From a PR standpoint, probably the most effective signs at yesterday's rally to prevent Republicans from transferring billions of Alaska's oil revenues to oil companies, are the ones that predicted the demise of the Permanent Fund. That's a cause all Alaskans will fight. But it only makes sense - if our oil revenues plummet, so will the Permanent Fund*.
If a journalist is watching a mugging, should she just take notes or try to intervene? When does once humanity take precedence over one's profession? I've heard photojournalists argue that they've been in terrible situations where intervening might not have helped, but their photos calling attention to atrocities can help in the long run. In this post I can't quite help myself. I don't see two valid sides to this story. I'd like to think I'm being both a human being and a reasonable journalist here. But I'm sure others will disagree.
Despite what Republicans may have talked themselves into believing, all their rationales are just cover for transferring billions of dollars from the State of Alaska to the oil companies. These 'incentives' by the state are matched by absolutely no commitments on the part of the oil companies. Remember this is brought to us by the party that includes not a few members who think global climate change is a hoax, that the world is only 6000 years old, and who take their marching orders on gay rights from Deuteronomy. There is a reason Republicans want to gut the public schools - education hurts their election chances.
Right now, the State of Alaska is being fleeced by Republican legislators lowering the taxes on oil companies in the vague hope that this will stimulate production. Our Governor was a lobbyist for Conoco-Phillips before becoming Sarah Palin's Lt. Governor and then, when she quit, Governor. Two of the Senators who voted for Senate Bill 21are currently employees of oil companies when they aren't on leave to be in the legislature. Without those two votes, the bill would not have passed. The Senate majority voted they didn't have a conflict of interest. If they had been members of the Sierra Club and their votes would have stopped the bill, do you think they would have been allowed to vote? I don't think so.
So, the legislature is emptying the Bank of Alaska and taking the loot to the getaway cars driven by the big three oil companies. We are like a third world nation, except that this seems to have become standard operating procedure in the US now as well. (I don't understand how Alaskan Tea Party folks who fume over the bank bailouts aren't equally upset about their legislators actions on oil (yeah the most conservative supporters of this were elected by Tea Party supporters).
The sequester will strongly weaken government's ability to not only maintain vital infrastructure - transportation, health and safety, education, crime prevention, etc. - but also makes it much harder for the government to regulate industry. Exactly what the Koch brothers, who have funded much of this, want. I do have to admire their ability to get ardent support from some of the people who will be hurt most.
Facts and reason have had little effect at all against the power of the oil companies. Six years after the FBI video taped VECO executives bribing Republican legislators over oil taxes in the Baranof Hotel's Suite 602, and with most if not all of those convicted back on the streets, they've returned to business as usual.
In any case, here's a video that shows those who mustered 9 votes to the Republicans' 11 votes in the Senate, on
4th Avenue yesterday in front of the Legislative Information Office.
[Update April 7, 2013: Whoops, the video wasn't there. It should be now.]
The speakers include a number of former legislators, Wally Hickel's long time aide and biographer Malcolm Roberts, two people - Katie Hurley and Vic Fischer - who were participants in the Alaska Constitutional Convention, and Anchorage Assembly write-in candidate, Nick Moe, who's challenge to Assembly Chair Ernie Hall is still too close to call.
*We have in recent years, gotten more income from investments than oil revenue, which is how things were originally projected when people thought the oil would be almost depleted by now. However, it appears that last year's oil revenue was greater than our investment revenue. The Annual Report (p. 6) shows that investment gains were less than the drop in the overall portfolio value, meaning the real gain was from oil revenue. Oil revenue last year was $915 million, about what the Governor's bill proposes to cut each year.
Drastically reducing our oil revenue like this will keep the Permanent Fund from growing as it should. Our $45 billion Permanent Fund is dwarfed by Norway's $700 billion oil fund which started much later and is supported by smaller oil reserves.