(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