The year of our discontent - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, September 19, 2021
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The year of our discontent

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Unless you were a college sophomore or some mind-numbed, America-hating leftist with chronic Trump Derangement Syndrome, America was a good place and generally optimistic back in December of 2019.

Unemployment was at historic lows, the markets were at historic highs, property values had largely recovered from the Democrat-induced collapse of the mid ‘00s; life was good.

My wife and I took off to Puerto Vallarta in early December. After a couple of decades of spending a couple or a few weeks in Mexico every winter we’ve developed a certain ennui about it, but it is nice to spend some time with your toes in the water and your behind in the sand in  some warm place during an Alaska winter.   

We normally go in February or March; it’s warmer in Mexico and Alaska is a much lighter and more pleasant place when you get back. Now, after over a decade of retirement, we’ve gotten somewhat accustomed to no longer being MVP Gold and to flying in coach, but we did splurge on the “Less Discomfort Class” on the segments where we could get it, which didn’t include the segment from Portland back to Anchorage during the evening of Dec. 18-19.  

The plane was very late and totally packed. There were so many people coughing, gagging, and wheezing that it sounded like a tuberculosis ward.   We had the usual allotment of feral children and incompetent parents; why does anyone with a brain travel with a small child for any reason other than a medical emergency? After four hours of misery, we were back home.

Then just like clockwork, we were both sick the first week of January.  I only had general malaise and flu-like symptoms for awhile. My wife developed pneumonia, had to have two ZPack courses, and was sick for the better part of six weeks; happy New Year!  

She tested positive for both of the SARS influenza types. Nobody was much aware of COVID -19 in early January, but we now know that testing positive for both SARS influenza types is a pretty good indicator. When she finally got a CV-19 test in March, she was negative, as was I later when I had to have one before a minor surgical procedure in July.   

We haven’t had the antibody tests to see if we had it, because they aren’t very reliable and — what the Hell — we’re both alive.  

And just so you know what a scam this is, I had my CV-19 swab and fifteen minutes later went into surgery, tests were taking a week or so to get results at the time. My diagnostic report on my discharge after surgery was that I was “presumed positive” for COVID – 19, but the hospital staff that attended me used less PPE than my dental hygienist used to clean my teeth a week or two later. 

Treating CV-19 patients pays a lot better and there are no questions asked.

We’re among the lucky ones; whatever we had, we had it early before the hysteria set in, and we recovered from it. PERS has reliably deposited our retirement and my Medicare and our health insurance is paid.  My wife has telecommuted for years, and other than a couple of weeks when she had pneumonia, she hasn’t missed any work, and even the missed work was covered with paid leave. 

We’ve won the lottery of life; our employer hasn’t been forced to close down or reduce to a skeleton staff, which brings this ramble to the central theme.

The COVID-19 scam has revealed the essential cultural and political divide in this country.  The governmental, professional, and administrative class in America has not suffered from the so-called pandemic, in fact this class had in many ways profited from it.  

Nobody still working who earns a salary or fixed wage has seen their income reduced; everybody who works for a commission or hourly wage or who tries to make a profit has seen their income reduced or outright eliminated.   

Those who are still working have seen almost everything they consume become less expensive. A couple of weeks ago, we spent a long weekend in a high-end lodge that I’d normally never patronize for the price of a single night in normal times.  Unless you have a camper/motorhome or are willing to tent-camp, few Alaskans will spend the money to travel Alaska in summer; it is just too expensive and crowded. Even when I had the resources of the State budget, we severely limited even statutorily required hearings and negotiation sessions in summer because it simply cost too much.   

The room a hotel would beg me to take at $89/night in January was $389 a night in July if I could get it at all. This year, you can get it for $69 a night. The stores that are still open are having sales. The building supply/appliance stores are having a boom. If you’re still working and have decent credit, mortgage rates are at near historic lows. If you’re one of the haves, it’s time to let the good times roll. It’s as good as having an isolated castle in the countryside during the Black Death.

On the other hand if you’re the owner of a small business in the hospitality/service/retail industries, you’ve had little or no income and no profit in the last six months; most small businesses, even prosperous ones, are broke in less than a month without income. If your business isn’t teetering on bankruptcy, you’re either a friend of the mayor or living off the dregs of a federal loan/subsidy.   

If you work for wages in these industries, you’ve been laid off or had your hours cut to the bone for six months. You were probably living pretty well on State Unemployment Insurance and the federal $15 an hour subsidy, but that ended July 31, and any successor program is being held hostage by the communists, excuse me, Democrats.   

There is no discernible, scientific or fact-based reason for Anchorage to be turned into the next best thing to a concentration camp except Mayor Berkowitz wants to try to force a mail-only ballot election. Those of you who own or work for small business can just suffer for the good of the Democrats.

I grew up in the dirt poor rural South of the 1950s and ’60s, but it took TV to show me I was poor and culturally deprived. I also grew up surrounded by Blacks and knew their culture pretty much as well as my own; they weren’t much different in those days. 

As had the Blacks, I learned to “pass” as they called it in those days in the culture that thought itself vastly superior.  In the world of corporate Atlanta, if you had a legitimate Southern accent, you had to be twice as good to be thought half as much of, and yes I know about Yankee grammar and ending a phrase with a preposition, but I’m a Southerner and I like it.   Fortunately, it wasn’t very hard to be twice as good, and I learned to “pass.”

Fast forward a decade and a half and I’d had a fairly successful business in Anchorage and very successful stint with the US Government chasing down missing grant and contract money all over rural Alaska.  

 A divorce and custody of a teenaged daughter forced me into the arms of State government in the State’s Labor Relations Division; you can’t take care of a teenager and rattle around on the Kuskokuim for weeks at a time. I’d worked my way up a union’s organizational chart and held elected and appointed office as well as having been actual paid staff for awhile, the Holy Grail in the Union Biz. 

I’d become a fairly accomplished bureaucrat in the federal government, which in those days was far more formal and rule controlled than the State. I was also the only one on the staff at the time who had any formal education in labor relations; I’d had all of UAA’s Masters/Professional courses in labor law and collective bargaining.

But I had a major black mark on my resume; in my misspent past I had actually done work that didn’t involve dress clothes and a desk. I was not one of the self-anointed elite that went straight from school to government and kept the same stupid ideas I’d had sitting cross-legged on the floor of a college dorm smoking dope in 1969.    

By that stage of my life, late 30s, I was pretty experienced, in the sense Jimi Hendrix used that word; little titillated me and almost nothing shocked me.

But the attitudes of my co-workers toward people who didn’t work behind a desk actually shocked me; they were contemptuous of anyone who did physical work or who got their hands dirty.   They hated me too, but I was formidable enough that they couldn’t hate me to my face.   My resignation got written several times but ultimately I ran the place and all of them were gone.

Before one of my fans chimes in, I don’t offer this as some hagiography for myself; I offer it as a hagiography for the thousands of Alaskans who came here, took any job they could get, and clawed their way up the socio-economic ladder to make a life for themselves and their family.  

The people I found myself surrounded with in State government in the late 1980s are the AA level of elitism in America.   Federal employees and academics are the AAA level, and the money people, the fund managers and tech billionaires, are the Major League.   They have made it to or near “The Show.”   

You “deplorables” aren’t even in the cheap seats; maybe you can sell concessions in their show.   It needs to end; go vote.

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. 

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Latest comments

  • I’m sorry you seem so bitter and, clearly, you’re drawing from personal experience. I’m left feeling uncertain about the reasons your anger and bitterness are directed towards Democrats. I’m going to hazard a guess you’ve attended Trump University and earned a degree in “Spectacle”. No offense intended.

    • Reality may seem bitter to some, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

      • When was the last time Reality had a seat at the Trumpian Table?? I appreciate you took the time to reply but, c’mon, nobody but NOBODY outside the Cult believes the lot of you has any idea what reality is anymore. We don’t much believe anything you say either. Oh, the accurate number of nonbelievers is roughly more than 70% This administration has proven over and over again they simply cannot be trusted.

        • People like you fascinate me; are you simply so oblivious, or are you willfully in denial of reality?

    • Sorry, but I’ve known Art for over twenty years and he is the real deal. He is only angry that government systems are rigged to protect the government elitists at the expense of the average citizen. Current history is proving that the elites have created a government structure that protects the “insiders.” Case in point are many of the people running for state legislative offices right now, backed by money that is intended to influence their decisions, as played out when we elect a majority Republicans to the state house only to have it organized with a Democratic leadership and agenda. Art would just like for the average citizen to get a fair shake against the elitist’s insiders.

      • Fair enough. “Elitists” is code for Democrats, an unfair assessment, I believe, on the whole. I’d take an “Elitist” in government over the inept, corrupt president and his enablers any day of the week. The GOP is dead now. Their governing actions in no way resemble the Conservative ideologies I did not agree with but admired just the same. They were principled and loyal to those principles, just as they were loyal to our Constitution. Now their loyalty is to power and greed and the conduit is Trump. Shite truly DOES run downhill.

      • Almost true. The real elitists are the moneyed few who have learned how to get their operatives elected. Trump is the ultimate expression of that highly cynical version of democracy. I’m not sure where Art fits into the picture, but I think he’s probably there somewhere on the spectrum.

  • Well done, Art. Congratulations.

  • You’re right. Those who work for state, local and federal government and the public employee unions cannot comprehend what’s happening in the private sector. If this keeps up, then it’s doubtful we’ll be able to build a commercial building in Anchorage in a year or two. All the experience will be down south. Mayor Berky is a Socialist, virtue-signaling Fool, along with most of the Assembly

    What’s it going to take to recall every one of them?

  • Art, you just keep hitting home runs. I’m so glad that you keep writing such good stuff, and that you have actually been there and done that!

  • “The COVID-19 scam has revealed the essential cultural and political divide in this country” -A.C.

  • Art, you layed it all out there. Dirty linen and all. That”s why we love you here at MRAK. No deceipt and no bs. God love ya, buddy.

  • A good representation of the problem with people that get paid no matter what, living on the backs of the people that are struggling to get paid and earn a living. The municipality of Anchorage was very clear that the property taxes are due, no matter if you have the means to earn a living or not. Teachers should be thrown into the former stack, as they expect to be paid, even thought they are not going to be doing their jobs this year. You don’t need as many teachers if all the kids are sitting in front of computer screens.

  • Entertaining read. Thanks.

  • Art Chance is a treasure. Not necessarily a pot of gold, but the something you find buried on a beach somewhere and you are tickled you found something cool.

  • Have you noticed that the govt bureaucrats, technocrats and managers in all levels of govt are not furloughed? Look at the Anchorage School District–teachers will work 4 hours a week and parents must teach their kids for 4 hours a day! Yes, it is an upside down world we live in.

  • He enjoys the broad benefits of a retired government employee who never worries about financial stress. Within his elite class, he is among the very few to fully recognize his own privilege. What’s more, among those few, he is one of even fewer to openly acknowledge his privilege in the public arena. He articulately illustrates it by comparing and contrasting it to the lack thereof among those struggling in the private sector. He knows how his bread is buttered and he owns it. This is clearly a man of noble character. If only the majority of privileged elites could conduct themselves with such manifest honesty and humility. Contrary to another commentator, I find no “bitterness” in Mr. Chance’s essay. Rather, I find it inspiring.

    • I’m happy you found it inspiring. I found the Speakers at last night’s Democratic Convention inspiring and you likely did not. Let’s simply face the fact that inspiration is subjective and influenced by ideologies. The nature of the beast.

    • May you have the privileged, elite, honest, humble, bitterless, retirement your hero of noble charactered has enjoyed off the backs of those who did the real work in his world.
      I’d be inspired, too.

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