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Alaskans belly up to the trough

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I’m getting really tired of people demanding their PFD as if it were a God-given right. Do none of those folks ever have a budget of their own?

If so, I am sure there were times when they were flush with cash and could go on a trip, or to the movies, or buy something they always wanted or needed. Just as there were times when cash was tight and they instead had a picnic in the back yard, settled for a movie on TV, or made do with the old snowmachine for another year or two.

Our state has a budget, too. Unfortunately, since it is based almost wholly on a single income source (oil revenues), and our governor and legislators are too timid to even propose any taxes or return to more equitable oil taxes, we are essentially at the mercy of global oil prices. Because oil production in Alaska has slowly decreased over the years and the price of oil has dropped, our state income has shrunk considerably over the last five or six years. Predictably, and (more important) necessarily, state services have had to be reduced to a bare bones level. If this were a household budget, most extravagances would have been cut from it long ago, or more income might be sought by getting a second job or having more people in the home going to work. The PFD is such an extravagance, a perk, not a right.

But instead, with low revenues and an unwillingness to increase revenues with any form of taxation, what does the average independent, tough, macho, anti-government, anti-socialist Alaskan do? That’s right, they belly up to the most blatant socialist program around, the PFD, and demand they get the full “value” they “deserve.” Deserve for what, breathing?

Most social programs require at least a little effort on the part of the recipient. Social Security and Medicare require us to contribute something now to reap something greater in the future. In countries that have universal health care, guaranteed parental leave and other “socialist” programs, the recipients are taxed at a higher rate than we are but get great services for their money; they get what they pay for. The PFD on the other hand, is simply a giveaway; all one needs to do is exist in Alaska for a year and you are eligible for a handout.

I readily admit I have benefited from and often look forward to getting my PFD check each year. But I am also well aware that is is a perk, meant for good times when the state is flush with cash and can afford it. These last few years we have not been able to afford the “full” dividend payments, and if we really cared about the future of our state we would accept that as fact and get on with life. Instead we voted out of office a governor who was willing to do the right thing for the state and voted in a fool who plays to the greed of the masses by promising full PFDs regardless of the state of our finances.

In the Aug. 29 Sunday edition of the DNM was an ad (page A3) one could clip out and send to the PFD office essentially demanding “back pay” for the under funded checks we have been receiving, to the tune of $13,564. Oh, and 60 cents! The ad was paid for by “PFD Defenders and Interior Patriots.” Some “patriots,” who would essentially bankrupt the state in order to gain more votes. The ad says we each are “owed” more than $13,000, but even if the state paid out the “full” dividend of $3,687 for this year the total expenditure would be about $2.5 billion. That would come from the Earnings Reserve Fund, which currently contains about $16 billion. If we paid out the full $13,564, it would amount to almost $10 billion. How long do you think the Earnings Reserve Fund could continue to support that kind of deductions? Where is the fiscal responsibility? It seems the answer is “Who cares; I want my money now!”

These same proponents of the full dividend also want to enshrine the PFD and the method of calculating it into the state Constitution. What a horrible idea. That would require a full payment regardless of the state’s fiscal situation, possibly leading to even greater cuts to state services, which most people want to remain at comfortable levels.

We can’t have it both ways. When times are flush, pay a PFD we can afford. When times are hard, do the same; pay only what we can afford and live with it.

Karl Monetti lives in North Pole.

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