You Don’t Know Us

“I think the people from Alaska will never forgive her for what she did.” The preceding was President Trump’s take on Murkowski’s “no” vote for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I think our Groper in Chief might have actually hit on something here, something other than a porn star. According to an ADN article written by Associated Press reporter Becky Bohrer; Alaska’s GOP leadership is deciding what sort of response is appropriate. Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock says the committee is weighing all possibilities from issuing a statement to withdrawing support for the Senator and asking her to not run as a Republican in 2022. Babcock went on to say the party had, in the past, taken the more extreme option with state legislators, who chose to cooperate with (ugh) Democrats. That sort of thing leads to legislating rather than the scorched earth politics we now enjoy. The 2016 primary where Babcock and the party actively participated in the ouster of moderate Jim Colver and replaced him with the more partisan (manageable) George Rauscher comes to mind.

There you have it Senator Murkowski. You will march in step in nice even rows and columns. You will do what you are told with eyes fixed firmly on the party agenda, glancing away only long enough to check your playbook. You will not vary from your assigned course or there will be consequences. Who do you think you are? An independent member of a representative democracy!?

Our half time ex-governor has also tweeted on this issue. On Friday Sarah Palin chirped: “Hey @LisaMurkowski — I can see 2022 from my house…” Let’s think about Senator Sarah Palin for a second. She should help bridge the divisions in that broken legislative body. I’m sure she’s just the ticket for Babcock and his merry band of vandals. Then there’s always Joe Miller. Fourth times a charm, eh Joe.
So it seems the party leadership is not happy with Murkowski. Actually that’s to be expected. Even in less partisan times, Murkowski’s break from the party agenda would raise a few eyebrows. What’s different here is the rigid, idealogical conformity demanded by an increasingly zealous leadership, complete with the threat of political shunning.

As for the people of Alaska, that may be a different story. Unlike the President, I won’t presume to speak for my fellow Alaskans. I will, however, remind President Trump that Alaskans tend to think for themselves. In fact, more than half the voters up here, 55.25%, are registered as Independent. Only about a quarter are self-confessed Republicans. While voters here do tend to tilt red, there is a strong Libertarian slant to that leaning. They tend to chafe at the reins of party dictates and aren’t shy about letting you know. That being said, there are probably quite a few voters that aren’t thrilled about Murkowski’s decision. On the other hand (You knew there would be an “other hand”. I am a liberal after all) there are undoubtedly a number of voters who will vote for Murkowski precisely because of her stand.

There is something else you may not be considering Mr. President. With Kavanaugh now sitting on the Supreme Court, there will almost certainly be a challenge to Roe v Wade coming to the court. If that decision should be overturned, and women lose the right to choose, it will put Alaska in a difficult position. I’m not sure you’re aware of this Mr President, but we are kind of isolated up here. I know reading is not your thing, but you don’t really have to read this. You just have to look at a map. It’s pictures Mr. President. Don’t be scared.

So if abortion rights are thrown back to the states, and if our Republican legislature, George Rauscher et all, should severely restrict the right to choose, that would make things very difficult for Alaska’s women. We are literally thousands of miles from the nearest state. It’s not like we can just get in the car and go.

If that were to happen before the 2022 election; the independent, self-reliant, “you’re not the boss of me”, proclivities of the Alaskan voter would be all over this. That coupled with Kavanaugh’s position on native rights, and his belief that the President can’t, or shouldn’t, be subject to not only civil but criminal indictment or investigation. This is position that puts the President outside the reach of the law. And his proclamation that he would essentially get even with perceived political enemies. These are the issues that got Murkowski’s attention. These are the issues that made her vote the way she did, and these are the issues Alaska voters are aware of.

So don’t be too quick to judge the mood of Alaska President Trump. You don’t know us. You don’t know the state, you don’t know the people, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Governor’s Race

Governor Dunleavy

by

Chuck Legge

The country is anticipating a blue tsunami this November that supposedly will wash from sea to EPA regulated sea. Faced with almost certain success the Democrats find themselves in a bit of a quandary. How can we screw this up? Well, fear not America. Like the t-shirt says: “Don’t worry: I’m from Alaska. I got this.“

Let’s be honest. Even under the best of circumstances, Democrats in Alaska face some pretty deep snow, but we do manage to keep ourselves somewhat relevant and even win the governors race from time to time. So, while current Governor Walker used to be a Republican, and he did run as an Independent, Democrats will still take credit for a win. After all he was running against a Republican so that’s one for our side.

The problem was that Governor Walker faced crashing oil prices and anyone who has lived in the state for more than 15 minutes knows this state runs on oil money. We had a five billion dollar budget with a four billion dollar deficit. Fortunately we also had a large savings account and a fat, juicy permanent fund. Walker’s solution was to cut spending, implement taxes and tap the permanent fund. Under his administration we have reduced spending about 40 percent and cut the PFD in half. That still left about a billion dollar shortfall which should have been covered by taxes, but the legislature didn’t have the stomach for that so the budget reserve managed to fill the gap. So everyone’s happy; right? Did I mention that PFD halving?

There are certain things you don’t do in Alaska. You don’t pet the baby moose, you don’t go skinny dipping in January, and you don’t mess with the PFD! Needless to say Walker’s actions didn’t earn him many friends. However it was, in my opinion, something that had to be done. We were faced with a fiscal calamity for which there was no easy solution. Had the legislature possessed the gumption to levy taxes on the oil companies (taxes they had paid under Palin), and implemented an income tax with a sizable deduction, the PFD thing would have been a little easier to swallow. But our fearless lawmakers on the red side of the aisle saw an opportunity to leave this whole steaming pile of fiscal muck at the governor’s door. And that’s just what they did.

Now, Governor Walker’s chances for reelection aren’t looking too promising. Enter Mark Begich. He certainly has the pedigree. Ex-mayor of Anchorage. One term national senator. The guy seems to be able to win elections and, as you probably already know, Begich won the Democratic primary. So let’s put him up against the Republican nominee, Mike Dunleavy, and see how things turn out.

As you probably also know Governor Walker is not going kindly into that political night. He has decided, once again, to run as an Independent. We now have a three way race, and that almost certainly puts Dunleavy at the top of the heap. See, I told you we’d find a way to foul this up. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Will Rogers: “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”

So, what do you suppose a Dunleavy governorship will be like. Let’s have a look at where he stands on issues that will be facing the state. Actually, let’s take a look at the biggest issue. The one that dominated the Walker administration, the budget.

Dunleavy wants to make deeper budget cuts so he can restore the full PFD to all of us. What a gallant stand. Give people a bigger PFD check at the expense of roads, education, and health services. Now, that’s what I call redistribution of wealth.

According to a 2017 Juneau Empire article by James Brooks, Dunleavy was instrumental in pushing legislation that would have cut $50 million dollars from the Department of Health and Social Services. It would have cut $22 million from the University of Alaska and left our ferry system with a $40 million dollar hole to plug.

This bill would have also cut $69 million from public education. It would have done away with the scholarship program for high performing students and eliminated curriculum reviews. Sure, let’s cut a little deeper. We don’t really need doors on classrooms. Do we? And as long as we’re doing away with doors, show me in the Constitution where it says kids need desks. Sitting on the floor will toughen em’ up. Fortunately, the bill didn’t get past the House.

So there we have it. Senator Dunleavy offers no real solutions. He’s just telling people what they want to hear and putting the state in an untenable situation. On the other hand, the Democrats answer is to form a circular firing squad. Granted, it’s not much of a circle with only two shooters, but I’m pretty sure not even Democrats can screw up the inevitable this time.

Insane Campaigning

Defining Insanity

by

Chuck Legge

Here we go again. Has it been two years already? Well no, it’s actually been just over a year and here we are, about to enter another campaign season. Yay? We invest a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a whole lot of money (the non-influential kind) into this biennial activity. So, let’s take a look at what we get for all this effort.

Campaign signs will start blooming in yards and along roadways encouraged by liberal amounts of rhetorical fertilizer. Once again we will have the privilege, nay duty, of choosing between the neolithic fascist, or unicorn hugging marxist. Candidates will stand bravely against their opponents and come down on the side of freedom, justice, and puppies. One thing is certain. This will be the most consequential election we’ve had since the last most consequential election held about two years ago. So without further delay, let the blames begin.

The preceding paragraphs are how most americans have seen the process that is, once again, about to be played out on our airwaves and street corners. On the other hand the 2016 presidential offensive was a real game changer. Most campaigns, at least the successful ones, understand that the way to appeal to potential voters is to appeal to their emotions. We’re going to build a wall to keep all those scary brown people on their side of the border and away from our wives, children, and dish washing jobs. And we’re going to make Mexico pay for it. The fact that no wall has been built and if one is it will be the U.S. tax payer that foots the bill is irrelevant. The important thing is that the message got through. It tapped the fears and frustrations of the increasingly disenfranchised middle and working classes. The result being President Donald J. Trump.

The genius of Trump (a combination of words you won’t often see) is that he managed to reach out to weary, cynical, middle americans and get them involved in the process. And here’s the genius part. Trump figured out how to do this using the same hyperbolic rhetorical tactics that turned most of these voters off in the first place. He just fed those tactics a steroid laced diet. Give this tiny fingered devil his due. He’s an unapologetic one percenter, who has screwed contractors and employees time and time again, and has somehow convinced that same middle/working class that he is on their side. Perhaps the quote, wrongly attributed to Einstein, that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” isn’t insanity at all. Perhaps it’s genius. Or perhaps Trump is insane along with about 46 percent of the electorate.

I can’t speak for the emotional stability of our 45th president, but I’m pretty sure 46 percent of the voting public is not insane. At least I hope not. What they are is tired and turned off by empty promises and superficial bombast coming from both sides of the barricade. What Trump did was more than promise them stuff. He promised to blow up the whole system. A system that has, to some degree, left them behind. Is it any wonder that when he denounces the media or the justice department or congress that he is applauded by his base? He’s doing exactly what they sent him there to do. He’s attacking a system that they believe is attacking them. The outrage he elicits is red meat to the Trumpophile and we should all take note.

I think a more clinical definition of insanity is needed here. According to Merriam Webster the legal definition of insanity is: unsoundness of mind or lack of the ability to understand that prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or that releases one from criminal or civil responsibility.” So if Trump is unwilling, or more appropriately, unable to discern certain simple realities like crowd size or where he ranks in the list of presidential accomplishments is he crazy? Does that mean that he is incapable of understanding the global repercussions of his words and actions? I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say he isn’t crazy. Let’s say he’s just an opportunistic bully with no ideological or moral center. Yeah, that’s better.

Trump may not be running in this off year election, but he has certainly set the stage for the upcoming theatrics; and those of us on the left should not go smugly into that good night. We need to do more than just say: “I’m not him”. We need to do more than demonize the opposition and, in so doing, demonize the people who feel abandoned by their country. If you don’t think so just ask President Hillary Clinton what she thinks. By the way, anybody want to buy a PT Cruiser with an “I’m with her” bumper sticker?

We need to offer a real alternative to our current political chaos. Pulling out of the Paris Accords won’t produce jobs, but promoting renewable energy will. Giving Corporations and the wealthy a permanent tax cut while giving the rest of us a temporary one that will eventually amount to a tax increase won’t bolster a continuously trickled on middle class. What it will do is further divide the wealth of the nation between the haves and the have-nots. And along with that division, we have managed to take healthcare away from 13 million americans. This does not help the disenfranchised that are solidly in Trump’s corner. Building infrastructure, making education affordable, and promoting the health and wellbeing of our people. These things will heal a fractured nation. The divisiveness and acrimony produced by the current administration is destructive these ends and it is time to turn this thing around. Let’s offer that.

Letter to the Boss

Letter to the

Boss

By

Chuck Legge

Excuse me boss; ya got a minute? I hope this isn’t too soon, but there’s something I’d like to talk to you about. In a recent column in the Anchorage Press you (Publisher Dennis Anderson) said I was losing my marbles. Not me specifically, but you implied gun control advocates in the persons of Jimmy Kimmel, Colin Jost, and local writer and radio personality Shannon Moore, were a couple of aggies short of a full bag.

You accuse gun control advocates of trotting out the same old “tired arguments”, and actually, you’re right. In the wake of 58 murdered and one suicide, some of us are questioning the rationality of things like multiple round clips and devices that make semi-automatic weapons operate like machine guns. Every time something like Las Vegas or Orlando or Newtown happens, those of us on the wacky, reactionary, left tend to react.

When Ms. Moore questions why her uterus is more regulated than guns, and when folks like Jimmy Kimmel and Colin Jost question the need for assault rifles and wonder why anyone would need 47 of them, they are not presenting shiny, new arguments. These are questions that have been asked before. These are questions that will be asked again. They are tired, old questions that will keep being asked until a reasonable answer is given. If you think you’re tired of hearing them, consider how weary the questioners are.

Those on the other side of the debate are fond of saying stuff like: “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” and “gun control is using both hands” and “ Honk if you’ve never seen a gun fired from a moving vehicle.” I’ll admit that last one is funny in a sick, twisted cold dead hands sort of way.

And yes the 2nd Amendment is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. It does say, in so many words: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It also prefaces that statement with: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”. The Supreme Court has on multiple occasions interpreted that preface as meaning gun ownership should be regulated by the state. Again, this is not exactly ground breaking insight.

The point is both sides have their hackneyed responses to what is obviously an ongoing problem. And neither side is willing to give an inch to the other. So if we’ve all picked a position and are armed with our favorite quotes, let’s take one more trip down that dark rabbit hole. Actually, let’s not.

My take on this is nothing new either. It’s just my observation. Political discourse in this country has become so divisive and defensive that no one is listening to anything but the sound of their own voice. While the murder of 58 concert goers is something that tends to get your attention, it is an anomaly. It is, thank God, not the norm. It does, however, produce outrage and frustration with the attendant defensiveness that comes from both sides.

Meanwhile, we point our fingers and man our particular barricades and 53 more people die. These weren’t concert goers. These were people, in places like Parkton, North Carolina; Canton, Pennsylvania; and Seward, Alaska that died by gun violence on the day Steven Paddock checked into the Mandalay Bay Resort with 47 guns. In fact, according to gunviolencearchive.org, from October 1st to October 13th (the day of the writing of this column) 468 people have died in gun related incidents from sea to crimson sea. That number does not include the 58 plus one dead in Las Vegas. If you include Las Vegas that’s over five hundred people dead in thirteen days. Do you think maybe we ought to look at ways to possibly bring that number down?

And to those on my side of the barricade, gun ownership is actually a right. As a right it is not something that is bestowed on the holder. It is a pre-existing condition like free speech, or the ability to go from place to place, or something that would exclude one from a republican healthcare plan (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Rights can’t be given to you; they can only be restricted or taken away completely. This is why some gun owners get their bandoliers in a bunch when we start talking about gun control.

So where is the common ground here? I hope that we can all agree that 527 people shot to death in not quite half a month is a bad thing. And, at the risk of contributing to the de-marbling of America, I hope we can all agree that some rules need to apply when dealing with equipment that is capable of producing all those dead people in that short amount of time.

I’m not sure what we can agree on, but I am sure that we need to come to some consensus. It is not too early to talk about it. In fact the numbers show that it’s much too late for 527 formerly living people. Can we do something about bump stocks, or multiple round clips or keeping people with a history of mental instability from owning a firearm? I don’t know. What I do know is somewhere between melt all the guns down into peace amulets and toe rings, and I have a God given right to my own ICBM, there has to be a reasonable middle. At 527 dead and counting I don’t think we’re there yet.

Because it’s Good For You

Eat Your

Brussels Sprouts

by

Chuck Legge

I hate brussels sprouts! They are little green spheres of guuhhhh! I hope I haven’t offended any brussels sprout lovers out there. Actually, no. If you love brussels sprouts you deserve to be offended. You’re probably healthy enough to deal with it anyway.

I suppose you’re wondering why I’m going on about dietary preferences. Well, it seems the Governor has just served up a big steaming bowl of round revulsion. On Friday he announced the 2017 PFD will be $1,100.00. He did so with very little fanfare, but he can’t fool me. He can hide them behind the pork chops, but I still recognize brussels sprouts when I see them.

So what’s wrong with an $1,100.00 windfall, you might ask? Actually nothing, until you realize that it could have been twice as much. That’s right folks. We could have had a PFD in the neighborhood of $2,200.00 instead of $1,100.00, and that’s a much fancier neighborhood.

So why is the governor making off with half our money? Apparently the downturn in oil prices has left a gaping hole in our state budget. Last year the gap between spending and what we had to spend was around 2.9 billion dollars. This year it’s a little less, about 2.5 billion. Ah progress. Now Alaska can’t dismiss that kind of debt with just its good looks. Have you taken a good look at us lately? We have to figure out a way to balance the books. The most expedient way to do this is to take money out of the state savings account, which is what we did last year and this year. In order to stretch that savings account a little further the governor also took part of the PFD. As it stands now, we don’t have enough money left in that savings account to make this tactic a three-peat.

Another way to do this is by cuts in spending (state services and infrastructure), taxes, and tapping the permanent fund. You know, brussels sprouts. So far, the people’s representatives in Juneau have not been able to bring themselves to eat their vegetables, and I can certainly sympathize with that. Personally I have a deep and abiding lust for peanut butter snickers. I mean what’s not to love? You have peanut butter. You have nougat covered chocolate. You have partially hydrogenated soybean oil. MMMMmmmm. Every bite guaranteed to give you that little stabbing pain of delight in the hinge of your jaw; and probably shorten your life by a few seconds.

Even though I have a special relationship with that confection from the Mars candy company; I realize I can’t live on nothing but peanut butter snickers. That’s not to say I haven’t given it a try, usually around Halloween, but it never works out. Apparently there aren’t that many vitamins or other life sustaining elements in that morsel of chocolatey brilliance. For that you need something in the leafy, green category. This is what Governor Walker has realized, and he’s serving it up to us sans peanut butter.

I guess someone has to be the adult in the state; so the governor has assumed that role. Like most adults he will get howls of protest around supper time from the kids at the table, when he puts out something that isn’t covered in cheese or chocolate. Hmmm, peanut butter snickers dipped in cheese. And, like most adults, he will take it in stride because he understands the necessity of doing stuff that’s good for you.

If he had his way we would also be paying higher taxes and making oil companies do the same. It doesn’t matter that Alaskans carry the lightest tax burden in the country; and that we get back far more federal dollars than we pay in taxes. What matters is we don’t want to eat our vegetables, and you can’t make us. You can’t make us! So there!

Actually they, state government, can make us, and they will have no choice come next year. We don’t have enough left in the budget reserve to cover the gap for next fiscal year. The time has come to stop depending on mega-oil to pay the bills and pony up the money ourselves. Cutting the PFD in half won’t be enough to close with the looming gap either. For those who say we can cut spending and solve the problem, I say try cutting your income in half and see how you make out.

A couple of years ago the difference in state debt and income was about 80 percent. Through cuts in services, infrastructure, and the PFD we have managed to bring it down to about 50 percent. That’s actually pretty good, but we’re still left with 50 percent. No amount of cutting is going to bring that number down to zero.

As Alaskans we like to think of ourselves as the embodiment of independence. Well, part of being independent is taking responsibility for yourself. Part of that responsibility means we, all of us, have to start paying for what we get.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s my advice to all of us including state legislators. If we want roads we can drive on and schools that educate our children, there’s really only one solution. Take a breath. Hold your nose. Here comes the train with boxcars full of brussels sprouts! Guuhhhh!

Nice State You Have There

Nice State

by

Chuck Legge

Rachel Maddow stole my punchline. Or more accurately, she beat me to the punchline. Federal powers that be are trying, in their thuggish way, to put Alaska under their tiny, tiny thumb. I was already sketching the cartoon in my mind with the caption reading: “Nice state you have here. Shame if something happened to it.” Well, I wasn’t quick enough. Rachel Maddow used “my” caption in her broadcast about this story. Once again, electronic media beats print to the punch.

Most of you have, by now, probably heard the not so veiled threats to Alaska coming from the White House. If not then let me fill you in. It seems the Trump administration, in the person of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has threatened every woman, man and moppet in the state. This because of Senator Murkowski’s no vote on the massive tax cut for the wealthy, oops, I mean healthcare bill, currently metastasizing it’s way through the senate.

The honorable Secretary Zinke contacted Murkowski to let her know that state projects, like a road out of King Cove and drilling in ANWR and the NPRA were in jeopardy because of her no vote.

I know, I know. We probably wouldn’t be in this spot if Murkowski had just gone along with Trump and his merry gaggle of hoodlums. If only she could see her way clear to pull the plug on millions of Americans, we could get the $765 billion tax cut the top one percent so richly deserve. Darn her and her ethical standards.

To be clear, this was not a vote on the final version of the bill. The so called “skinny bill” removes individual and employer mandates, does not let insurance companies wiggle away from preexisting conditions, and moves the bill to a conference committee. In other words, it removes the part most people don’t like, keeps the part most people do like and opens the bill up to debate. That sounds reasonable. Doesn’t it?

Actually, there are several problems with this approach. One problem is the Republican party. It’s caught between the moderates, at one end, and the far right at the other. These two elements will never come to a consensus. Moderates, like Murkowski, are willing to work on a deal, but the uber right will not move far enough in the other direction to make a deal possible. Make no mistake, there will be no republican only deal. Any agreement will involve compromise and the tea party wing is not willing to compromise.

This, in turn, means the most logical path to a healthcare bill involves republicans working with democrats. But as recent history shows us, logic has little to do with what’s going on in Washington.

As partisan and corn cob rough as the democrats were when they pushed Obamacare through both houses, they don’t hold a candle to the republicans. Democrats allowed hearings and debate and allowed the GOP to put amendments into the bill. None of this has been the case with their pachyderm brethren. Now republicans are faced with the prospect of having to cooperate with the folks across the isle. They can’t even cooperate with each other, so I’m not holding my breath.

That brings us to another, more basic problem. Most people want to do away with preexisting conditions without mandating participation. What we are left with is a situation where younger, healthier people do not have to opt into an insurance program. That leaves insurance companies in a situation where they are covering people who are, primarily, less healthy. Insurance, like any other business, only works if it takes in more money than it pays out. That means that some people will have to pay for more than they get. That’s how it works. The young and healthy pay for the old and sick.

Additionally, if someone waits until they need insurance before they buy insurance, what do you think is going to happen to the market? Costs will soar, people will fall from the rolls, and premiums will jump like a teenage girl in a Trump sponsored beauty pageant. This will make for a very unstable and, ultimately, unsustainable market.

This bill would strip billions of dollars from Medicaid and drastically cut subsidies that help millions of people pay for the insurance they have now. This in turn leaves an obscenely large amount of money on the table and that’s what this is really all about.

People making over $875,000 will get a $45,000 tax break. And those making $5 million plus will get a $250,000 tax break. Of course, someone has to pay for all this “Making America Greatness” and who better than the sick, old, and poor. It’s simple. Take money away from the poor and infirmed and channel it to the one percent. It’s about time those freeloaders pay their own way. Of course I’m talking about the poor freeloaders, not the rich ones.

This is what Murkowski said no to. This is what has inspired the Trump White House to give Alaska an offer he thinks we can’t refuse. This is what passes for statecraft in Trumps America.

That’s the current state of politics in the good old USA. We have a Coercer in Chief threatening the citizens of a state because their duly elected representative has dared to exercise her responsibility. This is what an abusive relationship looks like Alaska. Blaming Murkowski for this is like blaming the victim of domestic violence. If only that uppity girl senator would just smile, nod her head and learn to cooperate, the damn President of the United damn States wouldn’t have to knock us around so much. Trump must hate it when she makes him hurt us like that. To paraphrase Rachel Maddow: “Nice republic we have here. Shame if something happened to it.”

It’s an Interesting Life

It’s an Interesting Life

by

Chuck Legge

Just short of a year ago when I was let go by the new management at the Frontiersman, I swore to myself I would never have anything to do with that paper again. Of course they apparently wanted nothing more to do with this cartoonist, so that was a pretty easy vow to stick with. But an April 16th editorial titled “Channeling Jimmy Stewart on the PFD” has made me decide to temporarily suspend my oath.

In that editorial the paper references one of my all time favorite movies “It’s a Wonderful Life”. If you’re among the half dozen or so people on the planet that hasn’t seen this movie, see it. And bring tissue. In the movie George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, makes a plea to the townspeople. It seems that George, owner of the local building and loan and all around good guy (he is Jimmy Stewart after all), is on the hook for an $8 thousand deposit. It was supposed to have been made by his Uncle Billy, Thomas Mitchell, into the bank owned by the avaricious Henry Potter, Lionel Barrymore, but was misplaced when Billy unknowingly gives it to Potter in a folded newspaper. Potter, who has wanted control of the building and loan for years, sees an opportunity and holds Georges feet to the fire for the payment George thinks is missing.

So in the scene recalled by the Frontiersman, Jimmy Stewart is trying to convince the townspeople that giving control of the building and loan to Potter in exchange for their commonly held interest in said building and loan is a bad idea. The editorial then goes on to compare this to Alaska state government’s recent dalliance with our PFD. At first glance the comparison is pretty solid. Don’t give up your long term interest in a commonly held asset because of a temporary fiscal problem. In other words, keep your pudgy government fingers off my PFD.

The editorial also draws a distinct line between government and the people of the state. It casts government as a separate and competing entity who’s purpose is the accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of the rest of us. This is a commonly held view of how things are.

Also mentioned is our $15 billion reserve fund. This serves as a way to downplay the immediacy of the several billion dollar deficit problem the state faces.

The reality is this: In 2015 we had a $5 billion budget with a $4 billion hole in it. That’s 80 percent and that qualifies as a crisis whether you’re George Bailey or Henry Potter. We have managed to almost halve that number this year by a combination of cuts, a slight uptick in oil prices, and, yes, tapping the PFD.

Understand that I don’t relish the idea of carving a thousand plus dollars out of my PFD. I mean come on. I’m a liberal so I love the idea of private oil wealth being redistributed to the proletariat. Can I get “nostrovia!” comrade.

Governor Walker’s plan was to approach this problem in three steps They were restructuring oil taxes, implementing a state income tax, and using a portion of the permanent fund. How many political third rails is this guy willing to dance on?

Since oil taxes and an income tax have to go through the legislature, the easiest step to do was using a portion of the PFD. Easy in the same way that stepping off a cliff is easy. The political repercussions were about what you’d expect from people who have come to expect and depend on a healthy check in October.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I love my PFD and I don’t love filling out my tax return. Unfortunately I also like roads, schools, a national defense, etc.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once wrote: “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society…”. That comes to the underlying tone of the Frontiersman editorial. The perceived competition between government and the people. This attitude is one of the most destructive elements in today’s politics.

Government is you. It is an extension of the people. It addresses commonly held values like education and security. You are the government. The people in office are there because of you, so stop blaming some faceless, bloodless entity. Look in the mirror.

As for the government’s use of the PFD, I think the author of the Frontiersman piece kinda missed one of the main points of the movie. In the end Jimmy Stewart is bailed out by all the people of the town donating what they can to cover the debt. Insert PFD/taxes here. The people of Bedford Falls understand that George Bailey’s building and loan is a means to their prosperity. He and his institution are a vital part of what makes the town what it is.

That is the situation we are facing. If we want to have a function state government we are going to have to pay for it. Do I look forward to giving up a portion of my PFD? No. Do I look forward to paying more taxes? No. Do I look forward to oil companies paying more for doing business in Alaska? Actually, I kind of do look forward to that one, but with this legislature, I’m not holding my breath.

Cowardice

Cowardice

by

Chuck Legge

Cow.ar.dice: (-is) – n – Lack of courage; esp., shamefully excessive fear of danger, difficulty, suffering, etc. In one line Webster succinctly sums up what the Trump administration thinks of us. How else would you explain the reflexive action of banning desperate, war ravaged people, many of whom are women and children, from entry into the United States? Their only offense being that they are escaping a part of the world that is unraveling in a frenzy of political and religious intransigence.

So who are these people and why are they so unwelcome in this immigrant nation? The first part of the question is easy. They are people coming from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Yes these seven countries were identified by President Obama as places of concern, just not quite in the way the Trump administration has characterized. And yes these countries had nothing to do with 911 or the subsequent attacks in the United States. But I don’t want this to devolve into accusations about who said what and which countries are more terrorist prone than others. I want to stay focused on why we, in the person of our President, feel compelled to ban anyone coming from these countries.

That leads to the second part of the question. Why ban people who are fleeing an intolerable situation? Again the answer seems pretty obvious. We don’t want to let anyone in that would do us harm. That’s not cowardice; that’s just common sense. So what’s the issue here? Why are people risking frostbite on local street corners to protest the travel/Muslim ban? (Full disclosure: I’ve been one of those frostbitten folks in the recent past and intend to be again.)

Originally the TSA was stopping anyone coming from the seven countries, visa or not, green card or not. No one got in. Students going to graduate school couldn’t get in. People who had been living here legally for years couldn’t get in. People who had risked their lives and the lives of their families by helping American forces couldn’t get in. And why couldn’t those people get in? Because someone in the crowd might be harboring ill intentions. The thought was that someone might get through. Someone might get us, and so to avoid getting got, everyone has to be barred from entry. Now we’re starting to walk down the dark halls of cowardice.

Lets look at the conditions someone has to meet before being granted access to the USA. They have to present a passport and or visa, or be coming from a country where we have a visa waiver program, like France or England. If you are a Canadian citizen you don’t need a visa at all, but you still need a passport. And if you are coming from the seven aforementioned countries, you don’t get in, and then you do get in, and then you don’t get in again, and then you do get in maybe.

In addition, the bar for entry is set pretty high if you are from the Middle East. It can take up to two years and involves multiple background checks from multiple agencies. That process has been in place since the last administration and seems extreme enough to me.

If you’re a refugee fleeing a war zone you probably won’t take the time to stop by the American consulate for a face to face. That’s something you can deal with when and if you reach a safe place.

My point is we have a robust process in place now so an outright ban on countries that have not contributed to terror attacks on us seems a little too extreme. Particularly when you consider the situation these people are trying to escape.

This is not to say that letting refugees in from that part of the world does not pose a certain amount of risk. But when weighed against the humanitarian crisis we are all facing, that risk seems acceptable.

The last time I checked, the American people are not inclined to cowering behind walls, physical or bureaucratic. We are not a people that frets too much about possible tragedy. On the contrary, we tend to take adversity in stride and come out stronger in the process.

The people of Syria, and Yemen, and Libya, etc. are enduring social conditions we can’t imagine. They are being forced onto a world that is increasingly unwelcoming. It is cowardice to turn your back on those thousands of people in need after they’ve been “extremely” vetted because of the possibility that one or two malefactors might get through. We are not that country.

Could someone slip through and end up detonating a bomb in a mall? Yes they could. Could someone drive a truck through a crowd of people? Again the answer is yes. Are we willing to take those risks to save the lives of literally tens of thousands of men, women, and children. I would like to think the answer is, once again, yes.