By CHRIS NYMAN
It’s time to end the Permanent Fund dividend.
Why would I write this really unpopular opinion? Only because I feel a sense of duty to our town, our state, and country — and even the world.
I feel like I could be shunned like Ron and Penny Zobel or turned into some kind of pariah. (For the record, the Zobels were absolutely right about the dividend and residency, and they won in the State and U.S Supreme Courts).
I always assumed that common sense would prevail concerning the Permanent Fund dividend. I knew long ago that there is no individual right to the dividend and that any dividend payment would have to compete with all the other programs that “the people” had asked their legislators to build and fund.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that we would completely drain our emergency savings account, the Constitutional Budget Reserve. Never did I imagine we would max out the sustainable draw from the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve, and seek to borrow money to pay our bills (oil tax credits) in order to fund the dividend.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and low oil prices, the outlook is even more catastrophic. The raiding of the Constitutional Budget Reserve, which is a loan, now has to be seen as one of the stupidest moves ever.
On top of that stupidity was the arrogant dismissal of the State Constitution requirement to re-fund the Constitutional Budget Reserve from the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account, when funds were available.
In fact, those funds are available and have been available, but the Legislature chose to hoard that money instead in the Earnings Reserve Account, where it can be raided with a simple majority vote.
Even worse, with no dividend this year we still project to run a deficit beyond the sustainable earnings reserve draw. What a mess.
The dividend has a pernicious effect on our society, our culture, and our government.
The old axiom “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” is apropos here. The negative effects of the annual billion dollar giveaway include inflation, hyper stimulating the economy, IRS tax liability, attraction of persons with high government needs and little income ability, drug and alcohol abuse, and a total corruption of our representative government by candidates and legislators who don’t tell the truth about the dividend.
Its time to end the dividend as it is currently structured. In fact, this year it is an absolute imperative. Sure, bring it back whenever we can afford it again. But don’t hold your breath.
Chris Nyman writes occasionally for Must Read Alaska.