I admit I love receiving my PFD. Sadly, I won’t be getting what may be the last good one because I made the idiotic decision to live in Kansas part of last year. However, over my life the PFD has been pretty good to me. It helped me buy my first car, a less than awesome Buick Skyhawk which I still have some nostalgia for. The PFD then helped me pay for my University of Alaska education, an education that allows me to do what I am doing right now. And then, when I decided to do two-years of national service in Americorps, the PFD actually accounted for a hefty portion of my annual income. Without the PFD, I don’t know if I would have been able to give that service to my country.
I do and always have loved the PFD, but since I took my first government classes in high school, I have to admit it’s been a troubled love.
Like a lot of conservatives in Alaska, I generally oppose government handouts as corruptive to the soul and counterproductive for society. When I learned of the difference between capitalism, socialism, and other economic systems, even as a teenager, I was very aware of my own cognitive dualism. Private property and free-markets allow for individual exceptionalism and the greatest innovation and advancement of society, I would think, followed immediately by oooooh, the PFD, GIMMEEEEEE!!!!.
I know I’m not special and this isn’t a unique revelation for many Alaskans. I’ve spoken to fellow conservatives who freely admit they know the same thing. But Alaska conservatives aren’t stupid, we pretty well know to keep our heads down and our mouth shut on the subject of the PFD, the same way most Alaska Democrats pretend they really, really do support resource development while pretending their opposition to Pebble, ANWR, and Chukchi development is about something else.
Imagine my surprise yesterday when my inbox filled up with conservative and Republican groups going all-in on “protecting the PFD.” The Alaska Republican Party, Alaska Republican Assembly, Alaska Policy Forum, and Americans for Prosperity all sent out notices imploring their people to call into the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting to testify on SB128, Governor Walker’s BIll to “re-plumb” the Permanent Fund.
Here is the top of the email sent out by the Alaska Policy Forum:
The Alaska Republican Party and Alaska Republican Assembly sent out emails railing on the Governor’s plan saying “Alaskans are concerned that he’ll restructure the Permanent Fund.”
Now these conservative groups are not simply happy to take the PFD, they are its champions? I’d challenge any of those groups to define for me, please, exactly what conservative or Republican principle is furthered by preserving the PFD? Government handouts are good, so long as they are Alaska government handouts? The conservative hypocrisy is alarming.
If that isn’t enough to unnerve those on the right, there is something else to ponder. Here is a pretty fair definition of socialism from the online authority on all things, Wikipedia:
Socialism: “a variety of social and economic systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production;as well as the political ideologies, theories, and movements that aim at their establishment.”
The means of production includes natural capital, or what we more commonly call natural resources. Since the Permanent Fund is comprised of wealth generated by government ownership and development of natural resources and then distributed as a PFD to individual citizens, it is the very definition of socialism. Regardless of how much each of us, as conservatives, want to snuggle up next to our PFD on a cold morning in October, I’m pretty sure we can all agree to the basic reality that it is the socialist-y of socialism.
Notice something interesting in the definition of socialism. Right there towards the end, it says “… as well as the political ideologies, theories, and movements that aim at their establishment.” That means political parties or groups that advocate for socialist policies and programs are by definition socialists.
So riddle me this Alaska Republican Party, Alaska Republican Assembly, and Alaska Policy Forum, how are you not socialists?
I am willing to admit the basic cognitive dissonance, or more plainly gross hypocrisy of my love for the PFD. I’m willing to own my inner Alaska-socialist, are you?
We’ll see when the Senate State Affairs Committee gavels in at 4 PM today.