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Budget Address Baloney: Federal Government Makes Up for South Dakota State Government Failures

South Dakota is not successful because of government,” said Kristi Noem as she took a break from her coast-to-coast Presidential campaign to deliver a budget address in Pierre yesterday. That sentence is accidentally true but poorly worded. Noem would have more clearly expressed the truth if she had inverted her phrasal order:

Because of government, South Dakota is not successful.

And by government, she meant state government. South Dakota state government. Noem’s neglect of her job—traveling across the country to build her own celebrity and campaign coffers, flying home to shut herself up in her private video studio or her mansion sauna—is the apotheosis of South Dakota Republican contempt for the hard work of good government. South Dakota government drives talent away with its antisocial behavior, its rejection of new ideas, its inbred and nepotistic hiring and firing, its refusal to take public health seriously, and its low wages. South Dakota’s labor pool thus dwindles, and South Dakota’s economy does not grow as fast as it could.

Noem dedicated her speech to an opposite, 2024-oriented proposition: that South Dakota is immensely successful, no thanks to President Joe Biden’s government. Yet her speech is filled with exaggerations and inconsistencies that disguise the fact that her own errors and those of her one-party regime have contributed to South Dakota’s chronic economic failures, while the federal government has dutifully subsidized South Dakota’s survival.

Noem claims that South Dakota’s economy is “the strongest economy in America”—a statement flatly laughable to anyone living in California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, each of which crank out more than 3% of America’s gross domestic product and together account for nearly half of the United States’ economy. South Dakota generates 0.26% of U.S. GDP. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia all generate more GDP per capita than South Dakota. The only neighboring state with lower GDP per resident is Montana.

Noem brags about South Dakota creating more jobs than we can fill, which (a) signals the state economy isn’t working very well when it can’t attract talent and (b) attempts to take credit for something she won’t acknowledge at the federal level. If executives in chief deserve any credit for job creation, the strongest job creation has taken place under Biden, Clinton, and Carter, while the weakest job creation has taken place under Trump, Bush 1, and Bush 2. And when we measure jobs created at the federal level, we measure jobs actually filled, people actually working. South Dakota’s job openings, the ones still listed but not able to hire anyone, don’t really count as economic success. The alleged influx of new residents doesn’t really boost our economy if those folks are too busy RVing or getting arrested for insurrection to take jobs at the CAFOs and the slaughterhouses and generate actual GDP.

Noem quietly acknowledges her party’s decades of neglect in funding public service, education, and health care when she proposes 6% raises for state workers, school staff and teachers, and healthcare workers. She says we have to boost state spending in those areas because South Dakota’s wages in those areas “are not keeping pace with the private sector or other states.”

Noem attempts to deflect any evidence of economic shortcomings in the “strongest” state economy by saying “but we don’t live in a bubble”—i.e., ascribing any trouble to  outside forces like Joe Biden and inflation. In other words, she wants us to think in a bubble: Noem gets to define success in her own little bubble of slogans, insulated from any actual data or history, where good things happen exclusively in South Dakota because of Noem and bad things are never her fault and always to be blamed on outsiders (preferably Democratic outsiders).

(In bonus baloney, Noem justifies her 6% pay hikes by referring to current inflation as “unimaginable” and “horrifically high.” Yet inflation was consistently higher in the 1970s and 1980s under Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush 1.)

Because we can’t generate our own wealth, we can’t fund our own state government on our own. Noem, like her whole farming family, has to keep unzipping her bubble to take the federal subsidies that keep South Dakota’s economy and public services afloat. South Dakota would collapse without federal subsidy, but Noem contorts our dependence of the “giant handout” from D.C. into fiscally responsible virtue:

There’s another kind of revenue that’s coming into South Dakota this year. And it’s not revenue in the traditional sense — it’s a giant handout from Washington, D.C.

That money isn’t appearing out of thin air. Those are taxpayer dollars too, and it’s money that is being borrowed from the future — from our children, our grandchildren, and beyond.

I have had people ask me from time to time, “Kristi, why don’t you just give the federal money back? After all, it’s taxpayers’ money.” That was my first thought, too — to refuse the money. But here’s the problem. Giving that money back means that money goes to another state — to California, to New Jersey, maybe Illinois, Michigan, or Minnesota. That money is not going back into South Dakota taxpayers’ pockets. It would be spent somewhere other than South Dakota. The debt would still be incurred by the country, and our people would still suffer the consequences of that spending.

There’s something else about those dollars. The money that has already been spent in Washington, DC was sent to the state with strings attached. They put conditions on how we can spend it and when we can spend it. To the fullest extent that we can, we are going to put those funds to work for our state, to address our state’s most pressing needs, to make fiscally responsible, one-time expenditures that will not grow the government, but that will save our people money in the long run [Gov. Kristi Noem, budget address, Pierre, SD, 2021.12.07].

The core lie in that contortion is “That money is not going back into South Dakota taxpayers’ pockets.” Actually, those federal handouts aren’t going back into South Dakota pockets; they didn’t come from South Dakota pockets in the first place. The federal handouts are dollars generated in those states (North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming…) that are producing more GDP per capita than the national average and thus allow Uncle Sam to redistribute wealth to poorer states like South Dakota that can’t cover the cost of their own roads, bridges, schools, cops, and other basic public goods and services.

South Dakota’s Democratic leaders speak honestly about the benefits of a smart federal government redistributing wealth to keep South Dakota alive:

While Governor Noem might not want to admit it, South Dakota’s budget is seeing a huge boost thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This budget allocates $850 million in ARPA funds and state revenue is up 15 percent as President Biden leads the country through a strong economic recovery.

South Dakota is already seeing the benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, receiving over $60 million for statewide water project funding. Overall, South Dakota can expect to receive $2.8 billion in infrastructure funds [Randy Seiler, chairman, South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2021.12.07].

Because of poor state government, South Dakota is not as successful as it could be. Because of President Joe Biden and the United States federal government, South Dakota will survive. That’s what Kristi Noem meant to say in her budget address.


  1. Bill 2021-12-08

    Thanks for showing the illogic of Noem’s statements. Have you noticed how the Republicans have an email newsletter entitled a “War College?” Are they at war with the federal government?

  2. Richard Schriever 2021-12-08

    SD’s entire existence as part of the US and as a state at all is due entirely to government (Louisiana Purchase, Lweis and Clark, homestead act, railroad land grants, and so on). 100%.

  3. Mark Anderson 2021-12-08

    Cory, the feds need to watch how much money they give to South Dakota. Like any teenager without a job, Noem will spend it all and ask for more.

  4. Nick Nemec 2021-12-08

    A 6′ diameter culvert in a road (199th Street, between 327th Ave and 328th Ave) that leads to my daughter and son-in-law’s house here on the Nemec Ranch has concerned me for years. It is decades old, barely wider than the road it is installed in, and the bottom is rusted out. It is a potential travel hazard, is at risk of washing out during a high runoff event and has steep straight down for 10 feet drop-offs within inches of each side of the road. This culvert could be a killer if it washed out some night and a motorist (potentially a member of my family) drove the road before the washout was discovered and the road blocked.

    I have talked to the Hyde County Road Superindent over the years about this culvert and they are aware of it but never had the money to replace this dangerous, but still barely servicable culvert. Last week the superintendent told me he expects to get infrastructure money and will replace this culvert sometime next year. Thanks Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress. Kristy Noem, John Thune, Mike Rounds and Dusty Johnson didn’t feel a new culvert and safer road into the Nemec Ranch and the rest of our neighborhood was important enough to vote for.

  5. mike from iowa 2021-12-08

    SOCIALIST South Duhkota!

  6. Eve Fisher 2021-12-08

    We also need a non-partisan outside committee to watch how the funds are actually spent. Federal $$$ have a tendency to disappear in South Dakota – right into the supposed agency heads’ pockets…

  7. RST Tribal Member 2021-12-08

    When a person looks in the mirror and declares that’s the pretty face in the room. That face better stay in that room. Venturing out that face will be looking at reality, which could be ugly.

    The fairy tale woven by the inbred Republicans for past decades in Pierre will some day come undone when their kind gets control of Congress and the White House, as South Dakota is a welfare state getting more from the federal gov’t then what employees pay in. South Dakota turned to alcohol, gambling, sky high usury credit card interests, sales tax, keeper of dirty money and other stealth economical activities to stay afloat. The freeloaders in Washington knew the various stimulus legislations would go through and decide to sit on the sidelines with their little hands out (little hands trend started by 45 now everyone wants little hands).

    Luckily South Dakota population is small. The people for the most part are hard working stiffs who get fooled every couple years with scary ads and big words. Like Charlie Brown, Lucy and a football.

    As state government becomes the largest employer around it will be a matter of time before that bubble pops. The bully gov knows her time is coming in 2024 to be the right hand man/gal of a fool. Or she might be second fiddle to Rounds servicing self, family and state in that order. Or, hopefully the voters will send her back to carrying a flag at rodeos in 2022.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-12-08

    Bill, they are at war with logic, science, equality, and democracy.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-12-08

    Nick points out a great practical benefit of having Democrats in charge… and the danger caused by the perpetual neglect with which South Dakota Republicans govern.

  10. mike from iowa 2021-12-08

    Bill, Power’s blog is the Fake Noize of South Duhkota. Every butthurt magats runs there to get their little feelers massaged, just like the big leagues.

  11. Allen Jeris 2021-12-08

    Still waiting to see what they are going to do to help out those with student debt….

  12. Porter Lansing 2021-12-08

    Is telling half-truths to make yourself look good, your state look good, and your supporters feel good the job of a politician?

    Maybe …

    Depends on how one defines a politician, I suppose.

  13. jerry 2021-12-08

    Ruh oh, the Nag’s billions in hidden trust money is about to see daylight. Tax those cheats. Let’s Go Biden!! Booyah!!

    “Advocates for greater financial transparency urged House lawmakers to make sure a recently-announced initiative from President Joe Biden’s administration sweeps trusts into reporting requirements for law enforcement and financial regulators.

    “Letting this accumulation of hidden wealth go unchecked will only exacerbate our two-tier tax system,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat who chairs the subcommittee. “I will not be complicit in further-cementing a have and have-not economy.”

  14. ABC 2021-12-08

    Lie about Joe Biden. Take HIS money. Lie about that.

    Threaten to take away and adulterate the people’s right to create law by voting, and throttle the people’s passed Recreational marijuana bill, she joins Dauuuuuugaaard as Dangerous Republican. They have no honor. The people’s vote means nothing to them.

    Time to have many people Run against the Welfare Lady (not a Queen) and replace her.

  15. Scott 2021-12-08

    I’ve never understood government bashing, since we are the government and all one does when you bash government is bash yourself. Now if you are an elected governor and you bash government, you are bashing everybody in your state.

    Expanding on Richard comments, if it was not for government, SD would not have a tourism industry since Mount Rushmore would not exist, nor would state parks, and the dams on the Missouri River that attract fisherman to SD.

    Most of rural America would not have power if not for government. Now government is helping rural American get high speed internet.

    If you look at what government has done over the years, government is actually very amazing. If it was not for government, you would have to turn back the clocks probably 80-100 years.

  16. grudznick 2021-12-08

    Mr. Scott is righter than right. Were it not for a government employee, the late Mr. Robinson, not the current one who works for the government, we would not have the Mountain Named Rushmore, into which is carved the Shrine of Democracy. And were it not for Mr. Robinson, again grudznick refers to Doane Robinson, he of the superior coif, we would not have the Crazy Horse carving, which is slowly, so very slowly, being carved into Thunderhead Mountain.

  17. DaveFN 2021-12-08

    Excellent job deconvoluting/deconstructing/unpacking Noem’s parsimonious distortions, Cory. No one has done it better than yourself.

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