things that aren't easily justified.

    I'm just amazed that she is still touting the party line of cut cut cut. It's like she is in shock that she can't identify any real waste and hasn't come to grips with it.

  9. Douglas Wiken 2011.04.04

    Noem is unlikely to ever admit the full depth of her ignorance.

  10. mike 2011.04.05

    I'd say Troy is right about Obama's lack of ledership on the debt but that shouldn't stop Noem from naming off some cuts. Paul Ryan could do it.

    If I was Noem I'd ditch Boehner and Cantor and hang with Ryan. At least he is passionate.

  11. mike 2011.04.05

    What upsets me about the dems is that I know there is 100Billion in gop pork that they could propose to cut and make the GOP squeal like pigs and look not serious about cutting their own.

    But instead they think it looks better to complaing about GOP cuts.

    We are in debt. I'm not impressed right now.

    Also because Troy says Obama doens't have ledership does't make it ok for Noem to not give specifics.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.04.05

    Oh yeah, Paul Ryan, who thinks eliminating Medicare and having senior citizens buy insurance on the private individual market will save them money. You betcha, all that great competition is sure keeping my premiums from rising... not! (23% increase two years in a row.)

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