Wednesday, February 18, 2009

North Dakota And The Stimulus

WARNING: The following post is both epic in length and link-heavy.

North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan's office released a fact sheet today detailing what the recently passed stimulus will mean for the state. Below are the some of the highlights and my commentary.
  • 8,000 Jobs Saved or Added
This is a great goal. But if North Dakota was really worried about creating jobs, it would do a lot more to make the state attractive to new businesses. Between stifling regulations (*) and high corporate taxation, the state's own policies toward business do more to kill potential job growth than any recession.
  • A Combined $145.9M for Public and Higher Education

North Dakota has suffered from TMATP Syndrome (**) for a long time. Despite decreasing enrollment in public schools, education has seen enormous increases in spending over the years. On top of that, budget increases in higher education is out of control despite ever-soaring tuition spawning calls for the state legislature to set tuition rates, rather than leaving it to the university system.

  • $24.5M for Energy

Undoubtedly the energy we're talking about is corn-based ethanol and wind power. Despite the fact that corn-based ethanol is not nearly as efficient or cheap as ethanol based on, say, switchgrass. The truth is, corn based ethanol only competes with plain old unleaded in North Dakota because tax payers are already subsidizing it to make it cheap. Now taxpayers all over the country get to help out. Thanks, rest of America.

  • $25.8M for the Weatherization Assistance Program

Wait, what? I don't know what this is, as the governor's fact sheet doesn't mention beyond the big chunk of change we're getting for it. I found this explanation at the Department of Energy website. I think this is actually good if it will reduce the ever-rising cost of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

  • $2.6B in aid to Native Americans

Just some honest questions here. How much money does the Native American population in North Dakota as a whole have at their disposal from casinos? I realize there are separate tribes and everything. I just have no idea how these finances get used. Also, is budgeting money to give to soverign nations like, say, the Lakota, the same as giving money to Poland? I honestly don't know how this works. Anybody know?

  • $32M for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The rest of the entry reads (formerly Food Stamps). Love that they've come up with an unnecessary and overly long replacement name. Plus, I can imagine this exchange:

Person A: "Are you on food stamps?"

Person B: "No, I'm on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program"

Person A: "Oh, SNAP!"

I kill me.

  • $163,398 for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program

Just wanted to point how small this number is compared to everything else.

There's also some tax credits in there and some protection for about 29,000 North Dakotans from the Alternative Minimum Tax. I may be one of those (at least I hope so). I wish the federal government would just get rid of that thing instead of amending it every year after public outcry. At least set it to a reasonable amount for 2010 and then tie it to inflation.

Anyway, if you read this whole thing, congratulations! You were either brain damaged when you started or you've been made so during the journey. If you still retain the ability to type, let me know what you think about the stimulus.

(*) I'm remembering The Winery, a local business, which was being forced to close recently because of a law that forced a certain percentage of the grapes used in the wine to be from local sources. Surprisingly, North Dakota is not known for its grape production. The law was amended in time to save the business, thankfully, but it's this type of thoughtless regulation that kills businesses.

(**) TMATP Syndrome (n.) Throw Money At The Problem. Pronounced "Tee-mat-pee".


  1. I heard there were so many federal strings attached to the "stimulus" money to the states that the Gov of Louisiana (bobby jindal)may refuse some or all of the money. Problem is they haven't been able to identify all the strings yet. As expected, the "stimulus" is very heavy on Govt control...which is anything but a true stimulus.

  2. They also managed to sneak in some language at the end to try and counter what Jindal is threatening to do. Basically, a state legislature can override such a refusal. I hope he does it, because I'd love to see the fight go to court. There's no way such a clause can be constitutional.

  3. What a joke...can't we just get some politicians that actually give a crap about the country instead of their party politics?

    While it will never happen, I'm a firm believer that most politicians (aka civil servants) should be part-time. Because full-time politicians most always serve themselves. Minnesota has proven that.

  4. Where's the "stimulus" in this stimulus package? i don't see how the vast majority of this spending is going to do anything towards jump starting the economy. It looks like it's just welfare. It's socialism disguised as a "stimulus" package.


  5. It's a giant pork sandwich, made with pork stuffed with pork using two slice of pork for bread and covered with pork sauce.

    There's been a lot of talk lately that Republicans know they have to get back to the small government / fiscal responsibility planks in the GOP platform and are trying to do that. But, to quote myself from another blog, "nobody who voted for this bill should call themselved conservative and no conservative should identify with Republicans as long as the GOP stays on this path".

  6. Man...i should've had a pork sandwich tonight!!! :-)

    It's a band-aid. Just like the real estate bailouts...many of those same people that received some assistance a few months back are now having trouble keeping up with their mortgage payments again. I think they should have let the recession run its course, instead of pumping soon to be worth less dollars into this mess as a feeble attempt to "do something". To quote a friend of mine: "You can't make frosting out of sh*t."