South Dakota vs. California, who won? – Daily News

on Jul19
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“Mailbag” gives offers some insight into comments I get from my readers — good, bad or in-between — and my thoughts about the feedback.

My recent column suggesting South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem work on her state rather than criticize California in a churlish Facebook post heated up my inbox. Opinions varied wildly from “bull” or “blather” to “brilliant” or “insightful.” Here’s a sampling …

Reader: “I am sick and tired of non-California or previous-California folks bashing our state.”

Me: Agreed. Though one must listen. The state-by-state differences are what our nation’s founders envisioned, a collection of places offering different lifestyles.

Reader: “I love this state but it is not the state I grew up in. I am relocating for all the reasons you point out and fail to point out.”

Me: Another reader wrote, “As an independent voter who understands our state could do much better, I have also lived beyond our borders and can confidently say I would live nowhere else but California.”

Reader: “My second home is in Idaho and that is really America.  I would move to South Dakota. I believe it, too, is the real America.”

Me: Are you talking about the United States of America? I hope part of this sentiment is not because 82% of Idaho’s population is non-Hispanic White, and South Dakota is 81% White. Meanwhile, in California? We’re just 37% White!

Reader: “Many people live here because they are stuck here.”

Me: Often, when I reply to such comments, the response I get suggests California’s “stickiness” can be tied to a job or family nearby, which are not horrible reasons to stay somewhere.

Reader: “We have a governor (Gavin Newsom) who is facing a recall while Noem is very popular in South Dakota.”

Me: I’ll quote a reader, “She is a South Dakota joke! I am from South Dakota.”

Reader: “If the wealthiest Americans should be allowed to keep more of their money, I think it’s only fair that the wealthiest states be allowed to keep more of their money.”

Me: Yes. Many low-tax states get more from Uncle Sam than citizens pay in federal taxes. Citizens of wealthy states like California pay more to the IRS than their states get back — funds that keep the flow of federal cash to allegedly “small government” states.

Reader: “Maybe it is time for Californians to avoid travel and spending money in Trump areas.”

Me: The freedom to spend is a powerful tool. Economic “boycotts” are fine by me. But, remember, it flows both way. So our state’s tourism community might not want to hear such talk!

Reader: “Why do you perpetuate the myth that California has a budget surplus when California is deeply indebted” to its pension plans.

Me: Fitch Ratings called the state’s long-term liabilities, including pension debts: “a moderate burden.” California pensions are 72% underfunded, a mid-range No. 25 among all of the states, says Truth In Accounting. Congratulations to South Dakota, with pension plans that are 99% funded — highest rate in the U.S.

Reader: “California doesn’t even rate as a bucket list item, although the homeless seem to enjoy it.” 

Me: We have a hard-to-fix homelessness problem because the typical Californian’s NIMBY solutions involve placing whatever might be done on the other side of town.

Readers: One writes “the size of California and its economy vs. South Dakota’s is a pointless and petty argument” as another says of population exits, “I would take (South Dakota’s) loss of 29,000 per year compared to (California’s) 630,000.”

Me: Which California numbers are pointless? Only good trends with big numbers? That’s why ratios work. Noem’s criticism highlighted California departures, but a South Dakotan is twice as likely to leave for another state as is a Golden State resident.

Reader: “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

Me: Ah, the phrase popularized (though not originated) by Mark Twain. I’ll let another reader answer: “I appreciated your data-based approach. Facts are in little supply in our divided world where opinion masquerades as universal truth.”

Reader: “Excellent takedown on South Dakota!!  Can you please continue these for each Republican-controlled state?”

Me: Hmmnnnnnn …

Reader: “We have a state that has so much to be proud of — a diverse population, to mention one. A lot of us have a more liberal viewpoint that welcomes others no matter their sexual orientation, color or ethnic background — which I think is a contrast to some states. And we might even welcome someone from South Dakota (LOL)!”

Me: Amen.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at

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