The opinion piece by Gregg Erickson in Sunday's Empire entitled "Looting the Permanent Fund," criticized the fact that Alaskans will be paid their annual dividend this year. He'll probably be booed by just about everyone, especially politicians. They'll say so what if the Permanent Fund lost more than $10 billion in value past year, and is now more than $2 billion below the amount that we've put into the fund. Most people think we still deserve our dividend. That's the American way, after all.
Just look at the big banks that lost tens of billions of dollars last year, and still paid dividends to stockholders using bailout money. Alaska is slated to get federal bailout funds, too. Paying a large dividend to Alaskans is essentially just doing what the big banks did. Just because Barack Obama is criticizing the banks for misspending the bailout money, why should Alaskans care what the president says?
Gregg Erickson is off the mark, however, when he criticizes the attorney general's opinion that allows the dividend to be paid, and he really strains credulity when he compares that to the legal opinions justifying torture at Guantanamo. And that's all beside the point anyway. Who wants to be the brave soul who actually tries to hand out those pitiful $68 dividend checks predicted for 2013? I guarantee it isn't going to happen. There isn't a single public official who wants to run for re-election the year after doing that.
Attorney general opinion or no, there's going to be legislation to increase the dividend, and if it needs to be a constitutional amendment, I predict that the vast majority of Alaskans will vote for it. Let's face it, many segments of the Alaska economy are so dependent upon this annual statewide welfare check that voters will view anything less than $1,000 as chump change.
It's fine for Barack Obama to say Americans spend too much and save too little, and that the past focus of the American economy needs to change. We're Alaskans. We don't need to change. After all, we've got $27 billion in the bank. At least for now. Let's just hope it's not in one of those banks that might go broke.