Cutting the federal apron strings

Posted: Friday, September 03, 2010

Joe Miller's win over Lisa Murkowski for the U.S. Senate GOP nomination may say more about Alaskans than just a frustration with incumbents.

The win may also be saying that Alaskans are ready -- finally -- to begin weaning themselves off a 50-year bender of federal largesse.

On his campaign website and in interviews with the media, Miller says the days of Alaska relying on federal dollars are going to end soon, brought about by government's looming financial crisis.

"We have to be prepared for that," he told The Associated Press earlier this week. "And the way to do it, of course, is to progressionally transfer holdings of the federal government to us."

Realistically, we all knew that the federal spigot couldn't remain on full flow forever. We've spent decades reaping billions of federal dollars through the military, public works projects and special programs, all while cruising under the radar in relative obscurity. Is there an Alaskan anywhere who can claim never to have benefitted from a federal dollar?

That all began to change once the rest of the nation got an earful of the Bridge to Nowhere. A project that was of great value to Ketchikan folks became a prime example -- arguably undeserved -- of government spending gone amok.

The writing on the wall said to Alaskans -- Get ready, the gravy train's about to end.

You could argue that the process of getting ready actually began two years ago when Mark Begich took the Senate seat from Ted Stevens. Of course there was Stevens' federal corruption conviction on voters' minds. And the billions of federal dollars Stevens brought to the state over 40 years didn't seem to make much difference.

Didn't seem to make much difference this time around, either. Murkowski's high-road re-election campaign of service and money for Alaskans only helped to strengthen Miller's mantra of bloated federal excess made possible by incumbents.

And in the midst of the campaign, Stevens dies in a plane crash. It was almost as if his death capped the end of an era -- an era of Alaska as federal protectorate.

Miller is calling for a more self-sufficient Alaska, and Alaska that can say thanks, but no thanks to a constant heavy stream of federal spending. If his election victory is any indication, we must collectively feel that we're ready.

Are we ready?

In short: Miller's GOP victory over Murkowski suggests Alaskans are ready to cut the federal apron strings.

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