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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Herseth Sandlin vs. Noem: Get a Job! Get Lots of Jobs!

Part 8 of the Madville Times' South Dakota State Fair Congressional Debate analysis

The last question at Sunday's debate: What specifically would you do to fight unemployment and create jobs in South Dakota?

Kristi Noem blasted the failed stimulus package, saying the U.S. has lost 300,000 jobs and seen unemployment shoot past the President's assurances to 9.6%. The stimulus, said Noem, has done little but pile debt on our children. Noem defended her vote in Pierre to accept those stimulus dollars for use in South Dakota because the Legislature did not have the option to send those dollars back to Washington to pay down the national debt. We made the best decision for you, said Noem, to use those stimulus dollars here in South Dakota.

Noem then turned to her legislative record, saying she carried a bill on wind energy (HB 1263, I'm assuming) that dealt with easements and development periods. Noem said the bill passed unanimously and creates more opportunities for wind developers to come to the state. Noem said one potential wind project may create 3000 jobs, all without spending any tax dollars or creating any government debt.

Herseth Sandlin came out swinging again, saying, "The question is on what we will do." (That's the second time Herseth Sandlin explicitly pointed out that Noem wasn't answering the question.) Herseth Sandlin piled on the specifics of what she'll do to create jobs and opportunities for South Dakotans: she said she will promote blender pumps, investment tax credits, and continue to work bipartisanly to increase the Small Business Administration's loan authority to $5 million. She recalled the trade agreement point Noem made earlier in the debate and said she will work to get the South Korea trade agreement moving.

After those positive specifics (more than Noem laid out), Herseth Sandlin still had time to rebut Noem's stimulus argument. Suppose the Legislature had had the option to send the stimulus money back for debt relief, the way Noem wanted. What cuts, Herseth Sandlin asked, would Noem have made to balance the state budget? Herseth Sandlin said Noem imagines "the economy would have somehow magically cured itself." Herseth Sandlin said Noem is just politicizing the stimulus and not offering specific solutions.

Assessment: I'm still trying to untie Noem's logical knot of how the stimulus can do no good yet be good to spend here in South Dakota. And Herseth Sandlin is right about Noem missing the question. I could be generous and say that by pointing to her wind energy easements bill, Noem was highlighting the general kind of legislation she would craft and support in Congress to create jobs. But Noem herself did not say those words; she left me having to fill in those blanks... and that left a big blank for SHS to fill with a reasonable charge that Noem didn't answer the question with the specifics requested.

Both candidates threw punches here, but Herseth Sandlin is throwing them harder. That's how you win a fight.

On answering the question and the opposition and answering harder, advantage Herseth Sandlin.


  1. Cory,

    I've read your analysis. As I can't go through each point you make as rebuttal, let's just say this old debater disagrees with you assessment.

    I will concede Noem wasn't as specific with "solutions" as she doesn't believe the government is the solution, but the problem.

    I will concede Noem could have stressed this point with greater enthusiasm.

    However, you seem to think opposition to the Stimulus or pointing out it hasn't done what Obama/Herseth promised means Noem should have advocated sending the money back to be distributed to other states. But, I shouldn't be surprised. You think Noem's farm should try to compete without farm subsidies in an environment of "cheap food policy" which holds commodity prices down.

    And, most importantly, your liberal tendencies don't allow you to see the attractiveness to alot of voters that the government is too intrusive, taxes too much, borrows too much and spends too much.

  2. Indeed, Troy, judging candidate debates the way I might judge high school debate is problematic, in part because my biases are clear and harder to set aside in a real Congressional debate than in an academic exercise, in part because we aren't debating a specifically worded resolution, and in part because we don't have clearly defined stock issues or paradigms according to which we would expect all judges to evaluate the round. The criteria I'm judging on—specificity to the question, demonstrated depth of knowledge, and rhetorical skill and force—are not at all the majority of voters in the room and in our statewide audience may be looking for. (And a lot of my fellow "judges"/voters aren't looking for anything beyond "R" or "Not Steph!")

    I do see that goverment borrows too much. I could even be persuaded that government taxes and spends too much. I have yet to hear a coherent plan from Noem on what she would do differently that would not mean fiscal ruin for the government and disaster for the economy.

    And my liberal tendencies do not prevent me from seeing in Noem and in many of her supporters the same belief in magic I once had. I too once believed that faith in the free market and American destiny justified not having specific plans for fixing problems.

    On subsidies and stimulus: the fundamental contradiction remains that Noem complains about money from Washington doing all ill and no good, as we expect the GOP/TP to do, yet that money has saved her farm and her state budget. She should not get to profit from shouting general slogans while profiting from the specific programs those programs criticize. If the stimulus hasn't done us any good (and that's what Noem said at various points in Sunday's debate), then indeed, why did we take it? Why didn't we let that useless money be sprinkled around other states to do even more nothing there? Why did we take useless, counterproductive dollars... unless they were somehow useful and productive? From a pure debate judge/English teacher perspective, if I were grading Noem's words in a vacuum, outside of any political agenda, I would circle those words and say they contradict each other. I would give Noem the loss and tell her she has to rewrite her case to explain her position in language that does not contradict itself to win my ballot.

    Alas, debate judges like myself, Bob Swanson, Donus Roberts, Judy Kroll, and even that Lee Schoenbeck fella do not constitute a governing majority. (Troy, have you judged? Maybe you and I should hit some tournaments together this year!)

  3. CAH:

    Just thinking out loud here, but have you heard any comparisons between the US and Greece if the US had instead chosen to cut government spending like Greece as opposed to ramping it up?

    I have a Greek professor in my department and what we are hearing from him sounds pretty terrible. By slashing government wages, they have cut consumer spending to the bone which in turn has decreased the government tax income. I think Greece might be a good example of how the US could have ended up without the stimulus.

  4. Cory,

    I think you hear "contradiction" when it is not a contradiction. Maybe it is similar to when I hear

    Farm Policy: Our government has decided it wants a cheap food policy for national security and social reasons. Whether or not it is good for national security, social and farmers is something we can debate. But, assuming it is good for national security and social reasons, your expectation for Noem's family to operate contrary to the policy or compete against the policy would be "unpatriotic." This said, the real point is our government policy is what it is and it is reasonable for all people in agriculture to operate under the rules and policy.

    Stimulus: One can believe collectively the Stimulus is counterproductive to job creation and long term economic health (which is the point of the bill and not fund government programs, worthy as they might be). This is what Noem is saying when it hasn't done any good. It didn't meet its promised objective and in fact impeded the recovery (its objective).

    At the same time, if the government is intent on spending the money (either in South Dakota or somewhere else), it is prudent for South Dakota to take the money and try to use it for the best purpose possible, especially when the reverted funds would be diverted somewhere else. Similarly, one can believe they will spend the money more productively than someone else to mitigate the collective harm.


    That Greek is obviously not an economist. Greece's problem is nobody would lend it anymore money because it didn't have the capacity to pay it back.

    Based on current deficit projections, within five years, the US's credit rating could be as bad as Greece's.

    Yes, we could try to keep the economy going now only to make the future much worse. Or we could deal with the problem now.

    But, I believe this would be counter-productive even today. Democrats like to talk about Keynes' ideas of how the government can stimulate the economy but they ignore Keynes' "animal spirits" component which talks about when the "animal spirits" are negative, stimulus is actually harmful.

    Cory, regarding debate:

    I have never judged a "real" debate except for one extempt tournament (I faintly think our Freshmen debators also were debating them). I did it I think my Jr. year in H.S. As it was a long time ago, I think another of the tournament's purpose was to allow us Varsity debators to get some perspective on judging so we'd be more successful. My memory is quite fuzzy but somehow I think the tourney was barely legit as it the competitors were kids from Highmore, Onida, Miller, etc. who didn't have formal debate programs and this allowed them to get some exposure. But I could be totally messed up.

    In H.S., my passions were football and track and debate (while enjoyable and most challenging) is what I did between seasons. While I was moderately successful, it was mostly due to the effort of my partners. The debate coach (Paul Harens) allowed me to do my conditioning a couple of days a week while my partner selflessly and generously did most of the research.

    So, because of all this, I don't think anyone would want this guy of little brain, success on the shoulders of another, and little experience as a judge. Not fair to the kids.

  5. Tony, I haven't read up on Greece, but it sounds like interesting evidence to support the difficult chore of arguing how much worse things would have been without serious stimulus action.

    Troy, my expectation for Noem is that she live consistently with her campaign slogans. I agree, the realities of policy and the market mean it would be much easier for her to change her campaign slogans.

    And what I heard Noem say was that the stimulus didn't do any good. I won't put words in her mouth... but I will demand she use words of sufficient clarity that I don't need you or others as translators to say the words she actually meant (or that supporters wish she meant).

    [And Troy, Harens was your coach?! That's great! I'll see him again each weekend starting in November, as he's still coaching at Yankton.]

  6. I think Paul retired (either as teacher or coach). Don't recall who I heard it from. Maybe Russ Janklow who was also a Pierre debator under Paul.

    I don't think Noem needs a translator. I only used more words as your "bias" prevents you from hearing her.

    Obama and Herseth supported the "Stimulus" because it was supposed to keep unemployment under 8%. It didn't do what they promised. It didn't work. I said it at the time it would make the economy get worse and it got worse.

    Saying the stimulus didn't work doesn't mean some of those expenditures shouldn't have been made. Maybe some were worthy on their merits. However, they were never discussed on their merits and they need to be judged based on the rationale for their passage- stimulate the economy.

    P.S. I have my own blinders too but on this one, Cory you are the one who needs to clean your glasses. ;)


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