News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Legislators work mightily to uphold and express the great South Dakota intellectual tradition

Graduates of the Dakota Voice/South Dakota Politics School of  Intellectual Excellence, Public Service, Rhetorical Skill, General Literacy, and Charm put on a letter-writing recital recently.  Oh, did they perform.

Argus Leader reporter Jill Callison has an account of it on her blog.  The theme of the recital was set by USD history professor Steve Bucklin.  Professor Bucklin sent a letter to a number of legislators in protest to how education has been targeted by the state GOP for further budget cuts.  Professor Bucklin's  letter read:

I am writing this as a state employee, but my comments reflect my opinions, not those of the administration of the University of South Dakota where I am employed. If South Dakota's government approves not only a third year with no raises for state employees, but a 10% cut for education, I see no recourse for me but to boycott all South Dakota businesses and business owners who support such ill-conceived policies. I will purchase my family's groceries at Sam's Club in Sioux City; I will buy all my gasoline in Nebraska; I will have my taxes done in Larchwood; I will purchase all clothing over the internet; I think you get the idea. In addition, I will call upon family and friends to do the same until such time as the policy changes.

Please do what you can to find a responsible budget that includes pay raises for state employees that will enable them to continue to pump dollars into the state economy.

The first recipient was Rep. Brian Gosch, a Republican from Rapid City.  Rep. Gosch replied:

I will give the Department of Revenue a heads up that you will be making purchases over the internet so that they can be sure to collect the use tax under SD law.

This model of a masterful grasp of the issue raised,  coherence,  responsible public service, and brevity was provided a counterpoint by a second recipient of the letter,  R. Shawn Tornow, representative from District 14 in Sioux Falls:

Please know that your e-mail threats do nothing to advance the careful and deliberate budget considerations currently taking place in Pierre.  In addition, your childlike threats are, at best, oxymoronic in practical effect.  I trust that your ill-conceived and self-serving ideas are kept to yourself as you are compensated by South Dakota taxpayer dollars to teach (and to not otherwise misinform or indoctrinate) our university students.  

By the way, for what it may be worth, it's my understanding that the minimal legislative pay that is offered to state legislators ($6,000 per year) has been effectively "frozen" since 1998 (i.e., a 12+ year pay freeze).  In addition, given the state's current challenging budget status, I along with a number of my House colleagues have agreed to co-sponsor a bill to reduce legislative pay by 10% for FY 2012.  While I certainly understand that legislative pay is only a very, very small part of the overall state spending problem - the larger point is that at some point in time people need to step forward to try to be part of the solution rather than a continued part of the problem of overspending our limited taxpayer resources here in South Dakota.  Idly threatening to pay (or actually paying) additional taxes in Iowa or Nebraska does absolutely nothing toward solving South Dakota's budget challenges.  If you are in fact ever-so intent on paying those other state's taxes - by all means, please feel free to take the next logical step to further join them by actually moving out of state so you can similarly "enjoy" paying our neighboring state's burdensome state income taxes as well.   

Suffice it to say, having graduated a number of years ago from the University of South Dakota Business School and, later, from the USD School of Law, I'm disheartened to be considered an alum from an instituition where this type of hollow and self-centered thought process would be not only contemplated as any type of logical communication but actually sent to state policymakers for legislative consideration.

Those replies come from denizens of South Dakotas huge centers of urbanity.  Not to be outdone by those slicker-types, R. Brock Greenfield, Republican from Clark, gives the Main Street point-of-view:

You do have other means of recourse.  You may choose to seek employment elsewhere.  The states of California and Illinois may be eutopias (sic) for you and your family.

I wish you well.  Have a good boycott of main street businesses in the state that has provided you with employment.  I would encourage you to make darn certain you agree with the policies decisions in the jurisdictions of Sioux City, Larchwood, and wherever you purchase your gas from in Nebraska.

P.S.  I think it is reasonable that if you go off half-cocked based upon the Governor's proposal that I offer an equally rational response.  No decisions have been made yet, Dr. Bucklin, but based on your e-mail, I would surmise that you are an elitist with an entitlement mentality.  I have been in office for eleven years, but seldom have I received an e-mail that tells me so much about a person in so few words.

Notice how cleverly and eloquently the respondents work in South Dakota's state anthem, which is:  "You got a problem in South Dakota?  Go elsewhere."  But notice, also, how deftly the singers of aspiration lace their songs of good will with such turns of phrase as elitist, entitlement mentality, half-cocked, misinform, indoctrinate, part of the solution rather than a continued part of the problem, hollow and sell-centered, childlike, oxymoronic, and other words of loft and inspiration.

The universities have a resource for offering master classes in constructive thought and verbal arts.  It is so reassuring to have the state run by such towering intellects and magnanimous, upstanding souls.

It does make one wonder if the state epidemiologist has any training in proctology to deal with things colorectal in Pierre when they go viral.

Workers hanging a portrait in the South Dakota Legislative Hall of Fame. 


Bob Ellis said...

Ah, if only I could claim these great minds as graduates of the Dakota Voice Institute for American Values, I would be greatly honored.

Alas, I cannot. They apparently learned these things at one or more of the same fine institutions I attended: The University of Common Sense, The Seminary for the Abeyance of Whining, and the Institute of American Principles.

Obviously they didn't attend the Marxist College of Sniveling and Entitlement that some in our state did. I believe you teach there, don't you?

David Newquist said...

Proverbs 17:13

Better to meet a she-bear robbed of its cubs than to confront a fool immersed in folly.

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