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Mark Bratlie, Fargo, Published May 11 2012

Not much ‘trickle’ in ND

I would like to respond to a front-page story (May 5) that reported a 78 percent increase in North Dakota’s per-capita personal income. This places our state at ninth in the nation in that category.

This news certainly brought a smile to the face of Gov. Jack Dalrymple as he responded: “We are very pleased that North Dakota, in the past 10 years, has gone from 38th in the nation to ninth in the nation in personal incomes. That’s the proof our policies for economic growth are working.”

While these statistics sound quite rosy, they are at the same time quite misleading. For one thing, they prove that the old “trickle-down” policy really does not work very well for many of our residents.

Consider the reality (as reported in the February 2011 Ag News from North Dakota State University) that “11.7 percent of North Dakotans were living in poverty in 2009, a rate that has remained relatively unchanged during the past decade.” The article informs us that this proportion represents 73,000 people, or 1 in 9 North Dakotans. “To place this number into context, we would need three Fargodomes to seat all those who are impoverished in North Dakota,” according to Richard Rathge, North Dakota State Data Center director. An enlightening Forum piece by Teri Finneman informs us that many residents within the Oil Patch itself are experiencing poverty.

These statistics offer sound evidence that new wealth in North Dakota is definitely not “trickling down” to many of her residents. (This may be why Dalrymple does not take any credit for this part of the picture.)

According to the Data Center, Native Americans continue to suffer despite North Dakota’s overall wealth. One in 4 people in Sioux, Benson and Rolette counties currently live in poverty.

Many children of ages 0-17 constitute another group that is not benefitting from our state’s new wealth. The North Dakota Data Center reports that in 2009, a full 14.1 percent of our children were living in poverty. (So, Gov. Dalrymple, should that make us pleased and proud?)

As residents of the fine state, we certainly have many things for which to be thankful. But, at the same time, there is still much work to be done. The question is, will we sit back in pleased satisfaction, or will we make sure that all of our residents benefit from North Dakota’s new wealth?