There is no place in the United States more illustrative of cognitive dissonance — more rife with deep internal contradictions — than Sarah Palin’s Alaska. It’s a wonder that its residents heads don’t explode.
You know all about Alaska, right? You know that its citizens pride themselves on a fierce independence, an all-American self-reliance and a deep-seated resistance to the federal government. Palin considers Alaska a prime example of the “real America.”
However, despite all of that myth-making, Alaska is the nation’s most glaring example of a welfare state. Its citizens couldn’t make ends meet without federal and state largess. From The New York Times:
No place benefits more from federal largess than this state, where the Republican governor decries “intrusive” federal policies, officials sue to overturn the health care legislation and Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, voted against the stimulus bill.
Although its unemployment rate sits at just 7.9 percent, about two percentage points below the national rate, Alaska has received $3,145 per capita in federal stimulus dollars, the most in the nation, according to figures compiled by Pro Publica, an investigative Web site. Nevada, by contrast, has an unemployment rate north of 14 percent and has received $1,034 per capita in recovery aid. Florida’s jobless rate is 11.4 percent, and the state has obtained $914 per capita. . .
Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials received about $111 million in federal stimulus, according to Pro Publica. There was $28 million for schools and $900,000 for a park-and-ride lot for commuters heading to Anchorage
(Wasillans have a practiced eye for federal dollars; when Ms. Palin was mayor, she hired a lobbying firm that reeled in $25 million in federal earmarks for a city of fewer than 7,000 residents.)
In addition, every Alaska resident gets a check from the state, just for living in Alaska:
It’s the season for Alaskans to be rewarded just for living here and this year’s take is extra sweet: $3,269, a record share of the state’s oil wealth combined with a special cash payout to help with stratospheric energy prices.
Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell announced Friday that every eligible man, woman and child will receive $2,069, thanks to dividend payments from the state’s oil royalty investment program distributed annually. On top of that, the checks will include another $1,200 from the state treasury to help offset soaring fuel prices.
According to GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is likely to beat back a challenge from tea partier Joe Miller, Alaska isn’t going to take its hands out of the cookie jar any time soon. Murkowski won partly by stating — upfront and on the record — that she intends to keep trying to get earmarks for the state. From McClatchy:
The flow of federal money to Alaska played a key role in Murkowski’s re-election. Her Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Joe Miller, called earmarks “the single most corrupting influence in Congress.” But throughout the campaign, she and Democrat Scott McAdams both said they would follow in the tradition of former Sen. Ted Stevens and continue to seek as much federal money for Alaska as possible.
“I think it is a mistake to suggest to the public that by taking this action somehow or another we are reducing the deficit, we are reducing spending,” she said last week in Washington . “It ties the hands of the legislative body. The Constitution says the power of the purse is with the legislative body. We are effectively handing that over to the executive branch. I think that’s misplaced and I don’t think we should be doing it. Again, it’s a message as opposed to really making a difference for the bottom line.”
As The New York Times points out:
In 1996, federal spending in Alaska was 38 percent above the national average. Thanks to the late Republican Senator Ted Stevens, who was Senate appropriations chief for several years, and to the military, which keeps expanding its bases here, Alaska’s share now is 71 percent higher than the national average.
Some of this owes to the expense of serving Alaska’s rural reaches. But much is bred in the bone. The federal government carved this young state out of the northern wilderness, and officials here learn to manipulate federal budget levers at a tender age.
On her new reality show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” the former half-term governor is busy trying to prove herself a hardy outsdoorswoman and Mama Grizzly, even as some critics claim she doesn’t know how to shoot or fish. I don’t know about all that. She may be able to survive a month stranded in the wilderness with just a hatchet.
But I do know this: her state’s residents can’t survive without state and federal handouts.