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Stick Around, Uncle Sam
Oct 2, 2013
Imagine what would happen if Governor Daugaard had to respond to a real federal government shutdown. Here are ten reasons South Dakota doesn't want Uncle Sam to really disappear:
- Social Security. In December 2012, 159,349 South Dakotans received $175 million in Social Security benefits. Multiply that by 12 months, and you see Social Security pumping over $2 billion into South Dakota's $42-billion economy.
- Farm Subsidies. Uncle Sam handed out another $566 million to some of South Dakota's 31,000 farms. (Unlike Social Security, those payments are concentrated among the corpulent corporate: 20% of farm subsidy recipients received 82% of those payments.)
- Ellsworth Air Force Base. In 2011, Ellsworth graced the Black Hills economy with $201 million in payroll, $50 million in procurement, $40 million in construction spending, and $58 million in indirect job creation. (Yesterday Ellsworth furloughed three-quarters of its civilian workers.)
- Bureau of Indian Affairs. Uncle Sam provides $70 million of the Oglala Sioux Tribe's $80-million budget... and that's just one of our nine tribes. The current shutdown has already forced the Bureau of Indian Affairs to halt payments for tribal operations, assistance to needy residents, and foster parents. (Funny: I haven't heard Governor Daugaard offer to spend state resources to take up federal slack on the reservations....)
- Federal Courts. The U.S. District Court of South Dakota handles tax evasion, sex trafficking, bankruptcy, and other important cases. It has ten days of operating cash left before it faces a complete shutdown.
- Federal Jobs. According to South Dakota's Department of Labor, the federal government employed 11,000 people to provide a lot of services in South Dakota in August. If the average federal wage of $78,500 holds in South Dakota, that's $864 million that thousands of our neighbors get to spend at Nick's and Roma's and Charlie's Pizza.
- Highway Funds. According to the current state budget, Uncle Sam will send South Dakota $347 million for highway construction contracts. That's more than four bucks out of every five that we will put in hard hats' pockets to build our roads and bridges.
- Education. Uncle Sam puts another $182 million into our schools. That federal assistance spares every South Dakotan (including kids!) $219 a year in taxes.
- State Government. Including the above road and school figures, Pierre plans to spend $4.1 billion this fiscal year. $1.7 billion of that comes from Uncle Sam. Shut down the federal government, and 41% of what South Dakota state government does stops.
- Congress. Tim Johnson's retiring, so no tears for him. But if the federal government really shut down, John Thune and Kristi Noem would be out of work. Thune couldn't fall back on lobbying... because with D.C. gone, whom would he lobby? And with farm and crop insurance subsidies gone, I'm not sure what job prospects Noem would have left.
South Dakota can replace Johnson, Thune, and Noem (and should, given this week's fiasco). But if the federal government really shut down, we would struggle so hard to fill the gaps in essential services and economic activity that we wouldn't have time to visit Governor Daugaard and his staff selling ice cream at Mount Rushmore.
Editor's Note: Cory Heidelberger is our political columnist from the left. For a right-wing perspective on politics, please look for columns by Dr. Ken Blanchard every other Monday on this site.
Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and has taught math, English, speech, and French at high schools East and West River.