Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#AKbudget| SMH ... Governor, Governor

Having a group of Generation Y friends pays off in many ways, including keeping me current on the latest in urban slang.  I have long since bookmarked the "Urban Dictionary" to use as a translator when emailing (so old school), instant messaging (more Generation X, except when on Facebook and then acceptable to Generation Y) or texting (now we are in Generation Y's wheelhouse) with my friends in that group.

Amazingly, it appears, I have even started to think in those terms.  Thus it is when I saw the latest tweet (also a Generation Y thing) from Governor Parnell claiming "Reducing Debt and Controlling Spending" as part of his "2014 Legislative Accomplishments," that my immediate reaction was to think "SMH."  For those of you that don't have your Urban Dictionary (UD) cued up, "SMH" stands for "shaking my head" and, according to the UD, is "[u]sually used when someone finds something so stupid, no words can do it justice."

Actually as it turns out, not even the Governor is willing to back up the claim.  When you click on the link in the tweet to the underlying press release and start parsing through the words, "Reducing Debt" turns into "paying down Alaska's unfunded pension liability," which is not actually debt but more an accounting classification, and "Controlling Spending," turns into "reducing spending by $1.1 billion," true-ish on the surface (this year's spending level is $6.19 billion compared with last year's $7.2 billion), but a level which, because of declining revenues, still leaves the state budget this coming year in deficit to the tune of $1.65 billion, the second highest in the state's history

In other words, put into proper context the results of this legislative session are to "controlling spending" as killing one mosquito (I was outside in Anchorage yesterday, "they're back") is to dealing with an oncoming swarm.  Yep, you are going to have one less bite -- out of the hundred or so you are about to endure.  But do any of us really claim victory for having stopped the one?  Exactly, SMH.

This is going to be a long, long ... excruciatingly long coming campaign if the Governor isn't even starting it off by telling Alaskans the truth.

The truth?  Properly accounting for what went on with the PERS/TRS payment, the 28th Legislature this session reduced (spent away, blew another hole in) Alaska's fiscal reserves -- those this generation effectively is holding in trust for Generations X, Y, Z and all those that follow -- by another 10% and combined with its actions the previous session, has now spent away fully 35% (or more than $6 billion) of the fiscal reserves that existed on the state's books at the time they walked in the door.

The truth?  Effectively what is going on is this generation of Alaskans is spending away money it holds in trust for future generations in order to make this generation's life a little more comfortable (and the contractors benefitting from the continually high capital budgets a little more profitable), but at the expense of leaving future generations with a substantially reduced standard of living.

Oddly enough, back in the day I came to my political awareness at the same time as the so-called "Children's Crusade" led by then 52-year old Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy (he seemed older than that at the time).  In a different way, that battle was about one generation writing checks that the following generations were having to cash.  And, in a different way, that battle started largely because the older generation failed to tell the truth about what was going on so that everyone could confront it together.

Sadly enough, that is now what is going on here -- this generation of Alaska leaders are writing checks that future generations are going to be required to cash, and then are lying about what they are doing.

This generation of Alaskans easily could enjoy life on what the University of Alaska-Anchorage's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) has calculated to be a "sustainable budget" level.  If they did, future generations would enjoy the same.

But this generation apparently isn't satisfied with what economists refer to as "intergenerational equity" -- instead it is taking more than its fair share, leaving future generations of Alaskans with less and less.

So, as with the Children's Crusade of the 1968 Presidential Campaign, increasingly it appears that it may be becoming time for a Fiscal Crusade in Alaska.  If those currently in the lead are unwilling to confront reality, it may be time for new leadership to emerge.

As I said at the start ... SMH.