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GOP Offers Dreary Graduation Exhortations to Profit über Alles

Two lazy cliché posts on Dakota War College make clear the continuing disconnect between Republican dogma and South Dakota’s youth.

Pat Powers leads off May Day reprinting Governor Dennis Daugaard’s tired graduation wishes to South Dakota’s 2016 high school graduates. He gives three main reasons young people should stay in South Dakota: low unemployment, low taxes, and a load of fuzzy math that makes our low wages look good. Realizing he can’t rely completely on crass materialism as the justification for his state’s existence, the Governor throws in one line about “seeing the stars at night, enjoying the wide open spaces and having the company of friendly, down-to-earth people.” Almost poetry, right? But the structure of the essay—one sentence reciting the soulful advantages of living in South Dakota (advantages that friendly people in all 49 other states will gladly tell you are not unique) tacked onto a detailed development of the economic argument—reflects Governor Daugaard’s long-running development philosophy that business matters over everything else.

Powers then spends his May Day droning on about capitalism. Responding to a poll that finds 51% of adults between 18 and 29 do not support capitalism, Powers invokes his dear deceased mother, who worked her fingers to the bone through her dying days:

Two weeks before she died from cancer, she was giving her all at her auction business with back to back Saturday/Sunday sales, because she believed in our system of capitalism. She was doing it because she loved her business, and she wanted it to produce a profit [Pat Powers, “About Capitalism, and the Statistic That Should Worry Us More than Any Other,” Dakota Free Press, 2016.05.01].

Get a job! shout Powers and Daugaard. Make money! Work until you die! Powers and Daugaard apparently think they are speaking to the Ferengi youth.

The poll to which Powers responds deals with vaguely defined terms, but it seems to represent rejection of the profit-seeking absolutism that led to the global financial crisis that has shaped young people’s worldview:

John Della Volpe, the polling director at Harvard, went on to personally interview a small group of young people about their attitudes toward capitalism to try to learn more. They told him that capitalism was unfair and left people out despite their hard work.

“They’re not rejecting the concept,” Della Volpe said. “The way in which capitalism is practiced today, in the minds of young people — that’s what they’re rejecting” [Max Ehrenfreund, “A Majority of Millennials Now Reject Capitalism, Poll Shows,” Washington Post, 2016.04.26].

Young Americans aren’t saying they won’t work. They aren’t saying they want everything handed to them. They are saying that there is much more to life than working until ten p.m. and shorting your local government of the money it needs to pay teachers and pave roads. They are saying that friendly, down-to-earth people need some control over the rabid capitalism of multinational corporations who would blot out the stars and dirty the wide open spaces with their environmental predations.

They are saying that a Governor whose best argument for staying in South Dakota is that you can make some money here probably isn’t going to win that argument.

Work is a necessary condition for a good life. It is not a sufficient condition. Powers and Daugaard miss that fact. South Dakota’s friendly, down-to-earth young people do not. They know that a single-minded drive for profit leads to physical and spiritual poverty.


  1. Loren 2016-05-02 09:17

    Not to mention, living in SD is better than living on Mars!

  2. Curt Jopling 2016-05-02 09:47

    @Loren-or so we have been lead to believe.

  3. leslie 2016-05-02 10:03

    boy cory, when you get a softball, you paste that sucker!!

    …right thru the “ring”, as someone named cruz once said.
    forgive the sports metaphor!! :)

    “i hate that” daugaard has a limited repertoire.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-05-02 10:28

    Leslie, always swing for the fence.

    Loren, as President, I will promise to set NASA on course to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by the end of this century with living conditions at least as good as those in South Dakota… just to make Lawrence and Schiller come up with a new marketing campaign. ;-)

  5. Brett 2016-05-02 11:23

    Sheesh. I’m sorry for Pat’s loss, but ‘my mother was working furiously right up until the moment that cancer killed her’ is just about the worst conceivable argument for the virtues of capitalism that I can imagine.

  6. bearcreekbat 2016-05-02 11:59

    Agreed Brett!

  7. mike from iowa 2016-05-02 12:53

    South Dakota pols probably would totally ignore kids if they weren’t needed to supply cheap labor for korporate Amerika’s quest for greed.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2016-05-02 13:18

    Where was Powers dad?

  9. leslie 2016-05-02 13:26

    agreed brett. I just lost some one too over two years struggle, released from her job, and chemo and surgeries, and she couldn’t have been a harder worker up till the very end.

  10. Jenny 2016-05-02 14:24

    Most sane parents in their older years will regret not spending enough time with their children when they were growing up just doing fun stuff. Money isn’t everything and in the end it’s spending time with your loved ones that count.

  11. mike from iowa 2016-05-02 18:59

    Be nice to have friends in high places to sorta drop millions of federal dollars in an area where I could sorta help pull myself up by federal grant money bootstraps. uh huh, uh huh.

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