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Minimum Wage Initiative Resists Personal Attacks; Daugaard Cognitively Dissonant

Facing a Republican Party committed to character assassination and a majority of voters who appear to tolerate it, the South Dakota Democratic Party has made the sensible tactical move of emphasizing initiative and referendum to win policy battles. Ballot issues are harder to personalize and thus harder to defeat by assassinating one candidate's character. Less distracted by personal attacks, voters can better see the good sense of the policy proposed.

That's why the SDDP's Initiated Measure 18 to raise the minimum wage may have a better chance of winning a majority vote than any Democratic candidate in the state. Raising the minimum wage has 61% support in South Dakota. IM18 has majority support in every age group and income group. It even wins 48% of South Dakota Republicans. The current $7.25 minimum has a third less purchasing power than the $1.60 minimum had in 1968. It will be hard for the Republicans to overcome that support that that glaring economic inequity by calling SDDP exec Zach Crago names.

In the policy-over-personal-attacks spirit of the initiative, I suppose I shouldn't try to support the minimum-wage increase by calling Governor Dennis Daugaard a hypocrite. But Republican blogger John Tsitrian connects the dots to reveal an inconsistency in our Governor's policy thinking on the minimum wage and the gasoline tax.

Recall that Governor Daugaard opposes the minimum wage increase:

Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, also responded negatively to the proposal.

"This issue should be based on economics, not politics," Daugaard said in a statement. "There needs to be an analysis of how many jobs would be lost" [David Montgomery, "Dems Planning Initiated Measure to Raise Minimum Wage," Political Smokeout, 2013.07.17].

Economics provide a pretty good basis for raising the minimum wage. Governor Daugaard so far seems unconvinced. But he sounds like an economist when justifying his just-about-face on raising the gasoline tax:

“When I ran for governor four years ago, I promised that I would not support tax increases, and I have kept that promise. I want to participate in a discussion about future transportation needs, however, without taking any options off the table, including proposals to restore the purchasing power of the gas tax,” he said [Bob Mercer, "Daugaard: Willing to Consider Increasing State Highway Taxes," Aberdeen American News, 2014.05.21].

Governor Daugaard wants to restore his purchasing power for building and fixing roads. So why, asks Tsitrian, doesn't our good and gracious Governor want to restore the purchasing power of minimum-wage workers?

My beef about all this isn't the gas tax, per se. I'm just dismayed by the notion that cost-of-living increases need to be considered when pencilling in the price of government services but are to be ignored when it comes considering raises in the minimum wage. If Daugaard believes that jacking up gas taxes doesn't amount to a tax increase, just a restoration of buying power, then shouldn't that same principle be applied to minimum wages? Applying the Governor's own reasoning, raising minimum wages isn't the same as increasing them, it's just a matter of restoring their buying power. Yet Daugaard has effectively ignored this logic and withheld his support for the cost-of-living increase (with its built-in adjustment for inflation) that will appear on November's ballot.

It all looks to me like Daugaard believes state government should consider getting a cost-of-living increase but working people shouldn't. I don't like this. It's illogical. It's inconsistent—and it comes across as institutionalized cognitive dissonance [John Tsitrian, "Sure, Governor Daugaard...," The Constant Commoner, 2014.07.09].

Institutionalized cognitive dissonance—that's still a gentler attack than any of the personal slime Dick Wadhams will throw on behalf of South Dakota Republicans against Democratic candidates. Truer, too.

But Democrats don't need to go there. We don't need to campaign against Dennis Daugaard (or for any particular Democrat, for that matter) to convince a majority of voters to do what they already think is right: raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation so that even the lowest-paid workers can get a fair shake.


  1. Tim 2014.07.13

    I truly hope the minimum wages vote is successful, but watch out for the republican spin that surely will come as the election gets closer. Character assassination in state politics here will continue for as long as voters here tolerate it. Republican single party rule for the last 30 years guarantees they own ALL policy failures here, and they know it. Don't expect them to talk issues.

  2. larry kurtz 2014.07.13

    The minimum wage proposal is just a fraction of what wages should look like in the chemical toilet.

  3. mike from iowa 2014.07.13

    The sky is falling if minimum wage goes up. The sky is falling if minimum wage goes up. California fast food places have already raised prices because of the drought and minimum wage increase. Micky D's CEO claims they can live with a $10.10 minimum wage. I expect they can as long as the gubmint subsidizes health insurance and food stamps for workers. Floods are next and then dogs and cats living together,etc. The one constant is Micky D's shareholders will continue to receive vast profits which ever way the cat jumps.

  4. Tim 2014.07.13

    Larry, I agree, but as I posted on John's blog, you have to start someplace. If Daugaard, Rounds, Thune, Noem and the rest of the crony establishment had their choice, minimum wage would be going in the other direction. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and all of that crap, you know.

  5. larry kurtz 2014.07.13

    Tim: Noem, Thune, Daugaard and their earth hater party don't give one shit about South Dakota but have lied and will continue to the state for their donors.

  6. Tim 2014.07.13

    Yes Larry, I agree again, this is why we need to find a way to shake SD voters out of the stupor they have been in for years.

  7. bearcreekbat 2014.07.13

    Cory's point about using the initiative and referendum on policy issues is well taken. It is more of a challenge to attack a policy than a personality. On the other hand, it might depend on who publicly advocates in favor of the proposed initiative. I recall a few years back that Bob Newland stepped up to advocate for a medical marijuana initiative. It seemed that opponents, as well as the media, focused on Bob rather than the policy and emphasized whatever flaws they claimed to find in his ideas or behavior, which may have contributed to the defeat of the initiative.

  8. Anne Beal 2014.07.13

    It's one thing to advocate for individual states to raise their minimum wage, it's quite another to advocate that the federal government mandate a raise. It's better if these decisions are made locally.

  9. larry kurtz 2014.07.13

    Sioux Falls is suffering from overcrowding: it's time for Mayor Huether to announce a mandatory minimum wage of $15/hour.

  10. larry kurtz 2014.07.13

    Oh wait: wage slavery is the GOP catholic way.

  11. JeniW 2014.07.13

    And let each state determine the income guidelines for programs funded by the federal government. That would give the state more control of who is eligible for assistance, and who is not.

    (sarcasm alert)

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.13

    Well holy cow, Anne! Then let's get up and make this decision locally! Vote for IM 18! Then cranky up that inflation index so we can beat that mean old Barack Obama to the punch!
    That'll fix him!

  13. Michael B 2014.07.13

    As technology renders our population to the unemployment line, we will be forced to consider a minimum annual salary for those who don't work at all. We look down on this now, but the time is coming very soon where your job will be done cheaper and faster by a robot or computer.

  14. larry kurtz 2014.07.13

    any idiot or robot can shoot pictures: right, MB?

  15. MJL 2014.07.13

    Anne: The Federal Government can never mandate a minimum wage. They have an impact by raising the federal minimum because many states will choose to follow that level.

  16. Tara Volesky 2014.07.14

    The minimum wage and the patients choice initiatives will pass.

  17. Steve Sibson 2014.07.14

    I am not supporting it because it is not high enough. Put it at $25 per hour and cancel Obamacare, food stamps, and all other forms of welfare except for the handicapped who can't work.

  18. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.14

    Sibson, that's a cop out! A $25 an hour minimum wage is not likely anytime soon and you know it.

    By passing an increase in the minimum wage now, it is at least a place to start.

  19. Steve Sibson 2014.07.14

    Roger, why is $25 not likely anytime soon? If we want to fix poverty thru minimum wage, lets get it done now.

  20. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.14


    Can you name me at least Republican that would a $25 increase in the minimum wage right now?
    Do Republicans even understand the concepts you advocate?

    I fully support the minimum wage being set at $25 an hour to eliminate poverty and government dependents, by all means let's get it done.

    The reality is that Republicans are opposed to even this small increase in the minimum wage, how in the hell will you are anyone else convince them that $25 is better.

    If you want to see Republicans have a coronary, go to the legislature and make that proposal.

  21. Craig 2014.07.14

    "I am not supporting it because it is not high enough. Put it at $25 per hour and cancel Obamacare, food stamps, and all other forms of welfare except for the handicapped who can't work."

    So in Steve's world, if someone loses their job through no fault of their own due to company closing their doors or their jobs being outsourced to India, their children should starve because "food stamps" shouldn't exist unless someone is "handicapped", and Obamacare (as well as other forms of "welfare") won't cover any Urgent Care visits, so those kids can just suffer with bronchitis and pneumonia at home like they are supposed to.

    Those kids will be sharing their misery with a lot of 85 year old widows as well who find their social security checks are barely enough to cover the rent and pay the electricity bills. Since they can't rely upon food stamps to survive, they have no choice than to make a daily trip to the dumpster behind Culvers hoping to find half of a Rueben before the mice get to it. They are still mobile thus cannot qualify for disability, yet they can't even get a job at Walmart because they can't match the stocking speed of a 16 year old and Wallyworld isn't willing to take the chance with workmans comp by letting them lift anything anyway.

    You exhibit such compassion Steve. Take away the part where you clearly don't care about those who are suffering, children, the elderly, or even adults who have done their best and still found themselves in need and I would almost confuse you for one of those "real" Christians you so often speak about.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.14

    If you believe the minimum wage should be anything higher than the $8.50 plus future inflation indexing of IM 18, you should still vote for IM 18. This hike will chip away at some of the problem and provide empirical evidence of the economic impact that we can use in future debates about increasing the minimum wage. Sibby, some of your friends voted against past South Dakota abortion bans because they didn't outlaw enough abortions, and look where that got them.

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