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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How Do Dakota Conservatives Cut Federal Spending?

An eager reader notes the campaign rhetoric of Rick Berg, Republican candidate for North Dakota's lone U.S. House seat. He sounds an awful lot like South Dakota's GOP hosue candidate, Kristi Noem. He says he wants to "return common sense" to Washington. He says he will "work to make Washington more like North Dakota."

Jack Zaleski of the Fargo-Moorhead Inforum says North Dakota's balanced budget and economic success actually depend on Washington's continued big spending:

North Dakota gets approximately $2 in federal money for every $1 state taxpayers send to Uncle Sam, according to the Tax Foundation. That’s one helluva return. Without it, the state’s bright budget picture might be dim.

...Lawmakers who are in the mode of biting the hand that feeds them would be hard-pressed to come off as such economic wizards were it not for the billions of dollars that flow into the state from federal programs. Tick ’em off:
  • Military spending at two Air Force bases, which has more to do with pumping dollars into the state’s economy than with national defense.
  • Farm programs that range from crop subsidies and emergency disaster appropriations to conservation incentives and food security.
  • Social Security payments that rise annually as the state’s population ages.
  • Medicare for Grandma and Grandpa – and, of course, for the thriving elder-care industry and medical/hospital sector, where good jobs are being created daily.
  • Flood control projects, water-delivery systems and highway and road work that would never get done without federal participation. Good jobs there.
  • Education and research grants to enhance public/private partnerships on the state’s university campuses. More good jobs.

Washington more like North Dakota? In practical, measurable terms, there is little difference. The state feeds at the federal trough not because it’s wedded to pork, but because history, geography and climate put the state at a disadvantage. That disadvantage has been addressed by the federal government since before statehood – from the Homestead Act to the most recent farm bills [Jack Zaleski, "Make Washington Like North Dakota?" Fargo-Moorhead Inforum, 2010.06.27].

Hmm... sound like any Dakota you know?

I ask Kristi Noem and her supporters the same question Zaleski asks Berg (and the same question the Tea Party faker she beat, R. Blake Curd, could never answer consistently): to put your "common sense" rhetoric into practice, what federal assistance to South Dakota will you eliminate? The new drone program at Ellsworth Air Force Base? The farm subsidies that kept your ranch afloat? Medicare and Social Security? Funding for the U.S. Forest Service and the Mount Rushmore National Monument?

Let's see Noem spin her way out of that one.


  1. Cory,

    The deficit problem is a road to bankruptcy. Government spending (federal, state, and local) is at its highest percentage of the Gross Domestic Product since WWII.

    We have three options:

    1) Reign in government spending at all levels of government.

    2) Run deficits until we are bankrupt.

    3) Raise taxes and institutionalize joblessness.

    Your critique and clarion call around specific programs of those who want to focus on #1 doesn't need spin. It is overly simplistic as it denies the realities of the problem and the process.

    Not to mention the reality government largesse hasn't made us any better off. Ultimately, improvement of our economic lot is dependent on wealth creation and the government doesn't ever create wealth.

  2. I tend to agree, Troy, that deficit spending is unhealthy as a permanent state of affairs. (I don't even like laboring under my mortgage, but what's a guy going to do? Live in a yurt?) I like your first option best. But reining in spending at all levels means cutting programs that keep North and South Dakota afloat. Look again at the major items making up the huge return we get from Uncle Sam that keeps our state governments from having to spend as much. Which of those items do we cut? Or can we really eliminate the deficit and the national debt without cutting one bit of the pork the Dakotas get?

    I somehow doubt that we can halve our bacon and eat it, too.

  3. We need to means test SS and Medicare/Medicaid. Cut foreign aid by 40%.

  4. Thad:

    Should voters in the US ask the citizens of Mexico to dissolve their government and become our 51st State?

  5. Thad, you should have stayed in the race! You at least answer the question straight. You're on the right track looking at retirement entitlements as big budget strains. But I don't think foreign aid is going to get us far in deficit reduction. This post says we spend about 25¢ per American per day on foreign development assistance, about half what each of us spends each year on pop. Two B-2 bombers would cover the cost of our entire $3.2-billion World Food Program and then some!

    (Related: check out this pie chart on who gets foreign aid -- top 3 are Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan.)

    Larry: should we do a dry run with Puerto Rico first?

  6. Larry - not a bad idea, Mexico is rich in natural resources and has a great tourism structure. They also provide excellent southern border security and have a world-class soccer team.

    Cory - I am including the top three in foreign aid. We cannot provide security or prosperity on the reservations, how can we do it in foreign nations?

  7. Guys, feel like going over to ip and making comments?


  8. We would have to chop Mexico into a few states. As one state they would have much too much power. Last thing we need is another Texas :-)

  9. Thad's comment on means testing for entitlements is interesting.I have heard both Dems and Repubs with this same veiw. It makes me wonder how much consensus there is on the subject. As the baby boomers reach retirment age it seems more and more unlikely that it will ever happen.

  10. That pie chart data is for '04-'08 seems to be the most recent out there.

    We the People have the responsibility for self-preservation and levying higher taxes on those with the most to lose is the way we do that. Foreign assistance buys peace. Therefore: Peace is too big to fail.

    If corporations would pay their share of the peace tax there would be peace.

    Suicide rates on South Dakota reservations are spiking; make the corporations pay for peace. Certainly, the beer and aluminum companies are shirking.

  11. Peace (or heck, just clean drinking water) seems like a better investment than more bombers. I'm o.k. with looking into Thad's suggestion that we cut foreign aid -- every bit helps -- but we would need to do a serious analysis of what return we get on the money we invest overseas. If a few million spent on clean water averts a billion spent on responding to epidemics and refugees, then that's money we should keep spending.

  12. Questions that can get you banned6/30/2010 8:41 AM


    You forgot to add funding of research at universities to your list. Why give corporate plutocrats free product development?

    Steve Sibson


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