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This is a repost from a 2015 article I wrote at at one of my other blogs, now dormant.
There is much chatter these days around our church about the sense that economic hard times are right around the corner. One doesn’t have to even tune in to the prophetic/apocalyptic voices or the Bible passages on the matter, the headlines from secular media sources are all around us. Take this recent one for example…. How You And Your Money Will Be Parted During The Next Banking Crisis
We should be as familiar with terms like “bail ins” and not rely on bail outs. Respected friends of mine are saying things like, Take the hit and pull your 401K now, there are possibilities on the horizon, plausible ones, that could vaporize your 401K and other digital monies and create unprecedented civil unrest and hardship. Pray about where to give that money away. Free each other and your church.
Do with that what you want, I’m just repeating it here. Giving financial advice isn’t my purpose here. Sounding an alarm is. I wrote the following for another purpose and decided to share it here.
Forthrightness on the Possibilities of Hard Times Ahead.
Nobody likes alarm clocks, especially when sounded in society. Like alarm clocks, alarmists can be irritating and annoying. It is a challenge to sound an alarm without being an alarmist.
Even so, elected officials should be shooting straight with us and being forthright about challenges and concerns on the horizon. The elected position I hold is to represent people not be a representative of big government, big banks or big business. We are living in a time when that trinity is not being forthright. We should be hearing, “Hey, there are possibilities on the horizon, plausible ones, that could vaporize your 401K and other digital monies and create unprecedented civil unrest and hardship.” Instead we are hearing nothing. We scoff at the preppers in our midst yet are oblivious to the fact big government agencies are prepping in enormous and unprecedented ways. What are they getting ready for and why is it wrong for us to wonder or prepare ourselves?
In the words of an ancient king, “a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” The main points outlined here are things I feel need to be said from an official capacity.
1. Citizens are not the first on the list for actual, factual information. 
There is little transparency and the average Joe is not in the loop. Government agencies presently doing large scale stockpiling and military exercises are hardly being forthright with Americans. We live in a surveillance state where the government watches our every move. The Founders intended that it be entirely the other way around. Government is increasingly hard to trust and believe. Agencies may be talking honestly among themselves about threats, but citizens are marginalized and mocked when they raise concerns and connect dots.
2. South Dakota is not a top priority for Federal anything in times of national crises.
South Dakota is a dependent state– for every dollar we send to Washington, two come back. An economist in Pierre told me several years ago that a twenty percent reduction in Federal funds would put us back in the Stone Age.  For three years I have proposed the idea of forming an Economic Contingencies Work Group to ascertain the effects of a significant and extended national economic crisis on South Dakota and to make recommendations to the state and general population on how to best prepare for, and manage, an economic crisis (see HB1086).
Many of my colleagues in the legislature have signed on to these proposals and believe strongly in them. But it takes the legislative leaders and the Governors office to make it happen. Some members have scoffed… Hickey, we don’t go by the Mayan calendar up here. Instead they have chosen to form work groups to study wine distribution in our state, and to further beat the transgender issue to death. We are heading into days when transgender issues will be the least of our worries. Why can’t we talk about how there are reputable economists saying: a crisis that dwarfs the crisis of 2008 is coming.
It is foolish to think what happens in other countries can’t and won’t happen here. Haven’t we learned yet bailouts are not for citizens?
3. South Dakota, it is time to rise to new levels of neighborliness and readiness.
fema.gov is saying… have a bug out bag; three days of food and water, a hand crank radio and prescriptions, etc, etc. A Department of Homeland Security employee told me DHS recommends 90 days food supply for their employees. What are we not being told? In the absence of any official word from Pierre, I’ll offer the following…. that every household in South Dakota consider the following.
  1. 90 days food supply – enough for you and others. Start with 3 days, then 7…
  2. alternative water sources
  3. Stash $500 cash (in small bills) to weather a fews days without ATMs
  4. Passports for everyone, kids especially
  5. Make this a-summer-to-save-and-sell, not spend and borrow. Cut up your credit cards and get out of debt.
  6. Adopt the poor and elderly. Talk to your neighbors.
  7. Find a community to connect with; Vets, moms, church, etc.
4. Our business community needs to talk about benevolence and what it means for them to take care of their own.
A CEO at Avera mentioned to me they have an economic contingency plan so they can continue a level of care if/when Federal reimbursements are reduced or stop. This is encouraging and maybe there are more thinking along these lines. State leaders and business leaders need to have these conversations. My hope is that people, not profits, will be our priority.
5. Get your church ready for its finest hour. 
  1. Appeal to Heaven. Return to your spiritual roots. The tree planted by water has no fear of drought.
  2. Repent for squandering these years of plenty.
  3. Ask, who is my neighbor? Prepare for an influx of people to the area. How can we host them? Address any hostilities toward them.
  4. Teach enemy love now so we don’t just shoot back and do unto them what they do unto us.
My challenge to every spiritual leader in our state is to talk in your communities about what it means that things might not always be as they are right now.
6. Resist the extremes of fear and denial.
There are more dollar crash deniers out there than climate change deniers. Decide what makes sense for you and your family and ignore those who have no grid for things to radically change.
There are a variety of things that could shake our nation economically and socially and I’m not going to speculate what I sense coming. History is a good guide, so are simple things like math and gravity. Those with open eyes can connect dots without venturing off into conspiracy theories. Some of this is self-evident– we reap what we’ve sown. My emphasis here is more on when than what. If there was no urgency there would be no press release today. My personal sense is, at minimum, we have the summer to get ready for an economic shaking. After economic humility comes military humiliation as our enemies are moving into position to pounce.
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This is a repost from a 2015 article I wrote at at one of my other blogs, now dormant.

There are stirrings in South Dakota that a Right to Die/Death With Dignity bill is being shopped around to those of us serving in the legislature. To date I’ve received two letters on the matter inquiring about my interest to support a bill. Below I’ll paste my reply to one of them. It’s an unusually preachy response from me but like it or not, in the matter of death, faith is a factor.


Dear [redacted],

Thank you for your letter inquiring about my interest in supporting Right to Die legislation. Initially I want to extend my concern and prayers for you with regard to your declining health. Reading your letter reminded me of my great Uncle Thomas who shot himself rather than let his terminal illness drag on. Believe me, I understand the rationale, especially considering the hope we can have of eternity with God through our faith in his Son, Jesus. Perhaps you are a person who shares my Christian faith and also appreciate that sentiment. Countless times I’ve seen Jesus take the sting out of death for the believer.

Enclosed is an article which you perhaps have seen which tells some of the story of my own health situation. My mother died, and so did her brother and sister, from what I have been diagnosed with; pulmonary fibrosis. Doctors say there is no cure and the average patient lives only 3-5 years after diagnosis without a transplant. I lost another half liter of lung capacity since last fall. My uncle died before a lung transplant was available to him. My aunt lived two years after her transplant and my mom lived six years after her transplant. It’s a hard way to go. I’m only 48.

Also, you may know that I’m a minister and have been at the death bed of countless people over the years. As a Sioux Falls police chaplain I’ve also been at the scene of a number of suicides. The reason I share all this background with you is so that you can see the world of death and dying is a world that I spend quite a bit of time in.

Out of all of these experiences including my own situation, and my religious background, I have come to the conclusion that death is the strictly the domain of God and we need to quit figuring out reasons to justify killing people; abortion, death penalty, euthanasia. The Bible teaches God gives us sufficient grace to live and I have found this includes sufficient grace to die. I’ve written a few books and in one of them I write about how we have a fraidy cat view of death seeing it as the worst thing that could happen, as a travesty, final and the end. God sees it very differently. To him death leads to life. Confidence and strength in facing death comes from good theology. Please forgive the little sermonette there but these are things I deal with daily and have found to be true.

From my position in the legislature I can’t in good conscience be apart of a death with dignity bill. Hopefully my comments above are sufficient to explain my reasoning. Please feel free to respond as frank as you’d like. Again, know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Sincerely,

Rev/Rep Steve Hickey (District 9, Sioux Falls)

This is a repost from a 2015 article I wrote at at one of my other blogs, now dormant.

The Watertown Public Opinion Editorial board says I’m wasting everyone’s time. Phooeey on that. Here’s my retort:

Dear Editor,

It was disappointing to read today your partially informed editorial opinion that my Victims Wish bill (HB 1159)is a waste of time. The bill allows an adult South Dakotan to indicate opposition to the death penalty in the unfortunate case they later become a victim of a homicide themselves.
In the recent murder of Maybelle Schein in Sioux Falls, her personal opposition to the death penalty was not allowed to be a consideration by the Court in sentencing James McVay to death. Like the organ donor designation currently on our drivers license, this bill is for those of us who would rather another life not end just because ours did. After the fact, a friend or relative coming forward to say we were opposed to the death penalty amounts to only hearsay.
46% of our state opposes the death penalty and that means several hundred thousand South Dakotans want nothing to do anymore with institutionalized vengeance and the values of ISIS. We believe it accomplishes nothing, that it delays closure, that it is not limited government and that this isn’t about what they did, it’s about what we do. We believe taking away a person’s life without taking away their breath is a consistent life ethic – that doing something inhumane doesn’t mean you have no more value as a human. We believe it’s better to introduce a person convicted of a crime to their dignity as a human being instead of simply punishing their depravity.
We believe stories of forgiveness and redemption ought to be encouraged in our increasingly violent culture. For us to want someone dead is the same dark sentiment that was in them to kill. There are many in our state who have given thought to the day we stand before our Maker asking for mercy ourselves. We want it said of us we were willing to extend it to those in our lives who least deserved it. It’s the dying prayer of Jesus and Stephen; Father forgive them.
In most other crimes law enforcement will ask you if you wish to press charges. This is along those same lines. This is vigilante mercy. Our society could use so much more of it. By the way, this bill (HB1159) is a sister bill of HB1158 which allows a victim’s opposition to the death penalty to be presented at a pre-sentence hearing. The reason I’m asking for this on the driver’s license application is because there are 680,000 drivers licenses in our state. Only one in six people age 35 have a will. It is no cost to add a confidential field in our DMV database for this record.
Rep. Steve Hickey, (R-District 9, Sioux Falls)

This is a repost from a 2015 article I wrote at at one of my other blogs, now dormant.

Every gold rush winds down sooner or later. That day has come for the poverty profiteers who bilk millions from South Dakota’s poor and elderly through high-interest predatory lending.

It’s called the poverty industry; payday and title loan shops, casinos, pawn shops and the subprime credit card industry. It’s the backside of our Great Faces and Great Places. Those who grew up here may not see it, but the rest certainly do. As Augustana economics professor Reynold Nesiba says; there are far better ways to help the poor than to give them the financial equivalent of rotten meat.

Small dollar high interest predatory lenders only thrive because they make misleading claims about how their products are designed. They offer an intentionally defective financial product intended to be a debt trap and market it to the financially unsophisticated barely surviving on the margins of our economy. They fool the rest of us to tolerate them by saying they offer a needed one-time fix for ordinary people in a financial crunch. However, if all they were offering were a one-time fix, no one would take issue with them.

Their business model only thrives because they quickly lock people into multiple successive loans on the same money borrowed. $1000 turns into $2600 in a matter of a few months. Lutheran Social Services Consumer Credit Counseling in South Dakota reports people coming in with ten different loans. Responsible lending is based on what people are able to pay back.

Their own annual reports and CEO’s state their profitability kicks in on these successive loans. An annual report to investors of one of the largest payday lenders, Advance America, shows the company made eight loans a year on average to their customers. The average payday loan is flipped eight times.

ACE Cash Express, a South Dakota lender, was brazen enough to put a graphic in their employee training manual explaining how to keep distressed borrowers in a debt cycle. The Department of Defense determined payday loans “undermine military readiness.” As such Congress unanimously enacted and President G.W. Bush signed into law a 36% rate cap on loans to active duty soldiers and their families. A 36% rate cap has been deemed the percentage rate a person can dig out of on their own.  If high-interest loans aren’t good for our service women and men, they certainly aren’t good for our state’s poor and elderly.

Predatory Lenders point out their rates only seem high because we require them to disclose them as an annual percentage rate, seemingly unfair for a two-week loan. They say an overdraft fee at the bank is more costly. Again, what they aren’t telling us is the model isn’t based on one short-term loan that is quickly paid off.

Payday industry executives admitted last year South Dakota is the wild west when it comes to high-interest lending. In the early 1980’s, Governor Janklow repealed our interest rate cap to bring in 400 Citibank jobs. He later said he was after 400 jobs and certainly not 20% interest rates, which he called unhealthy.

Today interest rates of 300%-600+% are common here. The average payday loan interest rate in South Dakota is 574%.  Last year the Sioux Falls Business Journal reported 56 payday/title loan shops in our city. If these places were helping the poor as they assert, why are half the students in our school still on free and reduced lunch? Truth is, predatory lenders leave people worse off than before and the taxpayers clean up the mess. Time to get the poverty profiteers out of the middle.

In the legislature I’ve drafted reasonable regulations and the industry resists every one. Our Republican-dominated legislature has a free-market approach to this industry. Somehow it’s free-market for our state government to be quick to financially help businesses come into our state but it’s dubbed anti-free-market for us to discourage some to stay out. It’s an irony.

Montana recently voted for a 36% rate cap and the sky didn’t fall. There was no discernable uptick in internet lending– it’s growing in every state requiring a Federal fix. You may hear the poor will have nowhere to turn. They managed somehow twenty years ago before we had loan sharks and today there are various creative alternatives. It’s not the case that payday loans help build your credit. These loans aren’t reported to the credit bureau.

A coalition has formed called South Dakotans for Responsible Lending. The partners include major groups in our state and cross party lines. Find us on Facebook. Shortly we will announce a signature drive to put a 36% rate cap on the November 2016 ballot.

nd-sd-oilfield.jpg

Note the location of this newly discovered massive 200 billion barrel oil field that will increase our nation’s domestic oil resources by a factor of ten. Experts expect this will be one of the greatest booms in Oil discovery since Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938. Am I alone in believing God in preparing to release us from dependance on Babylonian nations? Check it out here

North Dakota rancher John Warberg said, “It seems like God flew over this country, and a dart landed on Granddad’s homestead.” Warberg is being paid royalties for the new oil well on the land where his grandfather’s crumbling, nearly century-old homestead shack stands. There is a interesting audio of him talking about this on the NY Times website.

Chuck Pierce prophesied in 2004 that this day would come – that riches and resources would come forth from this land – land the rest of the world writes off as “wasteland.” The Bible says “you will be called Sought After.” Somebody just preached a message by that title (South Dakota: Sought After)… hmm…. Maybe God is preparing to bless those who bless babies.

Last summer I went to Ghana with a team from Church at the Gate. Ghana was celebrating the fact that they just discovered oil. Actually, the discovery of oil came within six months of the President of Ghana dedicating the nation of Ghana to the Lord. I have pictures of banners that hung all over the nation calling the nation to “a national day of prayer and thanksgiving for the discovery of oil within six months of dedicating our nation to God.” That’s what the banners say!

I believe God is willing and wanting to bless us, and is readying to do so. The blessing however is continugent on us dealing with the shedding of innocent blood and the nation turning back to Him. Just like in Scripture, when the people of God don’t do this, he enslaves them to pagan nations who hold them captive.

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