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Carcasses in the Creek, Noem in a Box
Oct 16, 2013
I don't spend snowy spring nights shoulder-deep in cows' hindquarters trying to save balky calves. I'm not spending this October trying to get a tractor through a muddy, washed-out pasture to drag fifty rotting carcasses that used to be my mortgage payment out of a poisoned creek.
But I am being asked by Congresswoman Kristi Noem, as are you, to pay for a "safety net" to make sure blizzards and other bad fortune don't put West River ranchers out of business. That makes their business our business.
It's hard to read the numerous accounts of ranch hardship following the pummeling, freakish West River blizzard of the October 4 weekend and not want to leap to the aid of our neighbors who saw their livelihood turn to horrible scenes of animal suffering and death. The urge to help is all the greater because the people suffering fit the South Dakota self-image in which we all look like Ronald Reagan in Cattle Queen of Montana.
But why should we want to increase federal spending on (call it what it is) welfare when our Congresswoman has urged us to spend less on other needy Americans? She voted against federal assistance for people who lost homes and businesses in Hurricane Sandy last October. Silly New Jerseyans — they shouldn't have built so close to the ocean, right? Rep. Noem has stalled the Farm Bill because she wants to cut food stamps, a program she claims (erroneously) is rife with waste and fraud.
If we're really worried about waste and fraud, let's consider the case for the livestock indemnity program that Rep. Noem advocates. Suppose a thousand ranchers lost livestock in this month's blizzard and would apply for federal assistance. Would we not find among that thousand at least a few who find themselves in dire straits in part because of their own choices, say, a decision to leave their cattle out on fall grass a week longer or to switch to fall calving? Would we not find, say, 12 out of 1,000 ranchers (that's the SNAP overpayment rate due to recipient "error") who would take advantage of Rep. Noem's generosity and round their losses up from 95 head to 100, or 150 to 300?
Dare we expand the welfare state and risk rewarding a few bad actors and bad choices?
But if we try to take Congresswoman Kristi Noem's words and votes seriously, we end up in a Republican box, where we can't spend money we don't have on lazy takers who should have known better than to try to raise cattle in South Dakota.
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.