Amazingly, unsuccessful Republican vice-presidential candidate and former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has finally come out -- as a socialist.
It's right there for all to read on her Facebook page, where she defends the massive taxes imposed on the oil industry in the 49th state when she was governor by saying, among other things, that she had to go all Hugo Chavez for "the Alaskan people (who collectively own the natural resources, via our state constitution)."
Yes, indeed, they do. Alaskans, independent-minded folk that they are, live under the nation's most socialist state constitution. Palin, having grown up here and never having been much of a student, might not really even understand this. Alaskan youth are steeped in the idea that collective ownership of the state's natural resources is a good and right thing.
The Alaska Constitution was written by a strange collection of old lefties and pragmatic businessmen who saw natural resources as the only capital available in the 49th state. Fearful of the way the territory of Alaska had essentially been run from Seattle by moneyed Outside interests, they wanted to make sure that the capital of the new state was tied up in such a way those folks couldn't get at it.
What better way than to form something of a Union of Soviet Socialist Alaskans (USSA) and grant its members collective ownership of resources. Here, by the way, (for those of you in America who've drunk so much of the Palin Kool-Aid you just can't accept the idea she's a socialist) is the definition of socialism:
"A theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land (empasis added), etc., in the community as a whole."
And Article VIII of the Alaska Constitution reads:
"The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people."
Over the years, that latter phrase has come to mean that if there is profitable "development'' in Alaska, the money should go to "its people.'' This is socialism, not capitalism. And it is representative of the twisted world in which Palin, and for that matter all Alaskans, live. They daily pound the drums of independence and capitalism, and nightly get into bed with socialism.
I actually had an interesting discussion about this the other night with a journalist friend who had moved from Alaska to a newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, and on a visit back was questioning why Alaska journalists without question accept the state's annual, socialist handout.
It is called a "Permanent Fund Dividend.'' It is a $1,000-to-$2,000 reward Alaskans get each year for living here. It is "their portion'' of the collectively owned oil resources. No one does anything to earn this money, as they would in a capitalist society. They are given this money because they are part of the club -- Club Alaska.
Journalists, being pure and holy souls, wouldn't think about taking a $1,000-to-$2,000 gift from a business. And yet, they take this gift from government without even thinking about it. It is, after all, their "share'' of the state's resources. This is not the way things work in a capitalist society.
In a capitalist society, oil companies, like it or not, earn most of the profits as a reward for the risks and efforts they invest in extracting oil from the ground. And government then taxes them at a fair rate to pay for the costs associated with oil development -- environmental regulation, maybe some funding for new schools and roads required by an influx of oil workers, maybe the costs of new social services demanded by those oil workers.
Most states, admittedly, have an income tax to help make workers pay for the costs of the social services people always seem to demand, but Alaska long ago got rid of the income tax. Why should Alaskans pay an income tax when the oil industry and other businesses can afford to pay for the costs of state government, which they do. Businesses, primarily those involved in the use of those collectively-owned resources, now pay the cost of government in Alaska, with the oil industry alone picking up more then 90 percent of the tab.
But wait, there's more; as Palin again reminds all in her Facebook post, her big oil tax plan, known as "ACES," had a big impact on state revenue:
Most importantly, Alaska enjoys a $12 billion surplus thanks to ACES and the sound fiscal policies of my administration. I put billions of dollars aside in savings accounts (though I could have easily spent those billions and made a lot of friends with big-spending legislators on both sides of the aisle).
And from where did this $12-billion surplus come? It came from excess taxes on the oil industries. The word "surplus'' explains it fairly enough. The state didn't "need'' the money. It just saw an opportunity to get the money, and being a good socialist state, no such opportunity should be forsaken.
Palin also fibs there a bit about how she "could have easily spent those billions.'' Given the billions already being spent, that would not have been so easy. Alaskans still have some reservations about big-spending government. Not a lot, but some. There were Alaskans lobbying pretty aggressively for putting money away in a "rainy day fund'' for when the oil runs out, which it is rapidly doing, or better yet injecting it into the Permanent Fund so Alaskans can collect even bigger annual "dividends" for doing nothing in the future.
It is worth noting here, too, that despite Palin's claims to fiscal conservatism -- she struggles under that same strange dichotomy of many Alaskans confused about the meaning of the words "socialist'' and "capitalist" -- the state budget grew in the two short years she was governor.
That said, it could have grown more if the Legislature hadn't bowed to the idea of saving some of the money and if Palin hadn't lobbied to give some away. Here is Palin's version of those events, or that of her ghostbooker Rebecca Mansour: "But I chose to put billions in savings for a rainy day and return a portion to the people of Alaska. (It was their money after all.)''
Palin, with the approval of Alaska legislators, gave Alaskans a $1,200 check in 2008. It came at a time of rising energy costs. The politicians called it an "energy rebate.'' It paid for a lot of big, flat-panel TVs at Costco.
"It was their money after all,'' as the ex-governor notes. Their money? Hmm. What exactly did they do to earn it?
Better yet, what better scheme for a politician to get herself re-elected? I rob from the oil industry over here, and I give it to the poor peasants over there. Yee-haw!
Everyone in Alaska thought at the time of the energy rebate that Palin was already running for re-election, but she didn't even serve out her term. Better opportunities came along, and she acted on them. On that level, she is a pure capitalist. She acts in her own best interests.
What's hard to figure out from the latest Facebook post, however, is what she thinks her own best interests are here. Why defend that massive tax scheme called "Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share" with that cute acronym -- ACES -- when it so clearly underlines her socialist roots? It's simply not very Republican. It's the reason that while governor she was often identified as "the de facto leader of the House Democrats'' in the state Capitol.
Is Pain about to propose a solution to the nation's towering debt? Could the answer be to do to national resource producers -- oil companies, gas companies, coal mining companies, and any others making large profits -- what Alaska did to the one industry in the 49th state making large profits?
Tax the snot out of it? That scheme has worked for Alaska. The state today has the healthiest state finances in the nation.
Why wouldn't the same scheme work for the nation as a whole? Why should the shareholders of oil or other companies be the only beneficiaries of profligate profits made by the extraction of resources belonging to all Americans? Walmart, for Godsake, makes something like $15 billion a year in profits mining the pocketbooks of American consumers to send money to Chinese factories.
If the country can't afford health care for all, why should shareholders in Exxon, Walmart and the like be getting dividends that could easily underwrite the best of health care for them?
Hail, Comrade Sarah.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Contact Craig Medred at firstname.lastname@example.org.