Letter to the Editor: The PFD and Alaskans Refusing to Face the Truth

(I submitted this to the Anchorage Daily News, but they wouldn’t publish it.  No surprise why.  This is something that entertains disrespectful notions and actually challenges people to do what’s right in the face of having to do what is difficult in the fact of an ugly situation.  You can’t preach that to stupid-ass America, and especially not stupid-ass Alaska)

Are you tired about hearing about the PFD? Wouldn’t be surprised if you are. It’s the talk of the state, and every state news channel and talking head has their own opinions on it. The current governor won his entire campaign with that as the focal point, and nothing else.

The big debate right now is the amount of the PFD.  It’s what’s holding up the state budget, which threatens to put state workers like myself in lay-off status until a budget gets passed. One side of the debate wants a $3,000 PFD. It’s what Gov. Dunleavy promised during the last election cycle. The other half wants a PFD that is more modest, and doesn’t dip into the state emergency revenue.

You know, the emergency revenue for things like natural disasters. Could have sworn we just had one of those.  Something about a huge earthquake?  Was working at the Atwood Building, so didn’t notice it over all the shaking and people scared and hiding under their desks.

The PFD and the fight over it are a microcosm of the current state of America. Alaska has a problem – the recession finally found us. What the rest of the country had to deal with back in 2009. Alaska weathered it the way we did because the oil industry was booming at the time.  Basing your state’s economy on a finite resource, however, can be a bit of a dilemma when that resource starts drying up.

Alaska’s financial hole is too big to get out of by cuts alone. Unless you want to put all of the state out of employment (there are plenty of people who think we do nothing but spin in our chairs all day) and then shut every service in the state off, it is literally impossible to get the state’s budget under control with cuts. Something the conservative element of this state simply cannot understand.

So, what does that mean?  What has to happen?  It’s pretty simple – revenue has to increase.  Which means talking about a dirty word that no one wants to talk about.  Taxes. Here’s where all the “no more taxes!” people get to have their moment of righteous indignation over the very mention of it.  But the truth is that reality doesn’t conform to the way you want it to be.  You can have your own opinions all day, not your own facts.

What taxes are we talking about here?  For starters, close all the loopholes the oil companies use. That line about how they would leave is a lie that has been going around since my generation was in diapers, and it’s just as wrong now as it was then. Not while they’re money to be made.

Second, we need to bring back the state income tax. Nobody wants to hear this.  Those who think that anyone in this state wants to hear this are foolish. But it needs to happen. So few Alaskans will even qualify for it given how poor this state is, but the richest will, and do we really feel bad about making them pay?  Migrant fishing workers who come from out of state would be the biggest. They make a fortune each fishing season, and don’t collect the PFD.  They would still go home with a fortune.

Third, the city of Anchorage needs a sales tax.  It’s the most populated (and grimiest) city in Alaska. A sales tax would bring massive income spikes to the state. Granted, with all of President Trump’s tariff’s spiking the cost of everything at the grocery store, this will hurt. No one said weathering a recession would be easy.

Finally, we need to increase the gas tax.  Yeah, you might have to pay ten to twenty cents more at the pump, but that’s the situation we’re in.  It isn’t pretty, but we’re all in this together.

The comments of this article will be a litany of vehement denial and yelling about why this shows how ignorant (insert political ideology) is about things in Alaska. That’s why this issue is a microcosm of what’s happening all over America. We have a problem, and the solutions to it aren’t pretty. We’d all be hurting for a while. But you don’t fail to act just because it will make people mad.

When you look back through history, great leaders were defined by how they took charge in a situation that was grim. When they told people what they didn’t want to hear.  That’s what’s needed now. Because the cruel truth is – if we don’t act now, then soon, the argument won’t be if we can fully-fund a PFD.  It will be if the PFD will exist at all.

Until next time, a quote,

“You can’t sell smart to the American people.” – Toby Ziegler, The West Wing

Peace out,

Maverick

Please Don’t Insult My Intelligence (A response to the Alaska Dispatch News)

Let me paint a picture for you – I am home from work after a LONG day of paperwork.  I work at a doctor’s office, taking and sending medical records wherever they need to be.  Yeah, it’s as dull as it sounds.  Trust me, the fact that I do such a boring job brings me no joy.  But this job pays a wage that I can live on here at my new apartment and has some REALLY sick benefits.  We do what we have to do to get by, until we get to where we want to be.  It’s a hard racket out there, and I don’t begrudge someone who has to do a boring or dirty job in order to get by.  Pay attention to that fact, because it will come up later.  Anyway, I am home after a long day of work and am waiting to my lack-luster dinner to finish cooking.  I am watching a movie, and there is a knock at my door.  This confuses me.  After all, my chums are home from work as well.  Whoever could this be?

I get to the door and see this really young Native Alaskan fellow.  He’s dressed like a typical teenager, which it what he so clearly was.  This was either his first or second job, and it showed.  This kid wanted to do well.  Thus begins his attempt, with all the slick composure of a person with a stand at a market, to sell me on why I really need to subscribe to the Alaska Dispatch News, or ADN, as we call it.  It used to be the Anchorage Daily News, but they went under.  After all, print news in this country is dead, and where it isn’t dead, it’s dying.  We live in an age where reading is too hard for people.  You might think that this would distress me, since writing is what I do here is a passion project.  I never expected to have an audience, and now that I do, I am surprised and grateful.

This kid tries to pitch me, and I gotta give credit, his pitch is good.  He sees that I’m a male, in my 20’s, and not dressed like a hipster, and he makes a pretty fair assumption that I’m a gamer.  He tries to sell me that subscribing to the ADN would somehow help me with the procurement of Fallout 4, a game that (to be perfectly honest) I am really no that excited for.  I know, I’m awful.  I just never got much into Fallout.  So fucking sue me.

I played with this kid, because I actually have more than five brain cells to rub together, but in the back of my mind, there was a thought – is the ADN doing so poorly that they have to get what I’m sure are underpaid kids to pimp their publication?  They can’t sell people on the merits of what their publication does, instead having to have the modern equivalent of an AMWAY rep to hawk their wares?  The more I thought about it, the more sad it became.  Then angering.  This is how little they think of my intelligence?  That I am going to fall for this schtick?!  I don’t begrudge the kid that was there.  He was slick, and he has bills to pay, like anyone else.  I told him as much when I had to close the door.  Might have made a few sales at other places.  Though, probably not.  The Internet has made people into douchebags who watch WAY too many cat videos, and have this creepy and unhealthy obsession with bacon.

He left, not having gotten what he wanted.  Going back inside, I was still left feeling a little annoyed.  The ADN genuinely believed that this was the marketing strategy to sell their publication.  To make people have to suffer through a pitch, from some kid who is kind of adorable.  They have to sell their newspaper with the equivalent of used car salesmen.  That is just sad.

I have watched the slow circling of the drain of modern media.  News has become so vapid and dead.  Cable news is nothing but click-bait.  Internet news is empty at best, insultingly pandering to an ideology at worst (Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, The Drudge Report, The Mary Sue, Kotaku, the list goes on and on…).  The worst part is – from what I’ve seen, that isnt’ the ADN.  They are at least trying to do news straight.  So why the pitch?  It boggles the mind.  Unfortunately for them, they had their person try to sell to someone with an audience.  And now I am making sport of whatever idiocy made them turn to pandering to sell the news.  Although, I think that that says the most about all of this.

Even to the people who write the news, it’s a product.  Something to sell. That’s the most insulting part of all.

Until next time, a quote,

“Then cable news came in and it wasn’t along before the news became just another form of entertainment.  The purpose of entertainment is to transfix eyeballs to the screen and to sell the people attached to them shit they don’t need.”  – Mykeru Media

Peace out,

Maverick