If I throw out the term �trickle-down economics� you likely will immediately think of President Ronald Reagan.
�Trickle down� became a popular bit of political rhetoric during the Reagan years, used by many to describe Reagan�s propensity to support tax breaks to big business and the wealthy with the belief that such benefits would eventually be felt by nearly everyone as businesses, with a boost in capital, would supposedly create more jobs and eventually more wealth.
The �trickle down� terminology has been around a lot longer that, actually. It has been attributed to humorist Will Rogers, who said during the Great Depression that �money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.�
It would be interesting to hear the comments Rogers would make if he was living in South Dakota today, and had been immersed in the recent goings-on with the state Legislature in Pierre.
State lawmakers have succeeded in turning the �trickle down� theory completely inside out and then actually make it become reality. �Trickle down,� in South Dakota, has nothing to do with investment. Or reinvestment, for that matter.
It has to do with deinvestment, which is a word that probably won�t be found in my dictionary. Let�s just call this new term one more part of the mission accomplished by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the overwhelmingly partisan, Republican majorities in both houses of the state Legislature.
I�m not about to diminish the challenge that lawmakers face. I�m not even going to bring up the fact that Daugaard never said a peep about pending severe state budget cuts during his gubernatorial campaign last year.
We balanced the state budget. I suppose I should be sitting here at my keyboard, shouting �Yippee� (thankfully, the door to my office is closed and no one would wonder what the hell is going on in here if I did that).
There�s a problem, though. The Legislature really didn�t �balance� anything. They simply decided that the state should continue, at an even greater pace, to step back financially from many of things the state Constitution says we are obligated to do.
Like provide a free public education to potentially every child in the state.
The state has decided to do that by deinvesting in education. In other words, they�ve shifted, once again, more and more of the burden to funding public education to, well, us.
You and me. Taxpayers who, year after year, pony up to provide basic services to our nation, state and local community. Including a quality education. We�ve even chosen to opt out of the property tax freeze in our district � twice � to support education.
So, when you hear the term �mission accomplished� used to describe the job the Legislature did earlier this year balancing the state budget, take a minute to look at the numbers. There are a lot of them in the school board story you�ll find on the front page of today�s Plain Talk.
The state did find $12.2 million in one-time money (Yippee! Again.) so that school districts wouldn�t experience a 10 percent cut in funding for 2011-12. But in the process, they managed to soak the Vermillion School District for about $462,000.
It will mean reductions in services. It will mean cutting staff. Some faculty who, just perhaps (I certainly don�t wish to speak for them) were hoping to maybe work just a bit longer before retiring have decided it�s time to step away from careers they love.
Teachers, of course, aren�t the highest paid people in town to begin with. So communities like Vermillion can count on them to be careful with their money, to not squander it. When they do need to spend, it likely happens in the shops and grocery stores and gas stations and restaurants of the community that supports them.
The deinvestment made by lawmakers in Pierre and signed into law by the governor is the opposite of a stimulus. If you think the economy of Vermillion is suddenly going to be awash in milk and honey because our state budget was balanced by not investing in education, think again.
Mission accomplished � indeed.