- Associated Press - Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, April 12

Homelessness is not a problem to ignore

A divorce, a serious illness, a mental health issue and bad luck put them on the streets, but they are far from alone.

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According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of homeless in the U.S. increased for the first time in seven years in 2017. In December, the federal government reported that 553,742 people were homeless on a single night, a 0.7 percent increase from 2016.

A statewide count on Jan. 23 showed that South Dakota had 1,159 homeless compared to 955 in January 2017. Of that total, 300 were counted in Rapid City, including 51 veterans and at least 41 children.

On Sunday, the Rapid City Journal told the stories of seven homeless people, which revealed that a bad break or two, a poor decision or family and health issues can put someone on the streets as easily as an alcohol or drug problem.

A 23-year-old woman with autism who survived an abusive relationship; a 51-year-old man who had a septic infection after gall bladder surgery, quit his job and now battles myriad health issues; a 58-year-old man suffering from cancer and diabetes; a recently divorced 41-year-old woman with no place to go; a 51-year-old woman raised as a foster child and now has no support network - these are among the stories of the homeless in Rapid City.

It is convenient to blame them for their plight. In doing so, the assumption is that it is always their fault and perhaps they even deserve their fate. If they were only willing to apply for even a $10 an hour job, the homeless problem would vanish. The truth, however, is that many people are only one or two unfortunate events away from living the nightmare of homelessness - adrift and preferably invisible to the rest of us.

Experts are expecting the problem will get worse in the future. Housing costs continue to rise across the country, which is certainly the case in Rapid City where even a two-bedroom apartment can cost as much as $1,000 a month with utilities. At the same time, wages remain stagnant, health care costs soar and affordable mental health care is largely unavailable.

Rapid City, however, does reach out to help the homeless. Organizations like Cornerstone Rescue Mission, the Hope Center, WAVI, the Salvation Army, Goodwill of the Great Plains and Feeding South Dakota are just some of the nonprofits that provide assistance to the homeless.

Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender and the city, meanwhile, are closely watching the efforts of the nonprofit Collective Impact, which wants to create a transformation center campus in town that would provide services - including temporary housing - in one location with the goal of returning the homeless to productive roles in society.

We, as individuals, can help, too. If you see a homeless person panhandling don’t look away; consider buying that person a meal or some food. If you want to donate money or help in other ways, give to the nonprofits who work with the homeless or become a volunteer.

Compassion should guide us when we confront homelessness. Giving is good for the soul and you never know when it might be you or someone you care about who finds themselves on the streets through no fault of their own and in desperate need of help and kindness.


Madison Daily Leader, April 6

Tariff wars come to South Dakota farms

A high stakes trade war is now in place between the United States and China. It may have a happy ending, but we think it could have a profoundly negative effect on the United States and South Dakota.

President Donald Trump told the U.S. trade representative Thursday to consider additional tariffs on $100 billion of Chinese goods. The move was intended to counter a Chinese plan to put tariffs on $50 billion of American goods, which was in response to a U.S. plan to tax an initial $50 billion in Chinese products.

The Chinese proposal includes tariffs on soybeans, which according to estimates, will be South Dakota’s largest crop in 2018. China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans, with roughly one-third of their imports coming from the United States. China accounts for 25 percent of all U.S. soybean sales.

The president has stated that he believes a trade war would benefit the U.S. manufacturers by discouraging imports from China. He’s also stated that a trade war would be “easy to win.”

Historically, trade wars have few winners. The most common effect is increased prices due to lower competition, then lower economic activity. Most economists agree that trade wars — and isolationism — following World War I contributed to the Great Depression.

As part of its proposal, China also indicated it will put tariffs on corn and beef, which are also important South Dakota products. Other U.S. tariffs imposed earlier include imported steel, aluminum and paper.

It’s possible the escalating trade war could get everyone’s attention, forcing the two countries to sit down and negotiate reasonable trade agreements. That’s the best case scenario.

Let’s hope that’s where this conflict ends up, and U.S. officials have indicated a negotiated outcome is still possible. A long-term economic fight between China and the United States would not help either of us.


Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, April 9

Soybean tariff would inflict broad pain

The stakes are growing in America’s escalating trade war threats with China, and America’s soybean producers fear they may be caught in the middle.

And if they are, they won’t be alone.

Last week, the Chinese government responded to President Donald Trump’s threat of imposing tariffs on some goods made in China by announcing a potential round of tariffs of its own, including a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybean imports. With China serving as the world’s largest international consumer of American soybeans, such a tariff threat carries with it potentially devastating consequences.

The essential role of soybeans as a foodstuff and as a political tool cannot be understated. According to Bloomberg News, soybeans are a protein-rich source used for feed in raising livestock, and that is particularly important in China, where the demand for meat is on the rise. Also, Chinese officials worry that a volatile food market for its massive and growing population could fuel political unrest, and that makes soybeans even more crucial. So, this potential tariff carries a substantial risk for China, too.

This tariff threat comes at a precarious moment for American crop producers. With corn prices low, soybeans have been seen as an economic cushion for many farmers. (Last year, American farmers reportedly planted more soybeans than corn for the first time ever.) A tariff could cripple America’s soybean industry; in turn, it could be a windfall for Brazil, which combines with the U.S. to feed 85 percent of China’s soybean appetite, and the European Union. This would cost the U.S. a valuable share of a lucrative market.

What’s more, such a hit on U.S. producers would have broad economic consequences for rural America. Nearly a quarter of this country’s soybean crop is sold annually to China, the Wall Street Journal reported. Such a loss in ag revenues usually means farmers spend less, which means there is less money circulating in rural communities.

“In farming communities, that pain (from a soybean tariff) will filter down to other businesses so it’s not just agriculture that will get hit,” said Dan Kowalski, vice president of CoBank. “It’s going to be everything from the local co-op to local law firms.”

President Trump appears to acknowledge this, but even this could create problems. Trump responded to China’s soybean tariff threat by ordering the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “to use his broad authority to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests.” That would strongly suggest more subsidization for soybean producers, which would almost certainly unleash criticism from other nations that already complain about the way the U.S. currently subsidizes its farmers, thus giving them what other nation’s claim is an unfair advantage in the global market.

Economist Intelligence Unit analyst Simon Baptist told CNBC, “It is basically impossible for the U.S. to be confident that any actions it takes will protect its agricultural sector from Chinese tariffs, given the ways that other countries will respond to it.”

The potential fallout from a Chinese tariff on soybeans could well have painful consequences for rural America. Perhaps all this is simply the Trump administration’s high-stakes attempt to draw China to the negotiating table to address trade issues that America (and other countries) have long had with Beijing. Or maybe there’s more behind it. (On Monday, when discussing the potential tariff’s impact on U.S. farmers, Trump did say, “I wouldn’t say that’s nice, but I tell you our farmers are great patriots. They understand that they’re doing this for the country. We’ll make it up to them.”) Either way, U.S. farmers - and rural America - are caught in the middle. And it’s generating storm clouds of uncertainty as planting season nears.

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