I am sure that there are many people who feel that their own government is wasteful, inefficient and in general socialistic. If you are one of those who feels that our only responsibility is to ourselves, that we have no responsibility as stewards of Alaska’s future, then this is obviously your point of view. Let’s be realistic, we all are wasteful.
There was a time, back in the 1970s and ’80s when state government spending was accelerating because of the gushing oil money, and wages were excessive because of the pipeline construction. Pipeline wages were excessively high because Alyeska knew that every dime they paid out to build the pipeline would be recouped from Alaska taxpayers through depreciation. As the decades have passed, most of those excesses have evened out. Pay scales of most government workers, teachers, nurses and administrators and their support staffs are equal to other states despite our higher cost of living.
What never evened out is the death grip on our legislators and now our governor by major corporate resource extractors that operate in our state. They continue to push for deregulation and for corporate welfare subsidies like the oil tax credits. They promote the idea of privatization of government functions, a mechanism that trades decent wages and working conditions for corporate profits. If you don’t believe me, then I would like to hear your explanation of why worker wages are stagnant, while corporate profits are at an all-time high, why the Koch brothers and others paid so much to get their puppet into office.
If you are a conservative Republican in Alaska, you need to open your eyes to what is really happening to our future. Nationally, and especially here in Alaska, we are facing the biggest challenge of our lives. We seem to be on a death spiral from a can’t-do attitude. Why can’t we have free education through at least a higher education degree for those who are willing to work for it? We have provided kindergarten through grade 12. Why aren’t we funding preschool programs? Haven’t they proved their value?
I can hear your response in my ears right now. “We can’t afford it. Who is going to pay for it?” In response to that I ask, who have been the clear money winners during the past two decades? Has it been the middle class? No, it has been Republican-supported corporations, billionaires and con men who have bought out our politicians, preyed on our weak and brainwashed many of us with their alternative facts and divisive rhetoric. Their actions have created every crisis that the U.S. and Alaska has faced in the past two decades, and they have paid themselves handsomely while we taxpayers bailed them out.
If you don’t believe me, how can you explain the extreme shift in wealth in our country to the 1% while the middle class shrinks and jobs at Walmart, McDonald’s and Amazon are all that is left? Trust me, the 1%’s good fortune would never have happened without government-paid-for infrastructure and scientific discovery, and, yes, backroom deals provided by our own government representatives.
Oil revenue is not the only source of money to provide for positive social programs, but it is, in my estimation, still untapped. Also, it is time that we made those who are super wealthy pay at least what the rest of us pay. The accumulation of wealth by hedge fund managers like Jeff Epstein is obscene and should have been heavily taxed. I am now going to repeat what I feel is the right path forward for Alaska:
• Revisit Alaska’s extraction tax structure with emphasis on increasing revenue and especially the removal of the oil tax credits.
• Reinstate the school tax at $50 annually
• Reinstate the income tax
• Pay the full PFD but only after the above is implemented
This will not solve all our problems, but it will go a long way in equalizing the shared pain in digging out of this mess. Social programs, especially education, scientific discovery and health care are absolutely essential if we are to even keep up with the rest of the world. Artificial intelligence is poised to remove an estimated one-third of all jobs worldwide. Will our future generations be the next uneducated underachievers or leaders and pioneers? The choice is ours and the time is now.
Ed Linkous lives in Fairbanks.