Rob Myers: Permanent Fund dividend is a symbol of all our problems - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, January 16, 2022
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Rob Myers: Permanent Fund dividend is a symbol of all our problems

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By SEN. ROB MYERS

Since I entered the government arena last year, I have been saying that the Permanent Fund dividend is not our only problem but that it is a symbol of all our problems.

But those who have decided to pay for government spending by cutting the PFD are saying something incredibly new and different about the society we are building in Alaska. 

It is a significant pivot, and Alaskans must decide whether they agree with this fundamental shift. For nearly four decades, we had enough money that we could avoid asking key questions, but we need to ask them now. The answers will determine our state’s future.

The core question we have to answer is who owns the natural resources of Alaska.  The Statehood Act in 1958 gave the mineral rights and a large portion of the other resources to the state. But we never explored the full implications of this blatant socialism. 

The Statehood Act and the subsequent land selections gave most of the natural resources of Alaska to the state. Our government’s actions over the last few years have given control of the Permanent Fund to the state as well. Do we want to live in a place where control of both the largest natural and financial resources are in control of the state?

By concentrating the resources into the hands of the government, we take the individual out of the equation. It should not escape us that the PFD was cut precisely when it was becoming large enough to create meaningful business investment by individuals. Do we want to live in a place where individuals make decisions about the economy or where we are dependent on government investment?

In the immediate boom after pipeline construction, one way the state invested in the economy was government loan programs, which often went to the most politically connected.

Over the last decade, we have created more government loan programs for a variety of sectors; add in the huge capital budgets we had during the last boom and the ones we will likely have again in a few years if the stock market continues to climb. But we will not have investments made by individual, local Alaskans because they have been cut off from the in-state financial resources. Do we want to live in a place where we invest in what makes sense politically or what makes sense economically?

Over the last two centuries, Supreme Court rulings have confirmed what we already knew intuitively: money is power. By placing control of the Permanent Fund, Alaska’s largest financial resource, in the hands of the government, we are saying where we want power to reside.

Do we want to live in a place where power is centralized in the hands of the politically powerful few or where power is decentralized in the hands of individuals?

For decades, the state received most of its revenue from the oil industry. The result was that the state did not really have to care what happened in the other sectors of the economy, and it showed.

From 2005 to 2020, growth in our economy was concentrated in oil, government, and a couple of other related sectors. Now that most of its revenue will be coming from the stock market through the Permanent Fund, the state can ignore those sectors as well. Do we want to live in a place where the government is able to ignore the economy or where they need to pay attention to conditions outside of the capitol building?

Personally, I would rather live in a place where individuals can turn the natural resources of the state into financial resources to grow the rest of the economy. I want farmers to be able to buy feed, restauranters to build kitchens, carpenters to buy tools, entertainers to expand their offerings, dry cleaners to expand their capacity, innovators to invest in Alaska appropriate tech, and a host of other entrepreneurs to invest in our local economy. That is why I support the full PFD.

The PFD was our partial solution to socialism. By cutting it and putting it after all other state spending, we put the government first and the individual and private economy last. Like all socialist economies, it will impoverish us in the long run.

Sen. Robert Myers lives in North Pole.

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  • Well said. That is why we thought a majority would be in Juneau to work FOR us, not against us. We thought we had more of you and less of them. That’s what we get for thinking huh?

  • I almost heard Jay Hammond in the background…… you are in the money, Rob!

    • A breath of fresh air, with one caveat. Jay Hammond’s original intent was to address the PFD as a way to assist Alaskans to get a leg up, while saving the corpus of the Fund for Alaska’s future investment and growth after oil declined. But the truth of the matter is that state government grew more during the Hammond years than at any other time since then. This is the path of most politicians, to look back on their career and say, “look what I created.” The more difficult path is to look back and say,. “look what I prevented.”

  • Alaskans wanted statehood to gain independence from Seattle, but we continue to send legislators to Juneau who say anything to voters at election time and do the exact opposite once elected,. Seattle still controls our economy. The best recent example of this duplicity my own Representative, Kelly Merrick. She was born and raised in Juneau and fooled enough people in Eagle River to be elected. Once back home, Rep Merrick joined the minority Democrats to create a majority coalition that has been good only in harvesting per diem payments while doing very little for those who supported her.

    Now Merrick has filed for the Senate to do the opposite of what honorable elected officials like Rob Meyer are trying to do for Alaskans who elected him.

    WE MUST GET OUR LEGISLATURE OUT OF JUNEAU.

    • Where should they go Donn?

    • Donn, I am in agreement with removing the disease of Government out of Juneau. That said can we first help facilitate that ” move” by building that often studied damn road out of Juneau?

    • Donn, the nail is hit. New District 24 needs to wake up politically. Kelly Merrick is not the senator needed for the independent minded freedom loving voters of Chugiak and JBER.

      • Michael Tavoliero for US Congress. Now!

  • I hope enough people are being directed to this column, especially those ignorant busybodies who think of the PFD as an undeserved giveaway, and that we, the people of Alaska without mineral rights, should be giving our fair share by giving up our PFD. You explained succinctly, with clarity, why the PFD, the WHOLE PFD belongs to the people of Alaska, not to the government.

    • The PFD is pure socialism.

      • By your statement you are either a socialist or have always declined the PFD.

        • Do you accept the dividend every year?

  • Seems to me that the root of all our problems (from the family unit through local community to national government and international relations) is that we hate each other, and the best two symbols of that are government and the media. Both feed it because it nourishes them.

  • Few have reduced the argument for the PFD being given to the people of state, rather to The State, as you have. Well done.

    If politicians could be trusted to spend wisely, to develop the multitude natural resources in this state, rather than line their pockets and grow the government bureaucracy, it might be different. They have proven that they can’t or won’t.

    I have lived in Alaska since 1968 and have seen how little has been done to develop our many resources. We’ve sat back and reaped the benefits of the oil boom, then blamed the oil companies for keeping too much profit as the oil reserves diminished. Had we done more to develop income from the state’s other natural resources, maybe build a few more roads to access the western part of the state, we wouldn’t be so oil-dependent, or be fighting about the spoils.

  • Thank you Senator for this message. I might add that the funds Creator, Oral Freeman saw the Fund as a tool for Limiting Government. The purpose of the fund was to retain $ or power for the people keeping the Governmental Industrial Complex’s mittens out of the cookie jar.

  • Well written and right on target.

  • Over the years, the PFD has contributed greatly to what I have been able to achieve. It is understood that not all recipients are going to look at or value it the same, but not allowing EACH individual to make of it what they will, while concentrating the decision of what can be made of it into a centralized power structure, limits potential and has an exorbitant opportunity cost. I believe, that we can not afford to deny individual rights and/or liberty, at any turn. To me, this qualifies as one of those places where those rights and the opportunity potential, need to be protected.

    Thank you Senator Myers for your contribution here.

  • Thank you Rob! There have been many publicly made views on the pfd and your view looks far and away the best as to the direction we may or may not go. I think the money/power is better with the citizens and not in the hands of the State.
    Thanks again and great to know you are working for the citizens and not the State.

  • Although the author is correct in what he says, he joins the other criminals in Juneau in what he leaves unsaid. Alaska receives a tiny fraction for our oil of what other places receive for theirs. Even in parts of the world where there is violence and terrorism, oil companies are glad to get much less profit than they do in Alaska. Here, their own employees can sit in the legislature and vote to practically give our oil to their employers. That is why the permanent fund doesn’t have 200 billion dollars, and the dividend is not about $7,000. Al Capone would be so jealous.

    • Well said!!!!!!

  • Excellent analysis, Robb. The Permanent Fund dividend is part of the solution, not the problem. Alaskan shareholders made $19.4 billion from our Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.

  • UBI/free money and having the legislature meet in a remote location (Juneau) are the Alaska’s 2 fundamental problems. Everything else is secondary or less.

  • Sen. Myers should author another article outlining the steps he is taking to fix this problem.

    • I agree Mike, Senator Myers’ article is accurate, but lacking – it is very easy to point the finger, but a whole ‘nother animal to outline a solution and get it past the big-government nanny-staters. The State owns the mineral rights? Where is the Statehood Compact lawsuit addressing federal violations of our mineral rights? We have lots of oil.

    • The only answer lies in the people exercising their rights in the constitutional convention, vote for it in 2022.

  • Yep Myers, stay uncorrupted. Centralized money equals specialized interests which infects our representatives.
    Vote 3rd party.
    It’s time to be brave.

  • 1 in 3 jobs in Alaska is dependent on Federal spending. How do you get independent from that?Everyone has to accept less comfort or services (and/or an income tax). I don’t see that happening; especially with the next generation coming up. The solution? A big change in standard of living.

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