By ART CHANCE
Unless President Joe Biden adds crashing the stock markets to his astounding list of failures, sometime in the next months the Alaska Permanent Fund will surpass the $100 billion mark, a holy grail for Alaska’s trust fund babies and wannabe trust fund babies.
The popular notion has been that with a Permanent Fund corpus greater than $100 billion, the State could maintain current services off the fund’s revenue alone, so long as it could limit or eliminate the Permanent Fund dividend and devote most or all of the earnings to governmental operations.
This warms the cockles of lefty hearts as it harks to the sainted Gov. Jay Hammond’s notion that we should use oil development to turn oil wells into money wells. The lefties think they can abandon natural resource development and productive enterprise generally and just live off the Permanent Fund.
What they really want is the Juneau economy all over Alaska. Most of our readers are not from Southeast and have never been closer to Juneau than 30,000 feet or so as they flew by. It isn’t really the land of beer pong and leg wrestling, but it has a social and economic system that the lefties and self-styled elites find attractive. Juneau has almost no true private sector economy. It has a few big boxes and some retail and service businesses to serve immediate needs. Those businesses understand that their market is government employees who are mostly left of center; so they’re not going to advocate any conservative positions or give any money to conservative candidates.
Here’s where somebody from Juneau chimes in about the mines in Juneau. Those high-paid miners they like to tout mostly hot bunk in apartments, do their shift, and go home to momma in the Lower 48 on their off-week(s); they’re not a part of the Juneau economy or res publica. Yes, there are administrative and other support employees in mining, but they’re really indistinguishable from the people who trudge into State and Federal office buildings every morning.
And finally, the two mines are in Juneau over the vehement opposition of the Juneau leftist elite, and mine owners and management are simply not a part of Juneau politics.
The dream of the trust fund babies is to turn the whole State into Juneau. Post-scamdemic, we’re close here in Anchorage to achieving that, and it is probably just as close in Fairbanks, Juneau, and Kenai.
Other than a minimally necessary service sector and transportation sector, urban Alaska has only such trade as is necessary for the people who live off the government to provide for themselves. If you are among Alaska’s ruling elite, government, healthcare, education, and social services providers, you can pretty much get anything you need to make yourself happy in Anchorage, other than fashionable entertainment, anyway. The rockers and country musicians are being defiant and having some events, but the fashionable types aren’t ready to leave the house yet.
The computer on my Mercedes Benz is demanding a scheduled service; the dealer can’t offer me an appointment for two months. To make it worse, my trusted independent backup can’t give me an appointment for five weeks. In 2019, I would have had to wait at most five days, and they’d have given me a ride home and come and picked me up when it was done. Either a whole bunch of mechanics/technicians have packed up and left Alaska or they’re sitting home drawing welfare and unemployment benefits having discovered that in Slo Jo’s world, working isn’t worth it. Well, in the Trust Fund Babies’ world, working really isn’t worth it either.
I worked in two Democrat administrations — Gov. Steve Cowper and Gov. Tony Knowles. Cowper was dealing with an economic crisis and had to act responsibly; the Democrats/leftists hated him for it. Things were a little more stable economically by Knowles’ time, thanks to the efforts of Cowper, Gov. Wally Hickel, and people like me, so his administration could act like the typical Democrat Trust Fund Baby. If you were a State employee with ministerial or regulatory authority during the Knowles Administration, the very worst thing you could do for your personal well-being was to actually do your job.
As I look back on 1994-96, what I should have done is just stay home; they wouldn’t have had either the skill or the guts to fire me, and I’d have three more years of PERS earnings. Instead, I told them where to put it and went to work for the Legislature as a contractor; that cost me about $300K in PERS earnings. I’ve never bothered to figure out what that costs me every month, but my wife probably has.
What today’s Trust Fund Babies want is for the whole population of Alaska to essentially work for the State or for local governments that live off the State. You can be a public employee in either State or local government or in education, you can be a healthcare employee, you can be on welfare, or you can be a part of a small service and retail sector that lives off the foregoing group; welcome to Juneau.
With oil at nearly $90 a barrel. there is probably enough money around to have some bread and circuses to keep the plebes happy next year. The problem is the same one we struggled with back in the Seventies; oil is a finite resource. We understood back then, that one day it would run out, and we wouldn’t have all that beautiful money anymore, so we started stashing some of it away.
Now that we’ve turned oil wells into money wells, we have to confront the same issue with that money; it is all good when the the stock market is at record highs every day. What happens when it isn’t? All that money is really just speculative, fiat money; what happens when its value collapses? Do you want to be a trust fund baby with the State managing your life, or do you have more faith in yourself?
Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon.