Yes, some in the news media and Congress don't have their facts straight about Alaska's so-called ''bridges to nowhere.'' Yes, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's bid to single out Alaska in the D.C. porkfest was unfair and going nowhere. Yes, Alaska can argue that it's way behind the rest of the United States in roads, communications and basic utilities.
With all that granted, we'd still be wise to understand how Alaska looks to Outside eyes.
Sen. Ted Stevens rails on the Senate floor against Sen. Coburn's assault on Alaska spending. The response? From nationally syndicated conservative writers such as Cal Thomas and John Stossel comes word that Stevens' departure would be welcome. They don't see him as Alaskan of the Century. They see him as a poster-senator for runaway spending and skewed national priorities.
How would Alaskans feel about sending a big share of their federal taxes to another state whose residents keep taking more than they give to the federal treasury, insist on paying no state income or sales tax and receive hundreds of millions every year in payments from their state government for individual shares of their state's resource wealth?
In Illinois and Louisiana and West Virginia and elsewhere, it's logical to ask: More than $31 billion in the Alaska Permanent Fund, generating interest and dividends, and you want the rest of America to bankroll your bridges? Death grip on your state dividends and a zealot's passion against taxes, and yet you demand the taxes of others to pay for things you won't pay for yourself? How long do you think you can play this game?
We're getting closer to the day when the rest of the country says: ''You want the goodies? Pay for them yourselves.''
The bogus ''facts'' that some commentators toss off about Alaska's proposed bridges and other programs rightly exasperate Alaskans, who know that many of these critics ignore context, history and perspective and the fact that every other state dines on federal dollars. Nonetheless, the message much of the rest of the country is getting about Alaska is one of gluttony at the federal trough.
Sen. Stevens and Rep. Don Young often have warned foes inside and outside Congress that they don't forget when crossed. Our delegation, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, should remember they're not the only ones with long memories. Alaska could someday find itself in for a rude surprise of short federal rations, no matter where our bridges go.
Rather than rage, Alaska should lead by example. Spare some pork for the table down South, and join in the call for our fellow Americans to do the same. We should at least be willing to talk in Congress about contributing our share to rebuilding hurricane-damaged states.
Anchorage Daily News,
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