Friday, August 26, 2011

South Dakota Needs More Liberals

The prolific and indefatigable Cory Heidelberger has added the writing of a South Dakota Magazine column to his regular posting at The Madville Times.  I'm happy for Cory, but when I next see him, I will, of course, FACETIOUSLY accuse him of selling out like some great indie band that recorded a pop album just to get mainstream acclaim.

Cory's intro post explains why he is a proud denizen of the political left.  He also asks but does not answer "Is there a 'left wing' in our state?"  I will now take the role of the smart aleck student who answers what is surely a rhetorical question: "There is nothing resembling an organized political Left in South Dakota!"

Senator Tim Johnson is the lone Democrat to hold a major office.  The state senate features only five Democrats; the party holds fewer than one-third of the seats in the state house.  Off the top of my head, I can think of only two members of the state legislature that I would consider "liberals" or "leftists" as those terms are currently used: Representative Frank Kloucek and Senator Angie Buhl.

I want an organized liberal opposition in South Dakota not because I'm part of the left but because I enjoy occupying the center.  Right now, the absence of a viable left produces little but bad policy options like a sales tax increase to fund education and Medicaid.

South Dakota may need to increase taxes to fund education, but the sales tax is a regressive tax.  South Dakota multiplies that regressivity by not exempting groceries.  In fact, The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy lists South Dakota as one the nation's 10 most regressive states.  Should this tax pass, the state will become more regressive not less.

If there were a liberal opposition with a chance of gaining a majority in either the state senate or house, it's possible that the conservative Republican majority would have to move to the center.  Now, they move the state's political center to the right.  The result of that political movement is that the people least able to pay will may be forced to spend more on necessities.

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