While Governor Kristi Noem makes more Presidential campaign noise about civics curriculum that she hasn’t read, she ignores the fundamental and long-standing weaknesses of the South Dakota economy. In helping to explain the economic pessimism revealed by the new South Dakota News Watch/Chiesman Center for Democracy survey, USD econ and labor prof Kathryn Birkeland says South Dakota’s political propaganda doesn’t make up for the economic realities our underpaid workers face:
Birkeland said politicians and policymakers in South Dakota often point to intangible benefits that make the state a great place to live, such as wide-open spaces, abundant outdoor recreation and a relaxed pace of life.
But she said South Dakota’s economy doesn’t stack up well against those in neighboring states.
One example is the state’s over-reliance on the agriculture industry and continued taxation benefits for farming and ranching, to the detriment of industries such as finance, banking and insurance, which could create more and better-paying jobs, she said.
“There are some pretty significant issues facing workers that don’t seem to appear in states that are close to us,” she said. “If you have the ability to work in Minnesota or Iowa or Nebraska, and do almost the same thing you do here, people are choosing to do that even with the supposedly higher tax rate in other states” [Bart Pfankuch, “Poll Part 2: Why Some South Dakotans Are Pessimistic About the Future,” South Dakota News Watch, 2021.05.21].
Don’t be fooled by our Governor’s culture-war squawking: she would love nothing more than for all of us to talk about critical race theory all the time. By ginning up that controversy, she keeps us from engaging in critical economic discussions and recognizing that Governor Noem’s failure to read and act on economic data only perpetuates South Dakota’s inability to keep up with its more prosperous neighbors.