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Photo by Bernie Hunhoff.
Photo by Bernie Hunhoff.

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?

When we look at the carcasses in the creek, and the honest tears welling in a rancher's eyes, the answer is simple: heck yes! Help our neighbors; write the checks.

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.


06:28 pm - Wed, October 16 2013
The fact is, Representative Noem supported aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy and for victims of Hurricane Irene.

Distorting Noem's record only hinders a constructive discussion of how we, through our government, can best help those in need. South Dakota ranchers who were caught off guard and gravely damaged by this livestock-killing storm need help now, not snarky attacks on their representative.

There's no reason to doubt Noem's stated intention to push for legislation to help these folks. And, as she's been named to the conference committee for the farm bill, she's in a unique position to make the case for aid for the South Dakota ranchers who need help.

In this case, she has a clear understanding of the nature and scope of the problem and she's in the best position in the legislative process to help her constituents who need assistance.

Regardless one's political affiliation, that's good news for South Dakota.
08:41 pm - Wed, October 16 2013
Ryan Casey said:
Jeremiah Murphy tries a pretty neat trick here. He pretends to be above the partisan fray, dismissing "snarky attacks" and calling instead for unconditional support for Kristi Noem.

The dirty not-so-secret truth is, he's an apologist for Noem, and everyone else in South Dakota's political elite. After all, he is a professional contract lobbyist for the SD State Legislature, which is why he's actually a professional apologist.

apol·o·gist noun \ə-ˈpä-lə-jist\
: a person who defends or supports something (such as a religion, cause, or organization) that is being criticized or attacked by other people

Kristi Noem did IN FACT vote AGAINST the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. It's actually public record; you'll clearly see a 'NAY' next to the name of Rep. Noem.

Unless Mr. Murphy wants to play the game of claiming that Noem actually did vote for it, before she voted against it. But I think people are too smart to buy that. And why did she vote against the Sandy relief bill? Because Tea Party groups like 'Freedom Works' demanded it, of course!

But when you're a professional lobbyist like Jeremiah Murphy, your job is to rub elbows with your cronies in South Dakota's establishment elite, and you don't believe leaders should be held accountable for their behavior, even when it includes rank hypocrisy. Murphy is even an apologist for Bishop Paul Swain, who refuses to join his fellow Catholic bishops in supporting expanded health care access for the poor.

Personally, I want to live in a country where we're allowed to hold our leaders accountable, don't you?
08:57 pm - Wed, October 16 2013
In fact, the work of a lobbyist is to educate. Arguably I failed above in that task as I did not spell out the legislation to which I referred.

Regarding Hurricane Irene, in 2011 Representative Noem voted "aye" in support of H.R. 3672 which provided relief to victims of Hurricane Irene.

There were two bills to provide relief to Hurricane Sandy victims -

The first, H.R. 41, increased FEMA’s borrowing authority in order to provide $9.7 billion in loans directly to Sandy victims. Noem voted "aye" on final passage of that bill.

The second bill, H.R. 152 provided near-term and long-term relief for Hurricane Sandy victims but also included funding for unrelated activities such as funding for the Forest Service, the Smithsonian, the Commerce Department, and the Department of Defense (some of the Defense appropriation was to purchase ammo for the Army). Noem voted “nay” on the final version of 152 though she did support an earlier version of the bill that was solely targeted to storm victims.

In my comment above I was referring to HR 3672 and H.R. 41. Noem supported final passage of both of those bills.

But, as I note above, what matters to the ranchers who have suffered terrible losses is that their representative is in a great position to legislate on their behalf.
11:22 am - Thu, October 17 2013
Roger Holtzmann said:
Regarding Mr. Heidelberger’s central thought: the plain truth is that Republicans make a lot of self-righteous noise about wasteful spending, but at the end of the day they line up at the public trough just like everyone else.
12:39 pm - Thu, October 17 2013
dave tunge said:
And why does everyone, and everyone else, line up at the public trough? The answer is: Because they can. The recipients are not to be blamed, whether their windfalls are legit or not. Who wouldn't honestly take a handout from the feds if it was available to them? Seems not too far off that the non-working class will outnumber the working class. When that happens, and they vote, it will be those without income ( can't count welfare dollars can we?) telling those who have a job just how to spend their money. Uh, wait.......isn't that already happening?
Had Noem been a Democrat I've the feeling that this article would have a 180 degree reversal. Congress should pony up for a few cows & calves, especially after bailing out cities, failed businesses, banks, and phony real estate tycoons who brought on their own demise. For Cory to tell ranchers how or how not they should run their program (time on grass, fall calving, etc.) is laughable......'specially from a French teacher.
09:24 am - Fri, October 18 2013
Dave, I've given up the tactic of trying to win an argument by framing a hypothetical that I wish would support my view. A Democrat is not in Congress for South Dakota. Republican Kristi Noem is. Her words and votes are entirely hypocritical.

But shall I assume your generosity toward recipients of federal assistance extends equally to ranchers, New Jersey homeowners, and urban single mothers struggling against misfortune?
10:21 am - Fri, October 18 2013
dave tunge said:
Absolutely's all about equality, eh?
I think I speak for a lot of Americans when I say that it is considered our duty to help those who cannot help themselves.........but not those who are able and lazy.
I would encourage you to Google "how to catch a wild pig". It goes a long way to explain the dependency problem we have.
01:12 pm - Wed, October 23 2013
Dave, I'd rather not devolve into abstractions. Please distinguish for me the specific elements of the situations above that would justify providing federal aid for our ranchers who saw their businesses devastated by a blizzard, New Jerseyans who saw their businesses devastated by a hurricane, or a single mom in Chicago who lost her job due to a long stay in the hospital?
05:59 pm - Wed, October 23 2013
dave tunge said:
Not abstractions Cory but a pertinent analogy. In your situation,two are weather related and one is related to health. All three could not have been prevented. Acts of God so to speak...........but the ranchers could have bought insurance, the NJ businesses could have bought insurance, and our health insurance premiums are inflated to take care of the Chicago mom's hospital stay. Temporary benefits should be forthcoming to the mom for a limited time so she can find a job, assuming no disability. But to provide permanent benefits for a crack addicted, baby making machine who is dependent on the government, and passes that lifestyle onto her siblings, is doing harm both to her family and to our to catch a wild pig?
Just sayin'...........putting things into perspective the cost of a few cows & calves seems pale against the big picture.

07:52 pm - Tue, October 29 2013
caheidelberger said:
Wow: speaking of abstractions, how many crack-addicted, baby-making machines are there, and how much are they taking from the Food Stamps program compared to other sources of waste (like government error)? I mean, if you're going to justify aid to ranchers as a drop in the bucket compared to the problem you concoct, you should be able to quantify that bucket (although we're not blaming any recipients, including low-income moms, right, Dave?).
06:42 pm - Wed, November 13 2013
gene wagner said:
i feel sorry for these ranchers the farm bill itself is a joke imean if you farm 160 acres you get nothing but if you farm 2000 acres you get a welfare check for 250000 dollars or more if you farm with wife children or who ever else you can sucker in thees lobbyists should all have to get a real job politicians should be limited to 2 terms no retirement and learn to live within there means we send them to washington & they make decicions for us but not necisarily what the majority of the voters want lets get real here

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