Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend: $878

September 18, 2012 

I had to laugh at one online response to the announcement of the amount of this year's Permanent Fund dividend.

"Lame."Are we a little spoiled here? Could be. While I laughed at the comment, I confess a twinge of disappointment at the amount. Could have used a little more to finish off that debt or buy a dryer or ...

There's nothing lame about a check for $878 simply for being an Alaska resident. More than just about anything Alaskans have done since oil began flowing from the North Slope, the dividend has sealed our status as an owner state, giving yearly, tangible, kitchen-table evidence that our resources are indeed owned in common and to be developed for the benefit of us all.

That aside, the dividend has been a grand experiment and a provocative challenge -- you can argue for or against from across the political and ideological spectrum. It's a redistribution of wealth that makes liberals (progressives if you like) smile; at the same time it takes money out of the hands of government and sends it to individuals to spend, save and invest as each sees fit. At least part of that should make conservatives nod their assent, while libertarians should delight in it.

I've been a mostly a reactionary about the dividend. When I see people insisting that Permanent Fund earnings should never be used for anything else, that dividend death-grip looks unhealthy. On the other hand, when I see people arguing that the dividend has created a sense of entitlement and that the money shouldn't be going to Alaskans as individuals, the condescension rankles.

But down on the home front, where most of us live most of the time, politics and policy are less pressing than the question of what we're going to do with those dividends. Let the kids spend a little of theirs? Salt them away? Take a big bite out of that debt? Take a big bite out of hunger and shore up the local food pantries? Bankroll that trip Outside? Buy that iPhone?

In the end the dividend is a blessing of wealth, one that comes with choices -- individual, couple or family choices. I'm glad for the check and the choice. May we all choose well.

-- Frank Gerjevic

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