Alaska - Palin 101

OK, I’ve written most of this stuff before in various posts but I’ll sumarize since there’ll be new interest today.

Alaska is NOT a conservative state in the sense that say some Southern states are. Socially it is very libertarian. There’s a strong religious element here, but there are far more bars than churches. Marajuana is de facto legal in small quantities and de jure legal in the 1st Judicial District. Like most Alaska Republicans, Palin is religious but not ostentatiously so.

Alaska is not really a fiscally conservative state as many of you would define that. All the subsurface resources belong to the State, so all the oil revenue goes directly to the State Treasury and is then distributed into the economy by political rather than market forces. Call it socialist, call it state capitalism, but the driving force in Alaska economics is not Main Street capitalism as most of you know it. Palin and the Legislature dramatically increased State taxes on the oil industry last year and the right side of the Party here has been quite critical of the action. Those who sided with Palin dismissed that opposition by casting the opponents of the tax measure as being in thrall to the Oil Industry, an industry much tainted by corruption scandals over the last year or so.

The goverment of Alaska is almost all-powerful, much of the State has little or no local government. Only the larger cities and towns have local government as most of you would understand it; the State does everything, pays for all the schools, provides much of the health care, paves and plows the roads, where there are roads, builds and maintains the vital airports throughout the State, operates a fleet of ocean going ferries, and on, and on.

Most of the usual attack memes about taxes and spending won’t work against her because she can show how different her state is from other states. Its structure is in fact much like the federal government’s stucture, so she would not be a stranger to the fed’s organizational structure and even its processes. And, yes, of course, she’ll have to answer to the “free money” that Alaska gives away. In a nutshell, Constitutionally 25% of all State revenue derived from extraction of natural resources goes into the Alaska Permanent Fund, originally billed as a “Rainy Day” fund for the day of diminished oil revenue. Each year, the fund is “inflation-proofed” then half of the earnings are made available to the Legislature for appropriation and the other half is distributed per capita as the Permanent Fund Dividend. This year it will be about $2K per person.

Gov. Palin herself lives in Wasilla, a suburban bedroom community for Anchorage. Not so long ago, Wasilla would have been considered quite remote and people there had very much a Bush (The Bush is how rural, usually roadless, areas are referred to here.) lifestyle; there’s nothing unique about the guns, the fishing, the snow machines, the airplanes, etc. Most people who live in suburban Alaska live that way, they just have to travel a bit to get to the places they use that stuff.

The kids’ names ring oddly Outside but they make sense here: Track is slang for a snow machine, Piper is a common type of Bush Plane, Bristol is for Bristol Bay, the richest salmon grounds in the World where she and Todd fish. I can’t remember the others off the top of my head.

Todd Palin works on the North Slope and fishes in Bristol Bay commercially. He races snow machines competitively and is the multi-time winner of the Iron Dog, the snowmachine version of the Iditarod sled dog race from ANC to Nome.

She’s got some troubles here right now, but it is insider stuff, no sex, drugs, or money and I’ve written about it elsewhere. There’s no love lost between her and the “old guard” of the Republican Party here and for a variety of reasons, some good, some not so good. To the extent that it is about the corruption, it is good. However, she ran as the “un-Republican” and, especially, the “un-Murkowski.” Murkowski had pretty much tapped out the supply of Republicans that would take an appointment and had in fact left a lot of Knowles appointees in place. Gov. Palin pretty much shucked out all the Murkowski appointees, brought in some of her own close associates, and has left a lot of holdover Knowles appointees still in place, much to the chagrin of some Republicans. Also, some of her policy actions seem guided more by, “if Murkowski did it, I’ll do something different,” rather than any pure policy implications.

So, there’s the survey course.