By Shannyn Moore — for the Anchorage Daily News
“Family values.” It’s something we hear a lot around election season from the Republican Party. It’s code for “queers are bad and ladies are baby ovens.”
It has nothing to do with healthy families.
Case in point: This past week, the Republicans in the Alaska House of Representatives, on some sort of “look-how-fiscally-conservative-we-are” display, slashed and burned the state operating budget. The hypocrisy of their campaign stances comes into pure light when you see how they are spending our money.
Pre-kindergarten education was slashed, as was funding for Best Beginnings early education and the Parents as Teachers program. A two-year state of Alaska study found that our pre-K program cut in half the number of children reading far below grade level. And it’s not just pre-K. The Alaska Learning Network, which allows rural pupils to take classes otherwise not available to them — poof!
The stupid was strong in this decision for multiple reasons. As the Washington Post pointed out, pre-K education is a better investment than stocks or bonds. The rate of return is outstanding: “Thirty-six percent of recipients of early childhood ed going to college, compared to 14 percent of non-participants.” They go to prison less (which is spendy), get better jobs, pay more in taxes and have higher incomes to raise their families without assistance programs.
Why would they do that? The only benefit for these slashes will be to the private prison industry.
More than $8 million was diverted from behavioral health. Think of how devastating this is for Alaska families who struggle. Services for substance abuse treatment and detox services. Drunk parents, or those addicted to drugs, cripple not only themselves but their children. Suicide prevention funds were cut, despite the fact that we have an epidemic of suicide. In tandem, services for youth with severe emotional disturbances were cut.
I realize the depressed and hopeless don’t have lobbyists — but they shouldn’t have to. Our citizen Legislature should be lobbying for the “least among us.” For all the Bible waving these clowns do during campaigns, I’m now sure they haven’t read it.
Not only were services cut related to domestic violence and sexual assault, the House Republicans added insult to injury, literally. The budget had included the hiring of two prosecutors to deal specifically with domestic violence and sexual assault. The cost? $450,000. That was cut. Putting predators in prison? Priceless.
Who are they representing with decisions like this? What are their priorities?
I’m so glad you asked!
The governor’s bill to take over dredge-and-fill permits is sailing through. Currently the Army Corps of Engineers holds the reins, and the governor would like fewer eyes on projects like the Pebble mine. You know, they call it “streamlining.” Currently, the federal government employs 49 people and it costs them about $8 million a year. Here’s the curious part of this bill — they don’t know what it will cost the state. Shrug. It’s just money, right?
There’s a bill that limits tribal water rights, and another that makes it harder for Alaskans to challenge a project, all to grease the wheels for industry. Do you get that? I don’t. Clean water and healthy food are family values.
While the House passes another non-binding “we love our guns” bill, Sen. Kevin Meyer takes testimony from his boss, the vice president of ConocoPhillips. Oh, I’m not being snippy — he really is his boss the other months of the year. Sen. Peter Micciche, with the same boss, still doesn’t understand why voting on a bonus for his employer is a conflict of interest.
So we’re too tight on money to hire two prosecutors to lock up rapists but we don’t really need to know much about how much new oil tax legislation will cost? Heck, we don’t even have to know what we get for a billion-plus back to oil companies. Scott Jepsen, VP for Conoco, testified, “We can’t tell you today what projects might happen or might not.” Oh, and a billion or a billion and a half isn’t enough.
I know what we’d get for $450,000 worth of prosecutors. More rapists locked up. What do we get for spending money on alcohol and substance abuse? Healthier families and fewer incidents of domestic violence.
Sorry, Alaska, that money going back to the oil companies has to come from somewhere. Gov. Parnell and the give-away gang will gift oil companies, every year, more money than we spend on Health and Human Services annually. It will cost almost three times what we spend on transportation every year. It is more than we spend on education each year.
Here’s the dirty truth. The governor and the Republicans in the hallowed halls of Juneau don’t have family values. They have corporate values.