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Hertz: If SD Economy Is So Great, Where Are the Investments in Solutions to Social Problems?

Kelly Hertz of the Yankton Press and Dakotan wonders why South Dakota’s elected officials don’t translate their “sunny talk” about our “robust economy” into real investments to address multiple economic shortcomings:

For instance, when the possibility of repealing South Dakota’s food tax was brought up in the District 18 legislative forum this week, several candidates came right out for it, and I never heard any outright opposition to the idea. However, there was cautious skepticism from some candidates about how the state would replace that $100 million in lost revenue (a gap that will trickle down to local governments, too). That IS a big question, as I noted in Wednesday’s editorial, but the doubt, which was not imprudent, seemed to belie the nearly self-congratulatory economic tone I’ve been hearing from around the state recently.

The same goes with Medicaid expansion, which, according to, would help an estimated 45,000 South Dakotans afford health care and could produce savings and benefits in the long run. We’re one of 12 states that hasn’t adopted this, even though Medicaid expansion is 90% funded by the federal government. South Dakota has so far resisted the 10% cost commitment, thus leaving an estimated $384 million in federal funding on the table. Medicaid expansion is on the ballot next week (and this column is not an endorsement of that measure), but the continued resistance seems odd amidst all the talk of our strong economic standing and AAA credit rating, the latter of which is actually quite an accomplishment.

Let’s also mention a long-sought, state-funded preschool program. South Dakota is one of seven states that doesn’t offer this, even though the advantages of preschool for young, developing minds are considerable and attractive. Yankton understands this since the school district now offers a free pre-kindergarten pilot program. Again, it’s an investment that can produce broad benefits, but South Dakota as a state remains on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, teacher pay here remains an embarrassment. After ranking last in the nation for three decades in this category, we climbed out of the cellar with the help of a half-cent sales tax increase approved in 2016. But we failed to maintain the funding that enabled school districts to continue boosting pay, and now we’re back in familiar, last-place territory [Kelly Hertz, editorial: “South Dakota Economic Talk and Our Economic Issues,” Yankton Press and Dakotan, 2022.11.03].

What good is a strong economy if we aren’t using that strength to solve problems?

Having a strong economic ledger is a real positive, but it’s not the endgame of governmental fiscal prudence; otherwise, it’s a little like bragging about the high-end house you own in the lake area but can only afford if you eat just once a week. Rather, it’s what that financial standing can do for the people, both in the short term and the long run, that really counts [Hertz, 2022.11.03].

South Dakota relies too much on magical economics: pray to the Invisible Hand (and throw corporations and friends some subsidies) and hope things just work themselves out. But even Adam Smith recognized that we still need government action to solve problems that a healthy free market alone will not. South Dakota’s elected officials forget that, even when their magical thinking pays off in some economic growth, they still have to make plans and execute policies to solve social problems.


  1. jim 2022-11-04 07:16

    Medicaid expansion has been available for about eight years, I believe. South Dakota’s legislature could have passed it back then. How much money would that have brought in? And how many additional people would have been covered over those years?

    I don’t get it. Why do Republican politicians think it’s okay to accept subsidies for farmers or government grants for businesses and local governments, but they often refuse to help the lower or middle income citizen. 90% of Medicaid expansion is covered by the federal government – and they say NO?

    Once again, South Dakota voters will have to act because our legislature won’t.

  2. M 2022-11-04 07:29

    Pretty sad that some teachers who retired before the bump in pay in 2016 are living on pensions and social security yet are below the national poverty line. Fellow teachers who are early and mid 70s are going back to work part time to make ends meet.

    Yet, they are well off compared to so many others in this area. Social services here has a line of elderly people and others in dire poverty looking for resources. There are so many people who don’t receive assistance or have no idea how to get help. Our rural areas are showing signs of reduced economic activity as more mini casinos, pawn shops, bars, and $ Generals sprout up. There are fewer clothing, food, and family establishments and those that exist have limited hours. We’ve suffered from brain drain with fewer families, so our school dropped enrollment by 50 students.

    The local paper is full of obituaries, and I always look at their age. I read once that people of poverty in S.D. have an unusually low life expectancy. 47 years is the average for native men in our state. Pitiful but that’s S.D.

  3. Richard Schriever 2022-11-04 08:29

    In SD, working government is OF the people only. No believers in “by” or “for” need apply for the paying job. Those are strictly volunteer positions only.

  4. grudznick 2022-11-04 09:52

    It is good that people are talking about South Dakota’s economy.
    We have all heard how it is the strongest one out there.

  5. leslie 2022-11-04 09:54

    why would republicans support billionaires and their desires over governing the welfare of 850,000 South Dakotans?

    i have sat in hotel breakfast tables for two weeks now and hear ordinary traveling Americans echo republican talking points all across the country.

    people like RC’s don frankenfeld (grdz apparently) should be ashamed. Stan adelstein’s republicanism has hurt the entire nation’s ordinary Americans and NOW he realizes, with all his millions of $$$, it.

  6. All Mammal 2022-11-04 11:27

    Astro physicist and quite sensible guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson says there are 3 types of truths people espouse:
    1. Personal truth, by faith.
    2. Political truth, by incessant repetition.
    3. Objective truth, by evidence.
    Pert near every person I interact with outside who visits me at my house are mired in personal and political truth. I want to tell them thinking won’t hurt you. Even thinking really hard is painless. It is actually what your brain is there for. But, they still get their “truth” from tiktok and their twitter or facebook feed. So they all sound the same, just like Leslie pointed out. And they are proud of the fact they do not think and produce any objective truth. Madness. Makes me want to go all “This is Sparta!” and doink on their azzes. Or do it to their phones they are constantly face-fvcking.

  7. bearcreekbat 2022-11-04 11:34

    jim makes a great point. I would add that not only is, “90% of Medicaid expansion is covered by the federal government,” 100% was covered for the 1st three years after the enactment of the ACA, and the coverage was gradually reduced to 90% over several years. SD Republican wasted a tremendous opportunity for revenue that would have helped literally thousands of South Dakotans with their health needs. Go figure.

  8. Mark Anderson 2022-11-04 11:42

    All Mammal, the Republican party makes their own reality. They believe it, and live in it. It’s sad and has nothing to do with factual information. It never will.

  9. grudznick 2022-11-04 11:46

    Ms. Leslie, you should stay out of hotel continental breakfast rooms and hit the real breakfast joints of the world, like the Mud Hole and Ron’s Cafe, and of course Tally’s. There you would get the real take.

  10. O 2022-11-04 11:55

    Let’s not fall into the trap of silo thinking. To our GOP neighbors, taxes ARE the social problem. We can get together in our thinking on cutting taxes on groceries because we know that will help the working poor and our conservative friends just like tax cuts. “Investing in social problems” is a tough pill for them to swallow because that is up against more tax cuts. Decades of demonizing the “welfare queens” and lionizing the “job creators” undermines the premise of Hertz’s position.

    To M’s point (and others), how we measure the economy matters. Grudznick and his GOP tunnel-vision ilk speak of the strongest economy, but base that on paying lowest taxes. I keep hearing that voters vote based on economic issues; I only wish they would look in their OWN wallets and pay stubs to determine how THEY are doing instead of being told by the 1% how great the wealthy are doing as the metric of an economy.

  11. All Mammal 2022-11-04 12:53

    The Mudhole opens a can for their gravy too, Mr. G. They also use paper plates and a microwave and smell like old suitcases something fierce.

  12. grudznick 2022-11-04 14:21

    The old suitcases add to the ambiance of the dining experience, Ms. Mammal. And if you sit in the back you can almost taste the must right along with the sausage gravy. Would you really want to eat off re-usable plates there, and rely on the dishwasher to have done as good a job as they do at the Campbell Street Cafe? I’ll take a couple paper plates, please, so the gravy doesn’t soak through.

  13. All Mammal 2022-11-04 16:13

    Morningside Cafe. I prefer my cook to wear a leather duster to go out to smoke after he has his pot and pan clanking, cussing episode. The madder the cook the more scrumptious the breakfast.

  14. leslie 2022-11-05 09:25

    You don’t get it. All across the country people are traveling. Nobody cares about your gravy dreams. Your silo of “common sense” and “patriots” is disinformation. Simple as that.

    Ordinary people. They are brought together every morning in a different place with other diverse, polite people they have never met. With the exception of the paramilitary types playing macho dress-up, the rest share snippets of grand kids, jobs, great waffles (the travel hotel-style so popular now), and amazingly dance around politics despite the morning news shows on the big screens in these hotel-chain, self-serve community dining rooms. Morning, and evening too. We brought the guitars out!

    Your ilk are instead plotting to take over school districts, buying guns and ammo for some delirious civil war dreams. Yeah, Talley Winters, and his boys, where it is too loud to think, repetition of stale meaningless Republican talking points avoid reality, and in your “wisdom and common sense” you turn your back on three years of federal medical care, deny food stamps, and a 450,000 women a choice. Yeah.

    btw the last time i was at that RC campbell street diner w/ a big ‘ole Lakota extended family, 2016, paper plates and plastic were the dinner ware. You don’t even know if It’s all a fantasy you spin, with dollops of racism and misogyny.

    Ms.—my ass. You are no different than LCJ or however who likes to hurt me personally with his —“lie” troupe. Your party has no substantive stand and the media is calling you out!

  15. All Mammal 2022-11-05 13:01

    That is clean and precise, Leslie. Last weekend while at a fine continental breakfast in Montana, I realized the lamentations for high fuel prices were fantasy issues since the room was packed. Nobody sure seems to be staying put due to such massive, President Biden caused fuel costs. There was even fresh fruit to take along on our travels and I could write a whole new verse to Louie Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World based on the beautiful scene I felt privileged to be a part of last weekend. The simple fact we were together and had a bounty from the good Earth makes a crusty Republican dear to me instantly when we lock eyes and communicate good morning.

  16. ABC 2022-11-06 11:03

    Social programs will be invested in by us!

    Start your own legislature foe $1.19!

    No elections, no laws passed, no taxes levied. Start one today! Fund the best programs you can find, or create your new program or ultra project!

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