ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Q & A with Rick Weiland
July 23. 2013 2:10PM
J.S.: What is the role of the Federal government?
R. W.: I’ve always believed that the federal government provides a good check and balance and makes sure that we have free enterprise and not rigged enterprise. It’s really the only tool every day citizens have to sort of hold on to – big oil, big bank, big entities that are so powerful that the average citizens doesn’t even have a chance.
It’s never been so bad that this whole idea of “take it back” I think resonates. I do think that some of that message has been co-opted (by some those who say) government is the enemy and we need to rip it into little pieces and shred it. But the fact of the matter is it’s the only tool the little guy has to make sure that government works for them.
J.S.: What’s the biggest concern facing rural states like South Dakota, and can anything be done in Washington to address it?
R.W.: One of our greatest exports has been our kids. Creating more opportunity for the next generation to be able to stay here and find good jobs and be productive – that always concerns me when we export our young people out of South Dakota.
I also think agriculture, which is on the up right now, is really still our life blood in South Dakota, and we need to make sure that we’ve got a farm bill that works for our producers here and that’s not co-opted by big ag, which I think has a real tendency to have its way in Washington D.C. Nothing has really changed, in my perspective, on family farms. I think South Dakota needs a really strong voice in Washington there protecting our agricultural base.
J.S.: Farm Bill – should the Food Stamp program be tied to it?
R.W.: I don’t know that that’s such a good deal. I was OK with the Senate bill. There were some cuts in the stamp program, which I think was a compromise to get the thing passed. I think the House should have accepted that, and we should have a Farm Bill.
Separating them, I don’t know what that does to the Food Stamp program. We’re still coming out of a recession, and we have a lot of people who are unemployed and hungry. About 100,000 people in our state go to bed hungry every night. That’s one in nine people. There’s something wrong with that. I know that program grew, and there’s a lot of concern about our budget and the pull-down that that program has on it. But we are coming out of one of the greatest recessions that we’ve experiences since the Great Depression. There’s still a lot of unemployment. There are hungry people and those programs are there to take care of them. Should people have to work for it? I have no problem with that. If we can put them to work for some of those benefits then we need to do that, but separating the two, will see what happens now with the Food Stamp program. That would not have been my preferred approach.