Tim Giago gets South Dakota some press in the Huffington Post. Giago notes that he has cast his early ballot for Senator Tim Johnson. Giago says some of the hateful, ignorant attacks against Johnson don't change the Senator's "impeccable integrity."
Giago doesn't see similar integrity in the unemployment numbers the State of South Dakota likes to tout. He criticizes the claim that South Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Only "14,000 people looking for a job in the state"? Giago claims there are 40,000 unemployed on our reservations alone. The government, says Giago, papers over this lack of jobs by saying the labor stats consider only the unemployed who are actively seeking work. "The fact of the matter," says Giago, "is that they are still unemployed and if there are no jobs available on the reservations where they reside it is not their fault."
South Dakota's overall unemployment rate is 3.2%. That's great. But unemployment on the Pine Ridge stands at 80%. In 2003, the Bureau of Indian Affairs found 84% unemployment among members of federally recognized tribes in South Dakota. The same BIA report found that even 49% of those who held jobs still lived in poverty (PDF alert).
We talk a lot about how South Dakota needs better jobs and more economic development. But if anyone needs help right now creating jobs, it's not us white folks. It's our neighbors, our fellow citizens, on the reservations.
I notice Russ Olson's full-color, full-page ad in Friday's MDL features Steve Erickson, bragging about how Olson helped him find all sorts of state and local loans to help him build the new Shipwreck on Lake Brant. Helping a guy who already owns a business (in Trent) get government money to build another bar in Lake County while 80% of South Dakota Indians are unemployed seems kind of like buying Pat Prostrollo a smoke alarm while ten houses south of the tracks burn down.
Giago's critique reminds us that there's a big chunk of South Dakota we haven't paid attention to since the Mickelson administration. With just a few days left in the campaign, let's hear the legislative candidates talk about helping folks who really need help.
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