Dividends should not be Constitutional guarantee

Posted: Wednesday, June 04, 2003

In the 44 years that Alaska has been a state, a lot of nutty ideas have come down the trail most of which, fortunately, have fallen by the wayside.

There has been none greater, however, than the latest public policy nightmare proposed by the Democratic minority as the last legislative session came to an end.

The proposal was to make the payment of a permanent fund dividend a constitutional mandate.

If approved, the state would be required to make a dividend payment every year to every citizen regardless of the financial condition of the fund, or of the state itself.

What madness.

The permanent fund dividend already has turned the Alaska psyche upside down. It has changed a once self-reliant people into a collection of men, women and children who believe a government handout is a way of life, an absolute right belonging to anyone and everyone who pitches a tent here and claims permanent residency.

It is an aberration in government that may, in fact, have been one of the worst decisions ever made when it was foisted on the state as a way to make people become involved in their government.

But it has changed the character of Alaska.

Greed has become a way of life. A free handout is what we now live for.

Granted, the annual dividend has become a mainstay in the lives of many people. Big families mean big bucks every fall when the checks are sent out.

Money gushes through the economy. The big box stores sell enormous numbers of big-screen television sets, boom boxes and truck tires. Auto dealers move hundreds of cars off their lots and out of their showrooms. Spending is a frenzy of life in Alaska at dividend time.

But Alaska as a state profits little.

Millions and millions of dollars that could have gone into education, into new highways, into new ports, into school construction, into power lines, into public sewer and water facilities, into airport improvements, into park maintenance and expansion, into a thousand of other things for the long-term good of the state went instead into disposable, short-term spending sprees.

To enshrine this as a part of the Alaska Constitution would be insanity.

Surely even Democratic legislators trying to woo votes and play to the weakness of those who need instant monetary gratification to be Alaskans must realize a constitutionally guaranteed dividend payment would be a disaster.

This idea should be dropped as quickly as it was raised.

The Voice of the Times

June 1

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