Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News
I read an op-ed in this paper by a gentleman named Jack Gerard with the American Petroleum Institute. He’s here from Washington, D.C., making speeches and honking his hooter. His message? Alaska needs to stand up to the federal government by endorsing tax cuts for oil companies in Alaska. We need to vote against our own interests in the August referendum.
It’s the economic equivalent of the Vietnam War strategy of destroying the village to save it.
Dear Mr. Gerard, if I wanted the opinion of an outsider from Washington, I’d call U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, thank you very much.
Jack’s job seems to be going from state to state telling folks if they don’t buy the flowers, wine and dinner then the oil companies won’t date them anymore. (It’s actually more than dating.)
Right. They’re going to break up with Alaska, pay to dismantle the pipeline and move to North Dakota. Well, my friends, here’s the reality: If they lose their massive tax cut, the oil companies aren’t even going to unfriend us on Facebook.
There’s money to be made here and they’ll stay as long as that’s the case. (And they’ll be gone five minutes after it’s not.) And as long as they’re here, they’re going to whine about taxes and threaten to leave. Their job is to make every nickel they can. And they make a lot of nickels by punching holes in the tundra, but they make a bunch more by duping or buying legislators and governors. They can’t help it. That’s just their mandate.
As Alaskans, citizens of the Owner State, we have greater obligations than just getting some money for our oil. We have the duty to protect, educate, build infrastructure and ensure that future generations aren’t crippled by our choices, and that means standing up for ourselves now.
Kind of a daunting task when you think about it.
Maybe that’s why Bob Bartlett titled his keynote address at the Constitutional Convention on Nov. 8, 1955, “Meeting the Challenge.” He said, “Many states have included in their constitutions statements that the natural resources of the state should be ‘developed for the benefit of the people’ of the state. Such pious generalities, without further concrete policy statements, have proved wholly inadequate as effective barriers against dissipation of resources, fraud and corruption. Alaskans will not want, and above all else do not need, a resources policy which will prevent orderly development of the great treasures which will be theirs. But they will want, and demand, effective safeguards against the exploitation of the heritage by persons and corporations whose only aim is to skim the gravy and get out, leaving nothing that is permanent to the new state except, perhaps, a few scars in the earth which can never be healed.”
Barlett’s speech reminds me of President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell warning, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”
Sadly the warnings against the military industrial complex went unheeded. And we’re about to do the same for the resource extraction complex.
Alaskans, under Article 8 of the constitution, are charged with using our natural resources for the “maximum benefit” of our people. This makes the state similar to a corporation, beholden to its shareholders, which would be you and me. The recent decision of the Legislature and governor to give away billions in revenue in exchange for an unenforceable promise of oil industry good intentions is a dereliction of their fiduciary duties. Remember, the standard is “maximum benefit” not “some benefit.”
I’m still waiting to hear from someone how giving away roughly $1 billion a year — according to the Parnell Administration’s own fiscal analysis — for nothing in return is securing the “maximum benefit” for Alaskans. In fact, according to the administration’s own projections, oil production is going to plunge 45 percent under Senate Bill 21, the governor’s oil tax giveaway law. That’s a greater decline than was projected under the previous law, called ACES.
By not collecting necessary taxes, the Legislature is not only making it harder to fund operating budgets, but it is institutionalizing deficit spending. This is exactly what the U.S. Congress did to institutionalize huge federal budget deficits.
Do we really want to guarantee that the state will have to search for other sources of revenue to fund itself in the future? That puts a bulls-eye on the back of the Alaska Permanent Fund, but then what? Why would we shortchange our children tomorrow so Exxon, Conoco and BP stockholders can have bigger dividends today? Really?
Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster. You can hear her show, “The Last Word,” Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on KOAN 95.5 FM and 1080 AM and 1480 We Act Radio in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.