The Alaska Legislature demonstrated its mind-boggling incompetence and ineffectiveness by adjourning without addressing the greatest financial crisis in Alaska’s history. It’s really that simple. Further degradation of the state’s credit rating? No response. The certainty that Alaska will exhaust the Constitutional Budget Reserve in the next two years? No effect.
One of WC’s high school buddies – we’ll call him AJ – illustrates the underlying problem. AJ lived a kind of hand-to-mouth existence as a car mechanic after high school. He drove a 15-year old pickup, rented a dive apartment and struggled to pay his bills. He had zero savings. When the Pipeline happened, AJ scored a job at a pipeline camp, and for the first time in his life, he had some money. He quickly had a new pickup, bought a house in North Pole and a nice riverboat. AJ had great toys, but still had no savings.
When life slowed down after the Pipeline was completed, AJ still had a good job, maintaining the vehicle fleet for one of the Big Oil companies. But it was a lot less money; not enough to support all of the installment payments on the house and those great new toys. AJ tried a little self-help, running two keys of coke up the Slope. He got caught. He plead out to a misdemeanor. All the toys got repossessed, his wife divorced him and took most of what little he still had. Slope employers wouldn’t touch him. He wound up working as an independent in a shared shop. And it was just like after high school: hand-to-mouth, dive apartment and big stacks of bills. Plus child support.
AJ is a nice guy, but the idea of saving money is completely foreign to him. The idea of a reserve for possible problems is completely outside his experience. AJ is a cranky old geezer now and lives is Palmer. In a recent email, he complained bitterly to WC about having to stand in line “for hours” to transfer title to his car. A few lines later, he was complaining about all of the waste in state government. He also complained about how much everything costs. “Five bucks for a beer at the Palmer Bar,” he told WC. AJ is absolutely oblivious to the contradictions, inconsistencies and ironies in his frequent, noisy opinions.
Those noisy opinions include the sanctity of his PFD. AJ is more worried about this year’s PFD than the economic future for himself and his kids.
Alaska has a lot of AJs.
Palmer Rep. Shelley Hughes (R, Ignorance), told the Alaska Dispatch News, “I think the people have spoken. I think the legislators acted accordingly, and I’m disappointed the governor doesn’t understand that people don’t agree with this.”
Pretty clearly, Rep. Hughes has been listening to AJ. WC respectfully suggests AJs of Alaska may not be the best persons to listen to in deciding how to formulate state economic policy. AJ doesn’t have a clue. And, by the way, despite all his noise, AJ doesn’t vote. “They’re all thieves; it doesn’t matter who ya vote for.”
Of course, Rep. Hughes is in a tough race for re-election. And getting re-elected seems to matter more to her and her hopes of re-election than a sensible economic future for Alaska. In that sense, she’s not very different than AJ.
Which is a pretty big problem for Governor Walker, as he called the Alaska Legislature back into session.