Sunday, May 12, 2019

South Dakota Democrats And Evangelicals Should Drink More Whisky And Listen To Mayor Pete

It's Mother's Day, so the best thing one should do is discuss whisky, politics, and religion. What bad can happen?

This morning, I watched two YouTube videos that I would urge every South Dakota Democrat and evangelical to watch.

One was Mayor Pete Buttigieg's speech at the Las Vegas Human Rights Campaign Dinner. It was an excellent speech. He discussed what he calls "a crisis of belonging." He alluded to the fact that many of the nation's excluded citizens are being divided by metaphoric walls that allow them to "get divided and carved up." In order to prevent divisions from continuing, Buttigieg asked the audience to be willing "to stand hand in hand with people just like you and people not at all like you." In short Buttigieg reminded people to tell person stories that welcomed rather than excluded.

Buttigieg enunciated a simple truth; politics is personal and people want their stories heard. Serendipitously, the second YouTube video I watched feature two Whisky YouTubers, Erik Wait and Daniel Whittington, who discussed "Telling the Story of Whisky." Throughout their entertaining conversation about the need for story, Whittington made two important points. First, "story doesn't eliminate information; story gives information context." A little later Whittington said directly what Buttigieg alluded to: "No one cares about your story. They care about how you become part of their story." In short, tell stories that help people belong.

During this century, I recall only a handful of South Dakota Democratic candidates who were decent story tellers  There have been some good policy wonks who had a great command of the facts and some good policy positions. There were a few entertainers who could cleverly turn a phrase,  but storytellers have been rare. Meanwhile, Kristi Noem et al. were going full Horatio Alger. Maybe it's because Democrats apparently prefer clear spirits, but if they want to reverse their fortunes in the state, they need to start telling better stories that gives information context.

It is a Sunday, and and any discussion of story makes me think of two old hymns: "Tell Me the Story of Jesus" and "I Love to Tell the Story." I do wish the evangelical folk who used to sing those songs regularly would get back to telling the story of Jesus and recognizing that Trump's lies are not coherent stories. I also wish they's recognize that every time they tell the story of Trump, people who seek to be part of Christ's story are driven away from grace.

Everybody else who is sick of politics and religion, go watch this video of the greatest whisky speech ever.

Friday, May 10, 2019

South Dakota At Risk For Severe Job Losses

On Wednesday, Governor Noem tweeted,
The cynical among us might wonder why scores of businesses offering high paying jobs are not racing to the state, but it's #SmallBusinessWeek, so criticizing Governor Noem for celebrating a meaningless statistic seems to be bad form.

Today, Axios points out that automation will likely wreck havoc on jobs in the Midwest.
  • A quarter of all jobs across the U.S. have high chance of being wiped out by automation.
  • The five states with the highest share of at-risk jobs are Indiana (29%), Kentucky (29%), South Dakota (28%), Arkansas (28%), and Iowa (28%) — all of which went for President Trump in 2016.
  • Compare that to the bottom five: New York (20%), Maryland (20%), Massachusetts (21%), Connecticut (22%) and New Mexico (22%), all of which went for Hillary Clinton.
But the extent of the hit to middle America is even clearer when zooming in to the county level.
  • For example, in Jerauld County, South Dakota, 53% of jobs are hanging in the balance.
  • 48% of jobs are vulnerable in Scott County, Miss.; 48% in Dakota County, Neb.; and 46% in Colfax County, Neb.[emphasis mine]
Axios concludes, "To absorb the coming disruption, the government and corporations will have to take charge of reskilling and upskilling huge swaths of displaced workers."

There's little hope that corporations concerned about only the bottom line will bring jobs to a state that needs a quarter of its workforce retrained unless the state is willing to help shoulder the cost of retraining.  Over the past few sessions, the South Dakota legislature spent more time arguing about useless resolutions, placing the national motto in schools, civics classes, guns, and chislec than it has about funding K-12 education. There's less hope that legislators or Governor Noem will suddenly decide to fund the retraining of workers.

A Minor Musing About South Dakota's Brain Drain

A few weeks back, the Constant Commoner posted about a United States Congress's Joint Economic Committee  study on the "brain drains" in the United States. South Dakota, contrary to popular belief, is not 49th in everything. In 2017, the state had the second highest gross and third highest net departure of highly educated or highly skilled residents.

The problem starts at the top. Former Governor Daugaard routinely mocked those pursuing degrees in philosophy. In her 2012 congressional race, Governor Noem implied winning "the South Dakota Young Leader Award from the South Dakota Soybean Association" was a superior achievement to earning a Masters degree from Cambridge. If one values the life of the mind or a world class education, the message that one should leave is crystal clear.

While there may not be a trickle down effect in economics, there is one in culture. Thirty years in the classroom has taught me that intelligent kids are the ones who stretch the boundaries and the rules to the breaking point. As a rural state South Dakota creates many spaces for functionaries to develop "big fish in a small pond" syndrome. Whether it be overly uptight county commissioners, school administrators, mayors, sheriffs, or Speaker Haugaards, many of these wannabes will decry Nicholas Maduro's socialism but covet his power to squelch dissent. They have one response to everyone who questions their policies or offers suggestions for improvement: "if you don't like, leave."

In his Constant Commoner post, John Tristan made the economic point, so I won't repeat that here. The brain drain hurts South Dakota, but it will continue because the state's leadership want it to.