Alaska, like many others, is a state deeply divided on a variety of political issues. But if there’s one thing that both Republicans and Democrats in Alaska can agree on, it’s that they love getting free money.
PFD season comes around every year, and this is when Alaskans get to go a little bit spending-crazy. There are flash sales on everything, from sweaters to snow machines, and we love using our free money, whether we’re spending or saving.
I have received a dividend every year of my life, but sometimes I wish that the PFD system didn’t exist.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Permanent Fund is a valuable system and should still be in place. It’s the dividend that I’m skeptical about.
When I think about the past election season, I’m disgruntled by the fact that both candidates spent so much of their campaign discussing how they were going to save the PFD. They seemed to think that if the PFD is eliminated, the Permanent Fund would disappear as well. This could only happen if our Legislature let it, which I obviously don’t recommend.
Politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are using scare tactics with their voters. They want to be Superman, the only person who can swoop in, restore stipends of money to the citizens and save the day.
The idea that the PFD needs to be restored baffles me. When has there been a year PFDs weren’t distributed? Are we now at the point where we as Alaskans express public outrage if our stipend of free money is slightly smaller some years compared to others? Why should they be trying to restore something that is causing this much strife among Alaska residents?
It seems to me that there are so many other things in Alaska that the money used for PFDs could go toward. Education comes to mind.
I just finished 13 years of public school education in our state, and I know from witnessing that teaching positions, student services, and other educational necessities are put on the chopping block every year we have a state deficit. My high school used to have a French program, not anymore.
Shouldn’t money the state government is making from Alaska’s resources be used to assist with things like this — education, environmental sustainability or providing public safety to rural communities? Just think what positive changes would come about if our dividend money went to any of these looming state issues.
My grandfather was in the Alaska Legislature in 1976, and served when both the Permanent Fund and the PFD were established. Although he supported the Permanent Fund, he opposed the dividend, believing that it would create a culture of Alaskans relying too much on the government. I believe that is more relevant now than ever.
Alaskans are so concerned about their PFD that, many times, it becomes the main issue of election seasons, and other arguably more important topics are glossed over. There are so many economic plans thrown around to restore the PFD, but what about restoring the things our state has lost in the midst of financial crisis?
I am not usually a very politically minded person. I’m just a normal girl, a college student. The sad irony is that, while I don’t think that the PFD is beneficial to Alaska, I probably wouldn’t be attending my college without the money I saved from my dividends for 19 years. I’m trapped in the system, and I don’t think this will change much anytime soon. I want it to, though.
I implore all of Alaska’s citizens to think long and hard about what their dividend means to them. Is it worth a certain future of even more turbulent political and economic strife?
I hope not.
Brittany Gilman, born and raised in Alaska, is a student at New York University.
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