Columns 2017

It was a strange week indeed

Last week was definitely a strange week. And it had absolutely nothing to do with anything happening in any recently drained and/or refilled swamp.

For starts, the state’s Chamber of Commerce head Curtis Thayer was quoted in a March 28, 2017 ADN article as follows, “’We want to see budget cuts’ said Curtis Thayer, the head of the chamber. If the price of oil rises enough, he added: ‘We’re out of a problem.’”

Are you kidding me? The head of the biggest business group in the state would like us to put our hands together and clap as hard as we can in the hope of reviving fallen oil prices. It may have worked to save Tinkerbelle but I’m thinking it’s not necessarily a smart business approach. And while I realize he added to that the idea of cutting government even more, I must once again ask where, where would those cuts come from? Which programs specifically? And how would the job losses associated with major cuts to government affect the bottom line of businesses in the state?

But let’s get back to that fantasy where we hope for oil prices to rebound so we can put off any idea of reasonable fiscal discipline and citizen participation in government through taxes. Since the current big push back in the swamp seems to be to make government run more like a business, let’s look at it from that perspective. You are a business whose bottom line fell through the floor a few years ago. You’ve gone through all your savings and business is simply not picking up. And your answer to this is to continue to deplete your savings and cut the services that generate income while hoping for business to return. Meanwhile, you make no effort to adjust your model to bring in more revenue. I wonder how many businesses would succeed under that plan? I actually watched my father’s grocery store fold under that scenario.

Moving on to the second most amazing thing that happened last week were these two statements in Paul Jenkin’s column on Sunday. “Levying a tax – even a $1-a-day tax – on people who are forced to use painkillers, people in pain, people who have a doctor’s prescription and likely are not abusing the drug, is wrong, pure and simple. It muscles the state into the doctor-patient relationship, and selling the tax as a way to reduce painkillers’ use is disingenuous.” And then he added, “Why should Alaska interject itself in the patient-doctor relationship?”

How can someone as conservative as Paul Jenkins state with a straight face that government should not get in-between a doctor/patient relationship while still supporting the idea of government getting between a woman, her doctor and the speculum in her vagina? If doctors and patients should be trusted to handle when opioids are called for and when they should be avoided, without government interference, then why can’t they be trusted to make other medical decisions without government sticking its nose in?

I find myself again seeing duplicity in the positions taken by so many conservatives. If it jives with their already entrenched beliefs, then it’s a good thing. If not, then it’s a bad thing even if it’s the same thing. Wow. Causes your brain to just twirl on its little feet and get dizzy, doesn’t it?

Now I realize that Paul’s column was about a proposed tax on certain painkillers and I could not agree with him more that it is a tax that would hurt the most vulnerable. No one buying opioids on the street will be sending money to the state to cover the tax. Sensible regulations, which would include finally, finally acknowledging marijuana’s legitimate role as a much safer painkiller, is the answer. A tax is an easy way to try and say that you’ve addressed a problem that you haven’t even begun to address,

And for those of you out there gasping in disbelief that I agree with Jenkins on something, get over it. He was my editor for years and, while I disagree with almost everything he says, I respect him and, in this case, feel he got it right.

As for the Chamber of Commerce, I don’t know what to say except that they seem to live in a lilac and pink world where music plays softly in the background while they dance through a meadow. That, or they are indulging in a few puffs of our state’s newest industry. Because that can be the only reason why anyone in their right mind would suggest we pray for the price of oil to rebound as the solution to our budget crisis. Heck, taxing opioid prescriptions is a better idea than that. And we already know that idea sucks.