Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Oct. 19

Sturgis, school officials took the right steps

Good can come from bad when the behavior is addressed with clarity, speed and resolve.

While objective observers can agree that Sturgis Brown High School students made poor decisions when they spray-painted "Go back to the Rez" on a car being smashed with sledgehammers and then posted a photo of the misdeed on social media with a profanity preceding Pine Ridge, it's another thing to confront it in the public eye.

The spectacle came to the attention of school and city officials on the Thursday before homecoming and Friday's football game between Sturgis and Pine Ridge — from the reservation. The students involved were bashing a donated vehicle as part of the week's unofficial festivities.

Since the school no longer sanctions the activity and it was held on private property, community leaders had wiggle room and could have dismissed it as simply a few kids acting badly. It happens, right?

But they didn't waffle, wall up or lash out at reporters who called for a reaction to an incident that merited coverage after it ignited the explosive topic of race and relations with Native Americans.

Instead, they sent a clear and forceful message that the behavior was unacceptable and wouldn't be tolerated.

"This is not what western South Dakota or Sturgis is about," Superintendent Don Kirkegaard told the Journal. "I can't defend those actions, but I can try my best to make sure they never happen again."

"Our community does not treat people this way," Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen added.

Throughout the day words were converted into action with the school board eventually voting 8-0 to cancel homecoming — no parade, no football game and no dance. The vast majority of students and their families would pay a heavy price for the actions of a few.

Those who thought the punishment too severe and sweeping and thus unfair are not seeing the bigger picture that Kirkegaard addressed — serious offenses can have serious and wide-ranging consequences. This is especially the case now when even the slightest indiscretion can go viral and ruin one's reputation. More importantly, however, America is changing and for the better. It is no longer the 18th, 19th or even 20th century. No one should be disparaged because of their race, nationality, gender or beliefs.

So, instead of memories of marching in a parade, dancing in prom attire or playing in a big game, Sturgis Brown students will have to be satisfied with a life lesson. Even if the car-smashing was just a display of the normal hubris of youth, those actions were wrong, offensive and hurt others who did them no harm.

It certainly had to be a gut-wrenching decision to cancel homecoming for the superintendent and school board. Nobody wants to deny students their homecoming. It would have been easier — in the short term, at least — to move into damage-control mode, which happens far too often when self-preserving elected and public officials are confronted with issues they hope just go away.

But the school district's leadership didn't choose the route too often taken. Instead, they did what was best for the students in the long run by making clear that racist remarks won't be tolerated. It was the right thing to do.

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American News, Aberdeen, Oct. 14

In face of mass violence, Thune and Washington unable or unwilling to help

John and Linda Roehrich did not need to be told to run.

When the shots rang out, they held hands and tried to escape.

They did not need to be told to duck behind a car, where they watched other concert-goers gunned down in their tracks, people lying bloody on the ground.

They did not need to be told to pray or hide or help.

The Aberdeen couple survived the Oct. 1 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. But in just 10 minutes, fifty-eight people were killed and 489 others injured by a single gunman on the 32nd floor of a hotel nearly 500 yards away.

The Roehrichs do not need to be told they are blessed, fortunate or lucky.

And in those frightening moments, they did not need to be told to "get small."

But that is all South Dakota's senior senator and the No. 3 Republican in the Senate is able to muster in a time of crisis: Advice.

"I think that all of us want to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like that from happening again," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporter Hallie Jackson of NBC News on Oct. 3. "You know — it's an open society. And when somebody does what he wants to do — it's going to be hard to prevent anything. But I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions. To protect themselves. And in situations like that, you know, try to stay safe. As somebody said — get small."

The comment is, at best, thoughtless and tone-deaf; at worst, it's an admission that Thune is without power, without ideas and without the guts to do anything about a national crisis.

"Get small."

Today, we direct our anger toward Thune, though he could represent any member of the Congress, most of whom seem incapable or unwilling to address this recurring domestic threat in any meaningful way.

Thune, in a year's time, has not learned much.

His statements after these escalating killings serve as a bookend to his thought process, and that of his colleagues.

On June 12, 2016, just hours after 49 people were killed and 58 others wounded by a lone gunman at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Thune tweeted: "Unthinkable tragedy in Orlando. Joining entire nation in mourning the loss of so many lives. Praying for their loved ones & the community."

This editorial board was surprised by the tweet — not the condolences, or the sadness. We truly believe Thune is a good man, hurt by the slaughter, and sincere in his empathy with the victims and their families.

But an "unthinkable tragedy"?

On June 15, 2016, we referenced Thune — not by name — and other officials in Our Voice: "It is also sad to hear some of our politicians these days use words such as 'unimaginable,' 'unthinkable' or 'incomprehensible' when it comes to these shootings. How could any national leader say such shootings are inconceivable?"

In the past year, we have waited for our leaders to go back to Washington and start imagining the unimaginable.

27 . 32 . 49 . 58 .

Follow the dots . it's there, in black and white.

Why is this so easy for average Americans to imagine, but impossible for our elected officials?

Thune used the tired "taken out of context" defense in a statement to the Mitchell Daily Republic, telling the paper that he was referencing San Antonio, Texas, Police Chief William McManus' advice to "get small" during an attack such as the one in Las Vegas.

Here's the difference: Police are in charge of public safety — senators are in charge of public policy.

In the Cold War '80s, when the country was concerned about the nuclear arms race and the threat of war, President Ronald Reagan did not say, "Well . as somebody said, take cover under your desk."

No, he went to work.

Admittedly, Reagan was dealing with a foreign threat from a nation state whose objectives were clear and with whom we had diplomatic relations.

When dealing with mass shootings as a domestic threat, our enemy is unknown. But, that shouldn't halt our desire to imagine and explore a comprehensive policy to, perhaps not solve, but certainly mitigate the threat. Americans are scared.

Unlike that police chief, Thune and his colleagues can actually enact public policy that would keep people a little safer. Why aren't they?

To begin, both Republicans and Democrats seem to be holding their breath because we have heard all the arguments, all the ideas, all the talk in regard to gun control. It's my right to bear arms! The Second Amendment is not unlimited! Gun control penalizes the law abiding! It's too easy for bad people to get guns!

This talk, though impassioned, is so broad and so polarized.

The words "gun control" immediately stir up emotion and argument. But Thune and colleagues are also not addressing mental wellness, education, or any of the kinds of things that lead every day Americans to try to kill as many of their neighbors as they can.

Let's talk about imagination.

There was a time when terrorist attacks on American soil were unimaginable. But that changed on 9/11. Since then, through a comprehensive strategy, the implementation of new ideas and policy, our country has been able to stop a number of terrorist attacks.

It's time for us to stop thinking mass shootings are unimaginable.

Twenty-seven killed at an elementary school. Thirty-two killed on a college campus. Forty-nine killed at a nightclub. Fifty-eight killed at a concert.

Thoughts, prayers, but no action.

And though we are critical of the "get small" response, maybe this part of Thune's quote should hang heavier over Washington, D.C.:

"I think that all of us want to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like that from happening again."

Then do it.

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The Public Opinion, Watertown, Oct. 18

Congress' new tax code must make sense

Congress will soon begin working on a major revision of the federal tax code. We applaud those efforts, but only if they are done in a thoughtful manner that encourages economic growth.

After all, shouldn't that be the goal of any tax code rewrite?

Apparently not. Especially in today's environment of get it done now vs. get it done thoughtfully and carefully.

You would think the Republican majority would recognize the error of rushing a major bill through Congress onto the president's desk. After all, it is the Republicans, rightly so, who remind us of what Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was the then Speaker of the House, quipped, let's pass this (Obamacare) bill so we can read it and find out what's in it after it passes!

Is that what the new Republican majority is attempting to do with a rewrite of the tax code?

Congressional leaders and the Trump administration want to reduce the top corporate income tax from 35 percent to 20 percent. They are also after simplification. Both are worthy goals, that we can support. But to do so without exploding the already-dangerous federal deficit will require other ways of collecting revenue.

One tax code change aimed at raising revenue under consideration is an economic disaster. It is known as the "ad tax," and it's one very bad idea.

Advertising has always been one of many costs of doing business. For more than 100 years, companies in the U.S. have been properly allowed to deduct those expenses, like any other business expenses, to produce a finished product or service, which then is taxed.

But some in Congress are considering ending the long-held practice of allowing businesses to deduct this expense every year.

Thus, an "ad tax."

Why would Congress want to differentiate advertising costs from other "cost of doing business" expenses? Changing current tax laws to single out advertising could possibly encourage businesses to make poor decisions based on tax reasons. And will all know there is too much of that behavior underway today with our terribly inefficient and out-of-control tax laws.

The prospect of treating advertising expenses, a component of selling a finished product or service, differently from other expenses simply makes no economic sense.

According to statistics from the National Newspaper Association, advertising generates 22 million U.S. jobs and produces more that $37 trillion in economic activity. Most of that finished activity is included in the tax code.

Economic analyst IHS Economics and Country Risk Solutions estimates that every dollar spent on advertising leads to $19 in sales activity, so any tax on advertising would have a negative effect on businesses AND a negative effect on the tax revenue generated on those finished products and services.

IHS also says every $1 million spent on advertising supports 67 jobs. And each advertising job supports 34 other jobs across other economic sectors.

The change also would impact local newspapers, radio and TV stations that depend on advertising. It's those advertising dollars that support news coverage of local politics, area schools, youth sports, churches and civic activities. South Dakota newspapers recently marked Newspaper Week by asking readers to "Imagine a day without news." A government-spawned reduction in advertising income would go a long way toward making that a possibility.

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem is on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which will be charged with crafting the new tax code. She gave up her spot on the Agriculture Committee because, she said, she could do so many more good things on Ways and Means.

We hope she realizes the folly of the tax on advertising, but just in case, join us in giving her a call, or send her a note, telling her what a bad idea the ad tax would be.