Back when I was an office assistant at the part of the state I work for now, I got a call from a guy very upset that we were garnishing his PFD because of what he owed. He said that we can only take a portion of it because it’s income. I told him that’s wrong. We can garnish up to 100% of any lump-sum payment, and 40% of wages. The response I got was classic – the PFD is wages. To which I rightly replied – what exactly is it that you did to earn this money? The answer I got was about as incoherent as it could be, and he angrily hung up.
Wanna know the truth? He did nothing. This is free money that he got for living in Alaska. He did NOTHING to earn this money. But in his overwhelming sense of entitlement (for the old people who think this was a young man, think again. Dude was in his 40’s) had him actually believing that he was owed this payment from the State of Alaska. That it wasn’t a gift that could be taken away. Looking at all the madness surrounding Dunleavy and the crazy nonsense he has done and is still doing, I’m starting to realize that he isn’t the only one.
During the last election for governor, I knew exactly what the issue on the table was going to be – the PFD. My prediction was that those on both the D and R side of the table were going to use it against the then-Governor Bill Walker and destroy him with it, because people had their dander up about the PFD because Walker had cut it for three years. Cuts done because he was too conservative to do what now HAS to be done – raise the income of the state. He couldn’t cut his way out of the problem, so the idea was to use PFD money to plug the massive financial hole that the state dug because the oil is drying up and our state made the unfathomably-stupid decision to tie our entire economy to a finite resource.
All of my predictions were spot-on. Both Begich and Dunleavy were doing nothing but using the PFD as a bludgeon against Walker. To the former Governor’s credit, he actually did step up to that. A pity he dropped out. Would have liked to see what it would have looked life if he hadn’t. So we had a pretty much substance-free election, all tied to everyone yelling about their free money.
Now, a year later, and Dunleavy intends to keep to his word. His one major campaign promise – a full PFD, with an amount for what was cut in previous years to be included. But since he’s a Republican and has a single-digit IQ, he decided that doing the smart thing like raising taxes (which has to be done. We’ve long passed the point where we can cut our way out of this) along with cuts (which also does need to happen. It has to be both, not either), he opted for something that is outright insane. In a series of line-item vetoes, he cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget, smashing so many programs that actually helped people to bits.
The biggest thing that he slashed to ribbons was the University of Alaska budget. $130 million cute from the University, effectively disabling it from dozens upon dozens of degree programs. And this may not even be the end of it. In one fell swoop, Dunleavy crippled one of the biggest things that Alaska has going for it. Don’t believe me? I’ll explain.
A few years ago, there was a big push to keep Alaska students in Alaska. The reason being that most who leave for college never come back. There was also the goal of getting those who are out of state to come to Alaska. Things like UAA’s excellent nursing program, or UAF’s amazing engineering program. These things are known nationwide. Not to mention using the UAA teaching degree program to help get new teachers to Alaska, or at least get people to be aspiring educators. One can never see how the future will pan out. Especially with the turnover rate for teachers.
The powers that be at that time could see what I do now – Alaska’s population is getting old. As more and more young people leave, and fewer young people are having children than ever before (guess they got the memo about overpopulation killing our species), the population of Alaska is very old, and getting even older. Back before the oil market started to crash, this was worrisome. Now, as industry is leaving Alaska and the recession of 2008 has finally arrived, the aging population of Alaska is a bigger threat than ever before.
One doesn’t have to look far to see what population decline is doing to some of the state where there is no major industry to speak of. With fewer and fewer people coming into the labor-force, jobs will be unable to fill positions. Experienced leaders who are retiring can’t be replaced, and as more people are looking for jobs out of state, that leaves an even bigger hole. The cost of living in Alaska keeps growing, and people are fleeing major cities like Anchorage because the cost of housing never stops going up. Another thing that Dunleavy is helping facilitate.
What does this mean long term? For starters, ghost towns. Places that are economically dead, and people just leave because there are either no good jobs, or no jobs at all. Businesses that can’t staff their stores will close. In Anchorage, this is especially important. Nordstrom just closed. The 5th Avenue Mall is holding on by a thread. If JCPenney closes, that’s it. It will join the Northway Mall in being effectively dead.
You can’t sell the direness of the situation to the entitled people who want their free, unearned money, however. They won’t listen. They don’t care. While the state is dying a very slow and ugly death, while the PFD is on borrowed time because to give people the PFD Dunleavy promised (because he is having to dip into state reserve money to pay for it), while young people will leave Alaska to pursue education opportunities elsewhere, they just want that free money.
In a previous article, I talked about how what’s happening in Alaska is a microcosm to what is happening nationwide, and I’m certain I’m right. Now more than ever. Alaska is bleeding to death, but everyone is blissfully unaware, or outright doesn’t care, because they want things their way, and to hell with anyone who says otherwise. Plenty of people say that the left just wants free stuff, but those people aren’t paying attention. Medicare For All wouldn’t be free. The difference is that for people like me, instead of paying premiums to private insurance, it would be paying to that. It would probably be cheaper than my plan.
The PFD, on the other hand, is free money. Not one person complaining about it has done one thing to earn it. It’s money that the government gives you. And if we don’t do something, now, to increase revenue and cut the oil tax breaks that we should have 20 years ago, that free money will go away. With as old as the population of Alaska is, maybe they don’t care. After all, it’s not like they’ll live to see it when it’s all gone.
Until next time, a quote,
“You can’t sell smart to the American people.” – Toby Ziegler, The West Wing