My Turn: Middle class wouldn't call it 'voluntary'

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2003

The venerable Jay Hammond has spoken. Better to accept additional user fees, or, as a last resort, state sales and income tax (or any combination thereof) rather than have our Alaska Permanent Fund dividend checks garnished for purposes of supporting government expenditures.

In the bargain we can thwart the plans of some "fat cats" keeping more of their income than they deserve. As long as voluntary contributions to state coffers do not exceed our PFD check, who are we to complain?

Perhaps I am just a whiner, but calling my contribution voluntary does not really make it so, and I would not be described as a fat cat by any definition, though my household income keeps me more than an arm's length away from government assistance at all times. In the middle. We are the glue holding everything together.

On the one hand America's economy is dependent upon our consuming everything made. On the other, cottage industries have sprung up based upon credit debt.

Seems to me we have kept our end of the bargain. Now give us a break. Being armed with the knowledge that I am not immediately in line of succession to feed from the government's social trough is doing little to assuage my concerns. I could be there in a heartbeat (kicking and screaming).

Mr. Hammond makes the point that "socialistic redistribution" is a term oft used by some fat cats defining the PFD, much like the rest us who define Social Security checks deposited into millionaire bank accounts. Allow me to remind him the term has been, and remains, a stalwart cornerstone of the liberal perspective. The 5 percent of Americans on top of the food chain have little fodder in our eyes to argue the fine points simply because 95 percent of us are envious of their success; another cornerstone of any political party representing the downtrodden.

You know it as class warfare based upon the hope of the middle class not doing the math. Call it what you will, issuing me a dividend check a scant season after government receives a voluntary contribution of equal value from me is a little skewed.

Nor does our conservative leadership get off the hook. Congress and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals share some of the blame. The people of Alaska live within a realm of real estate nearly three times the size of the largest state in our union, yet our congressional leadership is treading water trying to develop it. There may be an explanation. I suggest a review of senatorial rules of procedure. This is not meant as a slight upon the readings and studies of our Founding Fathers (mothers were not recorded for posterity), only that such a review may show that tradition has a way of impeding the future, and some really smart strategists use it as a means to their own ends.

Even in the midst of this I prefer my leadership be more humbled by the burden of representation than the pillars of Congress. Much like the practice of law, procedure and protocol can create a firewall between the citizenry and government, even those in government. We risk deferring our decision process to whom would bow to the will of convention.

Even if Mr. Hammond is not, in his words, the fat cat he thought he was before deeming himself a messenger of my middle class, I want to see how many miles he has logged in my shoes. In fact there is a lesson here some of our leaders and political pundits have forgotten from Political Science 101; be wary one does not become the tail wagging the dog. Many of us own the pink slip to government.

Ken Dunker is a Juneau resident who describes himself as a working-class, middle-income, deep pocket.

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