Where have all the leaders gone? Long time passing

Gov. Bill Egan speaks at a the Governor’s Picnic in Anchorage in 1966. (Alaska State Museum Collection, UAA-hmc-0370-series15a-4-205.)



Hat tip to Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Let’s go back to the 1970s. Before the Prudhoe Bay lease sale, the State budget was around $250 Million. That won’t operate a single major department of State government today, even adjusted for inflation.

The State population in the 1970 Census was a little over 300,000, about the population of metro Anchorage today. Then, Anchorage had about 125, 000 people and Eagle River and Wasilla were a long drive on a bad two lane road.

Then the $968 Million for the Prudhoe Bay leases came, and then the “Oil Rush” began. People looking for jobs and opportunity flocked to Alaska.

Readers of the right age might remember that the Lower 48 pretty much sucked in the mid-’70s — the oil embargo, spiraling crime. “Dirty Harry” didn’t come from nowhere, and President Jimmy Carter’s “National Malaise” comments were plenty enough to get many people looking for somewhere, anywhere, else to be. I was among them.

In 1974 Atlanta I would have rather made the two-block walk from my business to the bank without my pants on than without my pistol, often more than one because one wasn’t enough.

I had enough money, so I sold my Mercedes and bought a Toyota Land Cruiser, put the Lower 48 in my rear view mirrors, and joined the ranks of the bearded, blue-jeaned guys looking to get by and get high in Alaska.

By 1980, Anchorage and Alaska’s population had almost doubled. Had someone been standing on a balcony at the Hotel Captain Cook threatening to jump, all anybody would have been interested in was knowing where he worked; people would be there at opening time with application in hand.

Only the very most politically aware and the old-timers, the self-anointed sourdoughs, had a clue who the political elite of Alaska were. And back then, a cheechako was the person behind you in line at the U.S.-Canada border.

Faces of workers who built the Trans Alaska Pipeline, which was completed June 20, 1977, three years and two months after construction began. University of Alaska archives

It was a time when somebody with a bit of drive and the ability to tell a good story could invent him/herself into pretty much whatever he or she chose to be. Many did invent themselves. The State government expanded exponentially, and the State wasn’t real scrupulous about backgrounds or qualifications as long as it could put a warm butt in a seat.

It was “The Alaska Method” — con your way into a job and see how long you could keep it.

In the 1970s, a little-known Republican state senator from Naknek (Jay Hammond) defeated a Democrat icon (Bill Egan) to become governor. Hammond had the backing of the Left side of the Alaska Democrat Party.

[Read: Reality strikes: Alaska has always been left-leaning.]

Alaska was created as a socialist state, but the Legislatures in the decade after 1974 made Alaska into a model of socialism that the Soviet Bloc could never have emulated, the Permanent Fund and the dividend being the capstone.

Among the radical ideas of the ’70s, the Permanent Fund was the most radical, and it was enacted with almost overwhelming electoral approval. Fast forward 40-odd years:

Alaska has three-quarters of a million people, about a third of whom actually work, which is pretty close to the number of people actually working in the Seventies.

None of our political systems can actually work; nobody has any airspeed, altitude, or ideas. We are imprisoned in stasis. We’re about to stumble into essentially dissolving the government of Alaska at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, 2017. Nobody can move, nobody can change.

Here’s why: Everybody in a position of power and influence in Alaska today got there by understanding the government as it is.

If anything happens to change the government as it is, those people with power and influence — our leaders — are at risk to lose that power and influence. We’re at the ultimate event horizon of socialism; the only option left is cutting the slices of the fixed pie ever thinner until the ever-thinner slices no longer satisfy the people and all Hell breaks out.

That’s where all the leaders have gone.

Right now, Alaska’s unionized public employees, or at least their leaders, have decided that the pie is theirs and they really don’t care whether the rest of Alaska gets any pie.

This will not end well. We need leaders.

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. He only writes for Must Read Alaska when he’s banned from posting on Facebook, which is often.


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