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THE ALASKA DIVIDEND AND THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (from 2008)


Any other state or the federal government can afford to do what Alaska has done. Alaska has oil wealth; other states have mining, fishing, hydroelectric, or real estate wealth. Governments give away resources to corporations all the time. The U.S ...


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This essay was originally published in the USBIG NewsFlash in November 2008.   Most people will be surprised to learn that the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee and the Democratic Presidential nominee have both endorsed the basic income guarantee (BIG)In one form or another both support policies to guarantee a small government-provided income for everyoneAs reported in the USBIG Newsletter earlier this year, Obama has voiced support for reducing carbon emissions with the cap-and-dividend strategy, which includes a small BIG. Sarah Palin, like most Alaskan politicians, supports the Alaska Permanent Fund (APF)Existing rules caused the APF dividend to reach a new high of $2,069 this yearThat much had nothing to do with PalinBut, whatever else you might think of her, she deserves credit for adding $1200 more to this year’s dividend (see the story above and another in issue 49)She proposed it to the legislature and pushed it through, resisting counter proposals to reduce the supplement to $1000 or $250. Most people who learned about Palin at the Republican National Convention in August would probably be surprised to learn that such a hard-line conservative supports handing out $16,345 checks to even the poorest familiesActually, families the size of Palin’s will receive $19,416—no conditions imposed besides residency, no judgments made. The support of politicians like Palin’s provides evidence against the belief that BIG is some kind of leftist utopian fantasy with no political viabilityIn the one place BIG exists it is one of the most popular government programs and it is endorsed by people across the political spectrum. The APF has not become an issue in the campaign, and I doubt she has Palin plans to introduce a similar plan at the national level, but when the issue has come up, Palin has taken credit for it as a conservative policyIn an interview on the Fox News Network, Sean Hannity confirmed that Palin increased the Alaska dividend by $1200 this yearHannity comment, “I have to move to AlaskaNew York taxes are killing me.” Sounding like some kind of progressive-era land reformer, Palin replied, “What we’re doing up there is returning a share of resource development dollars back to the people who own the resourcesAnd our constitution up there mandates that as you develop resources it’s to be for the maximum benefit of the people, not the corporations, not the government, but the people of Alaska.” Tim Graham, writing for the conservative website Newsbuster.com criticized NPR’s Terry Gross for asking questioning that implied opposition to the APF in an interview with Alaska public broadcasting host, Michael CareyGraham writes, “Gross walked Carey through the idea that it’s not hard for Palin to be popular in Alaska when she’s handing every family a $1200 check from all the oil businessShe then elbowed Carey about how that money could have been better ‘invested’ (as Obama would say) in government programs.’ Suddenly conservatives are ridiculing people they assume do not support unconditional grants. Palin justified a tax increase on the oil companies to support higher BIG on the PBS Now program before she was nominated for vice-president“This is a big darn deal for AlaskaThat non-renewable resource, of course, is so valuable …And of course [the oil companies] they’re fighting us every step of the way when we say, ‘Well we wanna make sure, especially as it’s being sold for a premium, that we’re receiving appropriate value.’ … The oil companies don’t own the resourcesThey have leases and the right to develop our resources for usAnd we share a value, we’re partners there, because they do the producing for usBut we own the resources.” It is tempting to dismiss all of this conservative praise for BIG as election year insincerityNo doubt if a democratic candidate had handed out an unconditional grant of $3,269 to every citizen of their state, many conservatives would jump on it as socialist class warIndeed some of Obama’s tax credit proposals, which are not nearly as far reaching as the APF have received just this treatment. Speaking at a recent rally in Virginia, McCain took issue with Obama’s refundable tax credits saying, his tax plan “is not a tax cut; it’s just another government giveaway …I won’t let that happen to youYou’re paying enough taxes… Obama raises taxes on seniors, hardworking families to give ‘welfare’ to those who pay none.” McCain often invokes Joe the Plumber to label such policies as “socialism.” Ruth Marcus noted that only minutes later John McCain touted his own “refundable tax credit” and that McCain vilifies Obama for wanting to reverse the Bush tax cuts McCain voted againstI have little doubt that McCain would give the APF the same treatment if his opponent rather than his running mate had expanded it. Politicians who call themselves strait-talkers and don’t talk straight are nothing new, and they exist in all partiesBut this doesn’t meant that we can dismiss all conservative support for the APF as insincereThere are limits to what people will accept even from leader of their own partyMany conservatives would not accept, for example, a leader who had proposed public funding to help rape victims obtain abortions, but they will support a leader who endorses $16,345 in no-questions-asked grants to every family of five. The lesson here is that the APF is a model ready for exportReaders of this newsletter will know that governments in places as diverse as Alberta, Brazil, Iraq, Libya, and Mongolia have recently thought seriously about imitating the Alaska model. Some might be tempted to think that the APF isn’t a true BIG and it isn’t motivated to help the poorNot so: Jay Hammond, the Republican governor of Alaska who created the APF, came all the way to Washington, DC to speak at the U.SBasic Income Guarantee Network conference in 2004He told me that his intention was to create a BIG to help everyone—most especially the disadvantagedIf he had his way the APF fund would now be producing dividends 4 to 8 times the current individual level of $2,069. Others might dismiss the Alaska model saying that it is a unique case because Alaska has so much oil wealthAgain, not so: Alaska ranks only sixth in U.Sstates in terms of per capita GDP, with an average income just over $43,000 in 2006, more than $15,000 per year less than number-one Delaware, and only $6,000 per year ahead of the national averageAny other state or the federal government can afford to do what Alaska has done. Alaska has oil wealth; other states have mining, fishing, hydroelectric, or real estate wealthGovernments give away resources to corporations all the timeThe U.Sgovernment recently gave away a large chunk of the broadcast spectrum to HDTV broadcasters at no chargeOffshore oil drilling will soon be expanded on three coastsEveryone who emits green house gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere takes something we all value and—so far—pays nothing. What was different about the Alaskan situation was that Jay Hammond was there to take advantage of the opportunityWith the Alaska model in place, it will be just a little easier for next person at the next opportunity. -Karl Widerquist, Reading, UK, October 23, 2008 For the Newsbusters article go to: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tim-graham/2008/10/19/snobby-airs-nprs-terry-gross-goes-after-palins-extreme-religious-views For the Hannity Interview go to: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,424346,00.html For the Now program report go to: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/347/index.html [The quoted exchange occurs about 18 to 20 minutes into a 25-minute report titled “Alaska: The Senator and the Oil Man.”] (Thanks to Paul AMartin) For U.SGDP figures by state go to: http://www.ssti.org/Digest/Tables/062007t.htm Ruth Marcus’s editorial on McCain is online at: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/10/mccains_campaign_is_both_unciv.html About Karl Widerquist Karl Widerquist has written 908 articles. Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has whatMuch of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI)He is a co-founder of the U.SBasic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG)He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and now serves as vice-chairHe was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 yearsHe is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwideHe is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular mediaHe has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996)He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant SMcCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013)He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website (works.bepress.com/widerquist/)More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on WikipediaHe writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for Basic Income News. View all posts by Karl Widerquist → Blog Twitter Facebook var hupso_services_c=new Array("twitter","facebook_like","google","email","linkedin");var hupso_twitter_via = "BasicincomeOrg";var hupso_counters_lang = "en_US";var hupso_image_folder_url = "";var hupso_twitter_via="BasicincomeOrg";var hupso_url_c=""; Follow --> Leave a comment The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIENBIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section. 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News and Events VIDEO: “Why everybody’s suddenly talking about Universal Basic Income” Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend has no overall effect on employment New Book: Steven Shafarman’s “Basic Income Imperative” China: Macao to spend over $1.5bn on public subsidies including Wealth Partaking Scheme Features and Opinion THE ALASKA DIVIDEND AND THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (from 2008) FOUR OBITUARIES: MILTON FRIEDMAN, ANTONIO MARIA DA SILVEIRA, RICHARD CLEMENTS, AND LEONARD GREENE (from 2006) Obamacare’s model can solve basic income’s cost issue Join us on Facebook Popular Posts EUROPE: Council of Europe adopts resolution on basic income 859 views | posted on February 2, 2018 Overview of Current Basic Income Related Experiments (October 2017) 817 views | posted on October 19, 2017 Current Basic Income Experiments (and those so called): An Overview 668 views | posted on May 23, 2017 International: Basic Income at the World Economic Forum 2018 640 views | posted on January 24, 2018 CANADA: Quebec is implementing a means-tested benefit, not a basic income 586 views | posted on January 24, 2018 FINLAND: Finland shares unconditional money, but the public view remains polarised 535 views | posted on February 12, 2018 ‘Me too’ and the basic income guarantee 526 views | posted on January 31, 2018 MEXICO: Potential presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya supports basic income in his campaign 526 views | posted on February 10, 2018 UBI’s Impact on Work Culture: Not a Question for the Experimenters 515 views | posted on February 4, 2018 International: McKinsey report identifies basic income as a potential response to automation 499 views | posted on January 16, 2018 More news on basic income: About BIEN Founded in 1986, BIEN serves as a link between individuals and groups interested in basic income and fosters informed discussion on it. 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