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Stick Around, Uncle Sam

Oct 2, 2013


In response to the partial shutdown of the federal government, Governor Dennis Daugaard is offering to keep Mount Rushmore open with state workers. Governor Daugaard's gesture is a silly distraction.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.)
  4. 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....)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Education. Uncle Sam puts another $182 million into our schools. That federal assistance spares every South Dakotan (including kids!) $219 a year in taxes.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.


05:30 pm - Wed, October 2 2013
Gregory J Prang said:
All this adds up to around $4.3Bn. South Dakotans pay in over $5Bn in taxes to the Federal government. The largest chunks of benefit to SD are in education and roads, both of which come with a lot of strings attached, and lots of inefficiency. Also, the ag subsidy benefits a lot of large operators who don't even live in SD. On balance, I'm sure SD is a net beneficiary of Federal spending, but it's closer than you think, and not entirely without pain.
09:54 pm - Wed, October 2 2013
Whatever the strings, I have yet to hear any legislator in Pierre talk seriously about cutting them and making up the difference with local money. Why is that?
06:44 am - Thu, October 3 2013
Ed said:
Cody do you spend a lot of time in Pierre during the session I thought you moved West this summer? Then I thought you were a teacher in
Spearfish during the session, so how do you here what the folks in Pierre are saying?
07:36 am - Thu, October 3 2013
larry kurtz said:
Ed: illiterate much?
08:56 am - Thu, October 3 2013
The current state of affairs in Washington DC is sad with our leaders showing bad examples of good leadership skills & bipartisanship by all democrats and republicans. This situation is a fight out over a bill one side “ramroded” through into law over night literally. This law is going to hurt every South Dakotan and millions of other citizens across our country. Politicians are servants of the people who elected them and it is time they stand up and do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, instead of voting the party lines. I realize some politicians are trying to do this right now, and this lead to the partial government shut down. I hope the leaders are realizing they need to fix the problems with our government; they induced over the years starting with this last costly mistake. Just my humble opinion, understanding that doing the right thing does not all ways make you the most popular.

It seems as though Corey has missed some valuable points on what is going on with this current situation.

Matt Schlueter
09:35 am - Thu, October 3 2013
Ed, could you explain to us which of the straight budget facts I lay out above are contingent on when the last time was that I visited Pierre?

Matt, are you saying that shutting down the federal government and giving up all of the federal spending that supports South Dakota is the right thing to do?
09:39 am - Thu, October 3 2013
No Corey, they submitted a budget to the Senate that Harry Reid refused it because it did not fund Obama Care, seems to me this all could have been avoided right there. I know you tow the party line on Obama don't worry. I understand you will not be open minded on the topic.
10:24 am - Thu, October 3 2013
larry kurtz said:
toe the party line, Matt: so, you prefer taxpayers and emergency departments to absorb the costs, the bankruptcies of hospital visits?
03:04 pm - Thu, October 3 2013
Roger Holtzmann said:
As it happens, "the current mess in Washington" is exactly what we as a nation deserve. Many of us as individuals and as states have been living beyond our means for years. Why are we shocked that the federal government is dong the very same thing?
09:59 am - Fri, October 4 2013
Party line, Matt? Try bottom line. The health insurance exchange will cut my current insurance premium by nearly $1200 a year. Depending on our future job circumstances, it could save us around $3,600 a year. Why should I want to give that back and lose the certainty of being able to buy and keep health insurance for my family, regardless of illness or pre-existing conditions? And why, if ACA opponents cannot assemble a voting majority by normal means, should I surrender a good program due to political extortion?
12:55 pm - Fri, October 4 2013
dave tunge said:
$1200-$3600 per year savings is nice. Coverage for any illness or pre-existing conditions is nice. Somebody has to pay for both of those benefits to you.
That somebody is the folks who work and pay taxes. If I understand things correctly this affordable care act is only affordable if lots and lots of young healthy people sign up. I assume that is the reason the administration has games and prizes trying to lure the young crowd into the web. Should the young and healthy not sign on to this it will be a major train wreck. Obama flat out lied to the American people when he said if we liked our Dr. or our current health policy we could keep it..........but, as Roger says, why would it shock anyone that a politician would lie to us.
06:14 pm - Fri, October 4 2013
Ed said:
my God the shut down the interstate. How will we survive.
09:31 am - Wed, October 16 2013
Dave, we pay those costs now and then some in uncompensated costs for emergency care. We'll pay for our neighbors' health care and they'll pay for ours under the ACA as well... we'll just pay less.

But keep shutting down the federal government and playing chicken with the debt ceiling and America's international financial reputation, and our insurance premiums will be the least of our worries in South Dakota and nationwide.

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