The State of the State in Alaska

Alaska is tightly wrapped in the tentacles of government, authoritarianism, and intolerance. The state is dependent on huge quantities of federal money, corporate welfare is the order of the day, police agencies of various sorts acquire more and more power, and many who live here not only accept the situation but strive to increase the government’s power to interfere in the lives of peaceful residents. While many government entities meddle in the business of alaskans, by far the biggest player is the united states government. In 2001 alone, the feds spent $6,000,000,000 here, $1,500,000,000 of which was a subsidy to the state government.

Alaska’s dependence on government doesn’t end with the armed forces, though. Non-military united states government agencies here employ 17,139 people, the state of alaska has 16,066 people on its payroll, and the University of Alaska, the Anchorage school district, municipality of Anchorage and the Fairbanks north star school district together employ another 16,843. These government agencies, all funded entirely with money extorted from working people, comprise seven of the top ten employers in alaska, with a total of 71,240 workers between them. The federal government alone accounts for around 10% of all jobs here.Another $1,000,000,000 or so goes to the various military forces based in the state, making them a major force in the economy As the Anchorage and Fairbanks chambers of commerce boasted in a May 2002 brochure, Advantage to Alaskans, there are 17,497 active military and 3695 national guard personnel in the state, as well as 36,605 family members of military personnel. Retirees and their families account for another 44,620 people. That means that 102,417 people, or 16% of the state’s population are at least partially on the payroll of the military. The department of “defense” is the largest employer in alaska with 21,192 employees.

As is the case elsewhere, the politicians who run alaska, on both federal and state levels, are always looking for more power, and have used the supposed “war on terror” to expand their empires. The military plans to place 16 missiles at Fort Greeley and alaska now has its very own office of homeland security. In addition, a new force of “sea marshals” has taken to harassing shipping along the coast, having boarded over 70 vessels, from cruise ships full of tourists to oil tankers, in their first year of operation. And, naturally, alaskans are forced to put up with the same harassment by federal inspectors every other united states resident now faces when travelling by air. Already over $53,000,000 has been spent on “upgrading” the state’s “security” capabilities.

These new measures come on top of the pre-existing policing that people have become all too used to. Here are some examples from the last six months: Anchorage police attacked a 13 year old in September, and beat up and gassed a large number of other young people after a dance just this month. A state trooper notorious for using violence against anyone who does not immediately follow his every order killed a disabled driver on the Sterling highway in January. Police will now be stationed in Anchorage high schools and the superintendent boasts about a 23% increase in suspensions of students, many for non-violent transgressions including “willful disobedience” to their keepers. The state office of public advocacy has withheld the funds of a client the management of whose money they were charged with. An innocent man was arrested in Anchorage and had his name trumpeted all over the media before DNA testing cleared him of charges of rape. People are arrested for bringing alcohol into villages where the guardians of public morality have declared it unlawful, cops are now using a drug-sniffing dog to keep “dangerous” marijuana out of Fort Yukon, a Fairbanks judge recently forced a person convicted of no crime into mandatory “treatment” because he drinks, and Anchorage police have demonstrated their concern for the public health by raiding a local head shop. Anchorage drivers can now be fined if their insurance papers are not produced at the command of a cop, even if they have adequate insurance coverage. But perhaps most absurd, the state highway department has banned the roadside memorials some people place at accident scenes to remember their loved ones, in the interests of public safety, of course. And if one seeks proof that the state applies its myriad of laws, rules, and regulations fairly, one need only consider the fact that 37% of the people in prison are eskimo, aleut or american indian men, while this is true of only 8% of the state’s general population.

Many, perhaps most, alaskans support or are oblivious to such abuses, at least until they are directly affected. In fact, regular people are often advocates for increased state oversight of others, like the busybodies in Fairbanks who advocate that even more drinkers be given involuntary “treatment.” In another case, some Anchorage property owners have become advocates of greater government oversight of residential building since a few Habitat for Humanity houses in Mountain View and an affordable housing development called Strawberry Village have failed to live up to their standards of what makes an attractive home. But they fail to realize that such meddling in other people’s business may come back to bite them in years to come. Wealthy homeowners who have heretofore monopolized exclusive coastal properties in south Anchorage are now upset that the government is planning to exert its “right” of eminent domain to build a coastal trail near or on “their” property, allowing the great unwashed into the neighborhood.

When they are not busy further militarizing the state and pestering the populace, the pols and bureaucrats find time to redistribute the wealth they have taken from productive people and pass it on to their corporate allies and benefactors. The alaska industrial development and export agency specializes in investing state funds in failing businesses and losing millions of dollars. The state continues to invest in new roads to facilitate agricultural schemes despite a history of costly failures. Ketchikan politicians poured $17,000,000 into a paper plant whose owners and investors took the cash and ran. The state has prevailed on the united states department of agriculture to buy $71,000,000 worth of “surplus” salmon over the last seven years and asked them to buy $30,000,000 more last November. Meanwhile, the state outright owns a slaughterhouse run with prison labor in order to subsidize the livestock industry, which then sells much of the meat to the prison system.

The corporations created and funded by the alaska native claims settlement act regularly line up at the government trough, as well. Chenega Corporation has a $300,000,000 contract with the feds and Chugach Alaska, which went bankrupt from bad investments in 2000, will make $1,000,000,000 or so from a “defense” contract. Not to be left out, the alaska travel industry association has asked the state legislature for $14,000,000 to market tourism, while Alaska Airlines, which already received a payoff from the government after the September 2001 attacks, will receive an annual subsidy of $1,650,000 to provide air service to Adak in the aleutian islands. And businesspeople in Anchorage want the city to increase the hotel tax in order to raise the money to build them a convention center.

While none of this in unique to Alaska, it does fly in the face of the independent image many residents here like to maintain. What it means is that the task of anarchists, who hope to convince others of the merits of a stateless society, will be as difficult to accomplish here as it is elsewhere.

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