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Monday, December 28, 2009

Blizzard Boosts Nanny State

Mr. Epp raises an issue that our conservative friends haven't touched yet. He notes that Pierre's five-alarm response to our Christmas snowstorm was nanny-statism par excellence.

Fellow members of Gov. Rounds own party–the Republican Party–often complain about all the restrictions and safety consciousness that the Nanny Staters place or wish to place on the rest of us right thinking citizens.

Here, Gov. Rounds took away every citizens’ right to go out in to the teeth of a blizzard, get stuck, and freeze to death like people did in Nebraska and other states where far wiser governors allowed their Interstates to be open before and during the recent blizzard. Nanny Stater Mike had no one die on his watch in South Dakota because he wouldn’t let them go out and exercise their right to be stupid [Todd Epp, "Dang That Nanny Stater Gov. Rounds! He Saved Lives in the Blizzard!" Middle Border Sun via KELO, 2009.12.27].

As the storm hardly raged over Lake Herman, I had to wonder how Republicans remained so unperturbed at what felt like an over-reaction. Closing the Interstates for three days? Some friends made a trip to Brookings during the closure and found old Highway 77 up to Medary packed with motorists. Close the safest roads in the state, drive folks to the skinny backroads—not the best outcome.

Dad and I have cleared the driveway and shoveled some walks in town. Sure, it snowed a lot, but it didn't strike us as "historic" snowfall. We've moved more snow than this. We've driven to town through bigger drifts.

Travel restrictions are about as Stalinist a government restriction as you get, yet I haven't heard one conservative protest. Fascinating.

I've heard an interesting conspiracy theory: Maybe the extended Interstate closing was really a calculated budget move: work to keep the Interstate open over Christmas day, and we'd have to pay triple overtime. Why not just tell everyone to stay home?

I'll admit, if that was the real thinking behind closing the Interstates, it wasn't a bad idea. And if the Governor had just made that case—"Come on, folks: the state's short on cash, it's Christmas, businesses aren't going to be open anyway... just stay home and save money"—a lot of folks might have bought that line.

Instead, the Governor went for full-tilt fear-mongering (how many live press-conferences do we need about the weather?). Sound that alarm too often, and folks stop listening.

Last week's blizzard was half snow, half hype. At the very least, Republicans need to get honest about their views on government protecting us from our own bad decisions.


  1. I guess were I Governor Rounds*, I would say this...

    "There is a blizzard coming through and I am strongly encouraging you to stay at home and not drive anywhere. Not because conditions are rotten, but because everytime there is a snowstorm, half of South Dakota's drivers become morons, taking up both lanes of the road and slowing down enough to make a snail look like Usain Bolt.

    "But if you think getting to Fargo for some Christmas-time nookie is more important than your life, go ahead. Just don't expect us to needlessly risk our lives to rescue your idiotic butt. And if we get enough public pressure to rescue you, we're gonna charge you so much for the rescue, we'll be able to cover the 2010, 2011, AND 2012 budget shortfalls!"

    *Somewhat farcical, but with a tinge of truth to it.

  2. Governor holds a press conference a few days before Christmas. Panic ensues. Sales tax revenue skyrockets before yearend at every grocery store and mall. State coffers benefit.

    Interstates and highways are closed after pre-snow hype. No holiday deaths. State appears safest in the nation.

    It is win-win.

    My back and shoulders believe it was a major blizzard!

  3. My drive back to Rapid from Madison on Sunday tells me it was warranted. I saw ~15 cars off the road with several of them flipping completely over. (one such accident I witnessed and helped pull people out of the vehicle) So I think the closure of I-90 was warranted. The plows had already been out and I was driving my 4wd suv with snowtires/traction control. I can't imagine driving it on Thu/Fri/Sat.

  4. Last week's blizzard occurred on the back side of a low pressure system that looked like a hurricane on satellite photographs, affected atmospheric circulation over a region more than 3,000 miles in diameter, and moved so slowly so as to make it "the worst storm in memory" according to one resident of Terry Peak, west of Lead.

    I spent the holiday visiting my parents in southeastern Minnesota, where we escaped with only a little snow and rain.

    As I drove back yesterday across Interstate 90 in southern Minnesota, I saw intermittent icing, especially in the left lane, along with a couple of ditched cars (one of them a pretty serious wreck) and a jack-knived semi. I had to pay razor-sharp attention, never to hit the accelerator on any spot that looked doubtful. This -- on Monday.

    As soon as I crossed the state line into South Dakota, evidence of serious drifting began to appear on the north side of the highway, where trees and fences had caused some dunes to attain depths in excess of 10 feet. Obviously, the storm had been worse in South Dakota than in Minnesota.

    But the highway conditions improved dramatically and immediately when I crossed the state line going west.

    Now I don't want to facilitate any creative extrapolations as to how the highway budget in this state must be more than adequate, seeing as they did such a good job dealing with a storm tantamount to a land hurricane; I do not wish to suggest that we could cut back and still be better than our socialist neighbor to the East; I do not wish to imply that I favor heavy-handed government intervention into private affairs under all circumstances.

    I do wish to commend the state of South Dakota for leaving Interstate 90 between the Minnesota line and Chamberlain (at least) in superior condition following one of the most massive storm systems to cross the United States in several decades.

    Now if only I could find someone to shovel the 7-foot drifts that await me on my driveway and deck when I return to Lead. I've offered a friend a hundred dollars to clear it for me by tonight -- unless those socialist city workers in Lead saw fit to spend a minute dragging one of their blades backwards over my drive, saving me six or eight hours of hard labor.

    Good for South Dakota, say I. Good for Mike Rounds, say I. As for my little private bribe, I have my doubts as to what I am going to see when I finally roll up to my house -- but I can use some exercise after eating all that rich food my mom cooked for me.


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