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.