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October 28, 2021

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Alaska’s Mitt Romney – Let the Mental Gymnastics Begin

Alaska is a land of character and characters – colorful folks who’ve become deliciously quirky icons and who, like the late Uncle Ted Stevens, and the current Don Young, are mixed bags. Sure, the Congressman for All Alaska is admirably unafraid of his party’s leadership in DC. It’s always great to see him thumb his nose at John Boehner. And he completely deserves a gold star for dubbing Governor Sean Parnell “Captain Zero.” But must he wear a propeller beanie on his head in a committee hearing, or wave the penis bone of a walrus at the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?

There’s a certain quirky lad who fits this tradition nicely (the mixed bag one, not the walrus penis bone one). He was characterized by Sarah Palin in her book Going Rogue as an “effete young chap,” and came in third in a three-way race for governor against Palin, and former Democratic governor Tony Knowles.

There’s much to like about Republican Andrew Halcro, especially when considering how far his party has drifted into wingnuttery of late. He’s not a bigot, he doesn’t make demands to see the “real birth certificate,” and has spoken out eloquently against right-wing chestnuts like private school vouchers.  The voucher system, he says, does not make economic sense. He rightfully lambastes the Education Committee for passing HB145 on to the Finance Committee with “no question how we fund a new program when we’re currently struggling to fund our existing education obligations.”

At a time when many Republicans hyperventilate about the secret Muslim Kenyan in the White House, or try to take steps to ban Sharia law here in Alaska, Halcro is a refreshingly cerebral, civilized sort of fellow. Like David Brooks and David Frum, he’s the sort of Republican of whom progressives will sometimes say nice things.

He has even brilliantly poked fun at his own foppishness in an unforgettable fireside reading of that offending passage from Going Rogue.

So, that’s the nice part.

The less appealing side appears when Halcro channels his inner Mitt Romney, resplendent in all his out-of-touch One-Percentish hyperbolic finery.

The Oil Tax Debate

Like Romney, Halcro has assumed the unenviable task of insisting to people who ought to know better, that not enough income has been upwardly redistributed to The One Percent. At a time Alaska faces domestic violence and sexual assault epidemics, chronic poverty in its rural villages, and school districts that are being forced to cut critically important positions, Halcro insists that it is some of the most profitable corporations on the planet and their absurdly compensated executives who require our sympathy, and our money, from our oil. If the Big Three were only richer, we’d have nothing to worry about. This is, to put it politely, a tough sell.

When Alaskan schoolchildren go to Juneau, and beg for desperately needed resources, only to be told “no” by Governor Zero, it’s a bit obscene to suggest that those who deserve our advocacy and our money are a few bazillionaires in Texas and Great Britain.

Halcro may fan himself and gasp “class warfare!” at this, but the component parts of fiscal policy do not occur in a vacuum. That is to say, there are two sides to the ledger, and each dollar taken from the state of Alaska and given to Texan and British oil companies is a dollar that is not going into our Permanent Fund, not building out our young, underdeveloped infrastructure, and not maintaining our commitment to educate the next generation of Alaskans.

The governor can brag all he likes in his State of the State Address about the sweet economic metrics that trickle like fiscal honey across our state budget—relatively low unemployment and foreclosure rates, coupled with budget surpluses at a time the Lower 48 states are running in the red. But if the net outcome of this is at the expense of our most vulnerable – selling out our future in order to subsidize Conoco CEO Jim Mulva’s next yacht – we may as well be Mississippi. And nobody wants that.

“Fiscal Conservatism”

Why is it most Republicans only discover “fiscal conservatism” when it comes to school kids and basic services, but in the case of tax giveaways to obscenely profitable corporations, they turn into drunk sailors on shore leave?  Even Halcro who comes down on the right side of “school choice” is perfectly willing to throw billions to the oil companies, with guarantee of return on investment. He says on his blog regarding vouchers:

It’s a bad idea. This year we’re paying private tuitions, next year were funding private school improvements. Anytime you give groups with political power direct access to state coffers, you’re in for a penny in for a pound.

Yes. Groups with political power always want more. More power, and more money. And it’s up to us to decide when enough is enough, and to restrain the rampant greed that would rob our state coffers and take money from the things we value, in order to enrich themselves beyond excess.

He goes on:

In this case, education committee members appeared to be all to willing to ignore the pesky little details like how do we financially sustain this new program and how will this impact the public school system which serves ninety percent of Alaskan students.

And he asks us to ignore that hypocrisy, and ignore the pesky little details like how do we financially sustain this $2 billion annual give away, and how will this impact the vital services and programs that serve all the residents of the state?

Perhaps the saddest part of Halcro’s sheltered, clueless elitism is that it colors the admirable parts of him. He’s someone whom thinking people want to like. He is witty, and charming, and good company over a martini. I’d like to think he takes his positions against homophobia and school vouchers on their merits, but have begun like many to wonder whether he simply cannot stomach the ghastly, downmarket Tea Party demographic much in the way old-monied Yankees like Bush Sr. of Kennebunkport could never quite stomach Southern rednecks.

Halcro in Carhartts would look as credible as Dukakis in a tank.

Why So Snippy?

Which brings us to a bizarre trajectory played out in the Alaskan media over the past several months—Halcro’s increasingly heated and snippy tone toward those with the nerve to not share his position on oil taxes.

It’s bizarre because, let’s face it, Halcro has much more in common with Bill Wielechowski and Hollis French than with most who share his oil tax position. I could actually conceive of the three of them matching wits in an impassioned but cerebral debate over a good microbrew.

I can not imagine Andrew enjoying himself while listening to monosyllabic blatherings from Cathy Giessel about how our biggest entitlement problem is public education.

Senators Wielechowski and French are not, as Halcro’s predictable, played-out meme has it, “anti-business” or “anti-oil and gas” or “anti mom and apple pie,” and it’s clear to anyone who is even halfheartedly paying attention. Just to set the record straight, they also don’t wish to kick down your door in the dead of night, eat your puppies, and inject you with liquid socialism.

No, contrary to Halcro’s breathless hyperbole about how Sen. French is a “one man assault on Alaska’s economy” etc. etc., the difference between the senator and Halcro is the difference between believing our relationship to the oil companies should be a partnership versus a servile one. Do we acknowledge that the relationship between Big Oil and Alaska has been one of mutual benefit, and move forward together, or do we become the beaten dog who hopes the master doesn’t get angry with us and smack us around with an empty pipeline? Do we simply want to acknowledge that it’s our oil, and it’s our responsibility to get the most we can for it , for the benefit of our future? Or do we want to hand over $10 billion from our bottom line to multinational corporations over the next five years and pretend that it won’t make a very real difference in the quality of our lives?

This flexibility-of-principle is a pattern with Halcro, who currently runs Avis Rent A Car in Anchorage. Happy to support an income tax, a sales tax, the raiding of the permanent fund, and even a head tax on Alaska workers (including children) during his legislative stint, apparently the only people who deserve tax breaks in Halcro’s view are oil …and rental car companies. Go figure.

It’s been correctly pointed out that oil pays 90% of the bills in our state. And the first thing any investment advisor will tell you is to diversify your portfolio instead of putting all your eggs into the same basket. In the case of Alaskan oil, it gives a handful of powerful corporations an undue amount of influence over those we elect to represent us. Alaska’s economy needs more diversity, not less.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Which brings us to the final Romney analogy. While a local right-wing blogger or two and their twelve readers may be urging Halcro to challenge Sen. French, simply because they hate the latter for being a thorn in their side, Halcro shouldn’t kid himself. Supporters of Hollis French will walk across broken glass to get to the polls because he’s likable, he’s effective, he’s smart, and he makes sense. Mental ninja gymnastics are not required to understand his positions across issues. Halcro just doesn’t inspire that kind of commitment from the GOP’s activist base, largely because they correctly view him as not one of their own, accurately remember him giving the Republican caucus the finger during his short legislative stint, and can be forgiven for wondering why, save for his position on oil taxes, he’d even run as a Republican anyway.

He’d probably get a nice check from Rebecca Logan and the rest of the oily “Make Alaska Submissive Coalition,” but good luck getting any of them to knock on doors in freezing weather.

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Comments
20 Responses to “Alaska’s Mitt Romney – Let the Mental Gymnastics Begin”
  1. Mo says:

    “Do we acknowledge that the relationship between Big Oil and Alaska has been one of mutual benefit, and move forward together, or do we become the beaten dog who hopes the master doesn’t get angry with us and smack us around with an empty pipeline? Do we simply want to acknowledge that it’s our oil, and it’s our responsibility to get the most we can for it , for the benefit of our future? Or do we want to hand over $10 billion from our bottom line to multinational corporations over the next five years and pretend that it won’t make a very real difference in the quality of our lives?”

    Yeah, this. Halcro did a great job exposing the Matsu dairy boondoggle, but somehow wers blinders when the money involved becomes serious and the perps are oil execs instead of doof high school cronies? Penny wise, pound foolish? What?

    • mike from iowa says:

      Rethugs in Alaska and elsewhere make self-fulfilling prophecies about Korporate Amerika and what they will do when they are bothered with nasty taxes and burdensome regulations. Been hearing this for at least thirty years. Politics have evolved to the point where Korporations own the government-lock,stock and smoking barrels. And that is still not enough for them. They want it all and with compliant pols I have no doubt they will have it all,if we can’t or won’t put a stop to the takeover. In Iowa,pols from both parties are owned by mega-livestock farms. When video evidence of animal abuse hits the airways,korporate farms face opposition from environmental groups. Iowa and at least five other mid-western states have new legoislation that prevents a person from accepting employment with a large confinement for the purpose of video taping abuses. Big Brother can’t legally stop the free speech but they can sure work to protect violators from being exposed as human garbage. Not to worry about rats and mice and weevils in feed,don’t worry if the eggs are infected with Salmonella,just don’t expose it and everything is all right.

  2. beaglemom says:

    But isn’t it the duty of the 99% to provide for the 1%? Why should we expect anything in return for tax advantages? We get to bask in the thought that we’ve made the wealthiest even wealthier. What more could any of us ask for. All written with a great deal of snark!

  3. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    Paula, I can understand your animus towards the the things you descirbe, but my advice is to curb it, contain it, use your outrage judiciously. In my limited experience that kind of approach actually works better than any other I know of. Unless you have clear and unambiguous evidence, you should avoid making positive claims with respect to the fracking industry, which I assume you are referring to. Instead you should be demanding knowledge and confirmation from them. The burden of proof is on the accuser. So the accused are then obligated to disclose everything such that it can be evaluated.

  4. Thomas says:

    From now on, put “PALIN!” into the post of any title, and instead of 8 comments you’ll have 300 people debating whose baby the lopsided one “really” is.

  5. Paula says:

    PS Our blind son was just in DC fighting the 1938 law that companies can pay disabled people as little as they want (some companies pay .16 cents an hour). Then people want to claim those who take/need public welfare/services are a problem? Take a walk in my shoes is sometimes in order…

    • Valley_Independent says:

      I was shocked to learn some months ago that such a thing existed. It is so incredibly wrong. Perhaps AKM would do a post on that?

  6. Paula says:

    We share similar debates here in the newly found gas belt. The companies rake in billions, the counties are going broke from out of state workers (who pay no taxes/property taxes to build the roads they destroy), the ecological impacts are horrid (wanna take a radiactive swim in our rivers and creeks anyone?), yet these mo fos just keep spewing bs about free enterprise while people can now start their tap water on fire… but it’s creating jobs, yeah! WTF, who needs water? Same story, same tune, same bs, different state. Bah Humbug. That being said, I’ll be getting my “Stop Pebble Mine” bag soon. Figured I’d make them split my donation so I can make folks here aware of what’s going on there… Now back to my kingdom at campottercreek.com.

  7. Alaska Pi says:

    Thank you AKM- ADT!
    Mr Halcro has really been getting on my nerves with all this for awhile.
    And actually- I’d really like to talk about “class warfare’ with Mr Halcro and “entitlement problem(s)” with Ms Giessel.
    I’ve about had it with a definition of class warfare which ignores the last 30 years of all out attack on the 99% on so many levels it makes your head spin, not the least of which is the re-definition of “entitlement ” into a negative, said with venom…
    Have had it with all that crap. All of it.

  8. UgaVic says:

    Mr Halcro is nothing if not ‘interesting’!!

    As has been pointed out any number of times….tax raw product going out, give the tax breaks to companies that make things in the state and diversify, diversify, diversify!!!!

    It is going to take 15-20 years to build a more balanced based…we need to get moving!!

  9. mike from iowa says:

    If you throw billions at oil companies,is there a guarantee return on investment? From earlier posts I thought there was no guaranteed return. My apologies if I am wrong. Would be a remarkable,memorable day to find a rethug one could actually admire.

    • AKMuckraker says:

      There are no guarantees. No guarantee of more exploration. No guarantee of more production. No guarantee of Alaskan jobs. Nada.

      • Valley_Independent says:

        And to that extent, you are correct. Parnell’s oil production tax break is a give away program that gets us nothing, unlike the very successful program Alaska has to encourage exploration.

        However, Halcro makes some very salient points, and Wielechowski’s presentation in support of his position has some pretty big holes in it.

        Halcro is a realist. He understands how and why large corporations make the decisions they do. It isn’t about making large sums of money; it’s about relativity. If the CEO can make a bigger profit somewhere else, the CEO has a duty to shareholders to do so. Here they explore (because that has a great incentive plan) then they sit on what they found like a savings account in the bank, because they can make more money somewhere else and come back and produce this later. We still have lots of maintenance jobs available, with an aging pipeline, but that’s not what sustains us. We need steady production jobs for Alaskans.

        We make none of the 90% of the money the state runs on if it makes more economic sense to the oil companies to not produce what they have in the ground here and save it for later. We just learned, thanks to Judge Gleason’s court, that they already have data that shows they can keep the pipeline running at lower flow rates and much longer than we thought, despite protestations to the contrary. So, what are we doing to encourage production jobs? Not much, it seems.

        The little producers, who fall under different rules, are enjoying the exploration credits, but it doesn’t look like they are going to be able to provide the same level of production and thus the same level of funding for education, revenue sharing, and all the other things oil pays for in this state.

        The snarking needs to stop and a realistic discussion needs to begin about how competitive we really are (taking into account all factors, not just taxes), and what incentives (strings attached) would actually stimulate production.

        This is not a partisan issue. It is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. It’s an Alaskan issue, and it is very disappointing to see even AKM sink to the snark level on it. Let’s stop picking on the personalities and start working on solutions before any more of my neighbors move out of state.

    • beth. says:

      This was the question I was going to ask, too, mike from iowa… Since AKM has clarified how things ‘work’ with big oil in AK, I’m thinking the text in the article needs to be changed to reflect that utter lack of guarantee.

      Currently the text reads: “Even Halcro who comes down on the right side of ‘school choice’ is perfectly willing to throw billions to the oil companies, with guarantee of return on investment.” I’m a’thinkin’ the sentence needs a “no” in it — as in “…with no guarantee of return on investment”. AKM? beth.

      • mike from iowa says:

        Thanks Beth. I did not make a very compelling argument for a “no” in the text. I’ll do better next time.

        • beth. says:

          /chuckle/

          With both of us, mike from iowa, remembering previous AKM articles on the zero committment from Oil in return for AK money, I’d say she’s a darned good teacher. Nay…let me make that more accurate: She is an Excellent teacher! My befuddled and bewildered old brain wouldn’t have retained the information had she been otherwise. beth.

          • mike from iowa says:

            She do have a way with getting salient points across. I remember from a short time back,this was brought up and Parnell wants to give back billions with no strings attached for future research or jobs or development. Beth and AKM for the Ministry of Truth and to smack around nutjobs and their stoopid ideas. Yayyyy!

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