When in Danger, When in Doubt…

When in danger,
When in doubt,
Run in circles
Scream and shout!

– Popularized in Herman WoukThe Caine Mutiny (1951), which describes it as an ancient adage.

For months years now, WC has criticized the Republican majority coalition in the Alaska Legislature for its inaction, its failure to come to grips with fiscal realities, and its inertia and procrastination. As the Republicans slashed the state budget and forced the state into a recession, WC has accused the folks in control of the Alaska Legislature of near-criminal negligence and warned that their inaction could cripple Alaska’s economy for decades to come.

WC admits it. He was wrong to accuse the Republicans of not having a plan.

WC has finally identified the strategy of the Republican Majority coalition in the Alaska Legislature. Faced with a $4 billion deficit, a sharply declining oil industry and an increasingly severe recession, the long-secret strategy of House and Senate leadership has emerged: running in circles, screaming and shouting.

Yep. That seems to be it.

The first signs of this long-secret plan emerged when the House cancelled a vote on the majority coalition’s own bill to scale back the giveaway to the oil industry. You’d think that it would be easy to scale back a program that gives the oil industry $750 million a year in cash subsidies and gains something like $200 million in revenue. But, in secret caucus meeting, the Republican majority coalition decided it couldn’t bring a modest reduction in the freebies to the floor for a vote. The very definition of running in circles.

Inaction is itself a disaster. If the Legislature spends down the irreplaceable principal of the Constitutional Budget Reserve and the Alaska Permanent Fund, the future earnings of those funds is lost forever. The savings you spend can’t earn any more interest. But that’s one the consequences of not adding new revenue to balance the budget. And it is an immediate consequence of inaction and procrastination. Maybe the majority coalition’s plan – running in circles – isn’t such a good idea?

It’s even more frustrating that these avowed capitalist hawks, these free market, anti-government “thinkers,” have worked themselves into this froth over a government subsidy of business. Because that’s what a tax credit is, of course. There’s more than a little whiff of hypocrisy, don’t you think? But that doesn’t stop all that screaming and shouting.

But isn’t it reassuring to know that Our Elected Legislators have a plan? Even if it is a joke? Otherwise they’d be completely empty-headed. And empty-headedness can only lead to more empty-headedness. Or a career in politics.