The oil boom in North Dakota has been a horrible, terrible, awful thing for government agencies in the state – part 1

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(Sarcasm alert!!!! Sometimes ridicule is the only way to deal with foolishness. I dislike sarcasm because it is an unhealthy, corrosive humor. However, there are times when pointing and laughing out loud is the right way to call attention to slanted, agenda-filled bias. Think of all those Hitler-in-the-bunker videos.)

Okay, here we go with the sarcasm…


I am so silly.  Ever since I started paying attention to economics back in high school, I thought we wanted to see a booming economy in order to make life better for people. If we could grow the economy, everyone everywhere would have more money and enjoy a better standard of living. Work-a-day average Joes would have better health, more comfort, and a nicer life. I thought that was our goal.

I was so wrong.

McClatchy DC and the Energy Initiative at Duke University has straightened me out. I am now enlightened.

The purpose of a booming economy is to make life easy for city and county governments by giving them all the money they want so they can fund all the projects they have in mind. That is the lesson I learned from the article at McClatchy DC on 9/9: Oil boom a loser for North Dakota cities, counties, study finds.

The oil boom is a travesty because city and county governments have been under such horrible financial distress that they cannot fund all the projects they want to do.

Silly little ol’ me had thought it was common knowledge that in North Dakota every aspect of infrastructure is under severe pressure because of the explosive growth. For many years there have not been enough roads, hospitals, shopping, housing, sewage treatment, grocery stores, police, doctors, dentists, car repair shops, restaurants, and court services.

For several years, anyone walking into the door at Walmart could get hired for $17 an hour.

Even with that as the effective minimum wage, until last fall no employer had enough staff. Restaurants were closing for the day after the lunch rush because they just didn’t have enough people.

One not-so-joking comment recently was that a year ago you could get a job if you were breathing and standing on your own power. Now you actually need some sort of skill that is related to the job opening.

But the worst thing by far was the pressure on city and county governments. In a shock to me, lots and lots of government agencies didn’t have enough money to meet service demands.

The article is filled with comments from oh-so-many county and city officials who just don’t have the money to do all the projects they need to do.

There is just not enough money in the local budgets.

They are so strained.

I now consider myself enlightened – I have never heard of that before in a lifetime of reading newspapers. I have never read of any government agency anywhere anytime at any level of government complaining about not having enough money.

It is only the terrible, horrible oil boom in North Dakota that has for the first time in American history put fiscal pressure on local governments.

I am so glad the article has corrected my double-ungood thinking on this terrible development.

We obviously should disregard all the housing and road work that has been completed in the last several years. We can disregard the eyewitness reports from Million Dollar Way I mentioned last week. That is not important. The only factor worth discussing is the impact on local governments.

The article explains that truck traffic has not slowed. They are just as many big rigs driving around the region tearing up those “very rural roads” now as a year ago. I’ll say it again: the drop in drilling has not reduced truck traffic at all, according to the article.

The only thing the slowdown has done in reduce revenue to the local governments who have the same amount of needed road repair as a year ago. The local agencies are under ever more severe distress:  they have same volume of repairs to do since truck traffic is the same but have to do so with declining revenue.

Part 2 tomorrow with the final dose of sarcasm and several reality checks.

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