N.D.’s prosperity creates a challengeNorth Dakota has been an island of prosperity as the rest of the country has been experiencing widespread job layoffs, business closings, home foreclosures and the other calamities that accompany economic downturns. While other states have limped along, North Dakota’s gross domestic product expanded by 7.3 percent last year to lead the nation.
By: Lloyd Omdahl, The Jamestown Sun
North Dakota has been an island of prosperity as the rest of the country has been experiencing widespread job layoffs, business closings, home foreclosures and the other calamities that accompany economic downturns.
While other states have limped along, North Dakota’s gross domestic product expanded by 7.3 percent last year to lead the nation. Taxable retail sales increased 21 percent while stores in other states were closing their doors. In almost all states, legislatures were cutting essential programs to balance budgets. In other states, people were losing their jobs by the millions while our unemployment rate was only half that of the national average.
Frugal by tradition, our Legislature didn’t know what to do with the revenue windfall that fattened the state treasury beyond current needs. They socked away as much as they could, made some one-time expenditures, and still had money left over for the next session.
We would like to take credit for being the oasis in an economic desert, but much of it can be attributed to other factors. For one thing, the oil industry brought unprecedented prosperity to western North Dakota in the form of good jobs, lease payments and oil royalties. Some folks became millionaires overnight. Then record farm prices spread new money all across North Dakota. Our income tax receipts attest to great bounty.
To slow spending, politicians in the Legislature talked about conserving the taxpayers’ “hard-earned” dollars. That was only rhetoric. These weren’t hard-earned dollars — they were windfall dollars showered upon us by forces beyond our doing.
In gratitude, we should be mindful of the adage that “from those who have much, much is expected.” After losing their jobs, millions of generous folks across the nation will not be able to help charities at home and around the world to demonstrate the generosity and compassion of the American heart. Actually, many of the unemployed are now in need themselves.
Those of us in North Dakota who are prospering need to take up the slack and do more than ever before to fill the “giving gap” left by the unemployed. All of the indices of prosperity say that we have the means. Now all we need is the will.
With more than 80 percent of North Dakotans claiming a Christian faith, the idea of playing the good Samaritans shouldn’t be all that strange. During this time of economic crisis, perhaps Christians should consider spending a little less on themselves and a little more demonstrating their commitment to the teachings of Christ. That goes for our churches, too. Actually, we can all do more for the world’s poor and needy.
As beneficiaries of windfall economics, we ought to be grateful and express that gratitude with empathy for those who didn’t get an oil well or a top price for wheat.