Empire Editorial: Wrong bill, right idea

Capitol Hill was the scene of another pointless hearing and vote yesterday, but the subject matter wasn’t pointless at all. A veterans jobs bill didn’t pass, but politicians used the vote to put themselves on record as either favoring the bill or standing up for fiscal responsibility by opposing it while stating their support for vets.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has repeatedly shown her will to do right by America’s veterans, and did so again yesterday when she crossed party lines to vote for a $1 billion veteran’s jobs bill that fell two votes short of the 60 it needed to pass.

The largely symbolic vote (nobody gave the bill a chance of passing the House anyway) taken as D.C. lawmakers are ready for an election season adjournment, is sad because it was symbolic. The bill itself speaks to the volumes of work that must be done to ensure that returning vets get the training they need to reenter the job market, as well as the services they need to reintegrate into civilian society.

The bill, which now heads back to committee, has a bit of a pie-in-the-sky feel. It is based on the 1930s-vintage Civilian Conservation Corps, and would put vets to work on federal lands building projects or planting trees. While not everyone needs to become an arborist, the program would have provided jobs and the results would benefit public lands as well as individual hires.

And $1 billion is a lot of cash to start up yet another arm of federal bureaucracy.

But something has to be done. The unemployment numbers cited by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are stark: She said 720,000 vets are unemployed nationwide, and 220,000 of them have served since Sept. 11.

There is an 11 percent unemployment rate among recent veterans according to the latest monthly jobs report.

Numerous job training programs already exist, and it’s up to those who administer those programs to do as much as they can to assist our veterans. Meanwhile, if any group deserves a government-funded and dignified fallback against poverty, returning veterans who want to learn or hone construction or outdoor skills through a WPA-style public works program should be at the head of the line. Perhaps within an existing federal program a veterans jobs corps could be started without eating up $1billion in seed money.


Gruening: What history tells us, part II

In my last column, while sailing nearly 5,000 miles between San Diego and Ft. Lauderdale, I discussed the history of the construction of the 48-mile long Panama Canal. Along with 1,300 cruise ship passengers, I then spent a full day transiting the Canal on our voyage from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Only then, can you truly appreciate the vast engineering feat accomplished there.

Read more

My Turn: Governor’s plan to outsource DOT design hurts Alaska’s economy

Normally I’m a strong supporter of Gov. Bill Walker. I think he has done a good job of trying to get the state’s finances under control.

Read more

Letter: Questioning ANWR commitment is wrongheaded

I take issue with the views of Mike McBride expressed in his Feb. 10 letter to the Empire. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was right to listen to the voices of her constituency and her own intellect to cast a vote against Betsy DeVos. To question Murkowski’s commitment to ANWR is wrongheaded. If she had been unconcerned about the party unity, she would have cast her vote against DeVos in the committee instead of on the floor. I seldom agree with Sen. Murkowski and find it ironic to be writing a letter in her defense. But if we are to survive the craziness of the Trump administration, thinking members of Congress must do what Sen. Murkowski did: Put the good of the people they represent and hopefully the good of the Democracy itself over partisan politics. Make America work.

Read more

My Turn: Budget problem magnitude and solutions

Political soundbites that propose easy fixes to Alaska’s massive budget deficit get votes. They’ll also get you one of the worst recessions in Alaska history, and a state where your children can’t find a job. You deserve real information instead of soundbites, so you can tell your legislators the path you prefer. Politicians who seek to get votes while the economy sinks are tempting to listen to, but they are doing you a disservice. We lost 9,000 jobs last year. Letting that continue isn’t a future.

Read more


  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-586-3740
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2230
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback