While Iditarod excitement and LOIBC basketball fever reigned in Nome for the last couple of weeks, the world outside our bubble is grappling with severe problems.
Just this week, with a 22 to 17 vote, the Alaska House of Representatives has passed a FY18 budget of $4.25 billion. The votes were along party lines, with Democrats for and Republicans voting in opposition of the bill that underwent 100 amendments before being passed. Next stop is the Senate, where pundits expect more budget reductions to cut into health programs and into the University of Alaska budgets. The capped Permanent Fund Dividend seems to be a foregone conclusion, leaving rural Alaskans with a loss of income that once was a saving grace for many, come November.
Rural Alaskans’ belts are already tightened to the last hole, but bad news keeps a coming out of Washington as President Trump presented his budget. Disregarding President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning in his farewell speech in 1960, in which he warned of the influence of the military-industrial complex, Trump proposes to increase military spending by ten percent, adding $54 billion to the Dept. of Defense while cutting funding for small programs that make a big difference, including the Denali Commission, Essential Air Services, low income heat assistance, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts, and Humanities, just to name a few.
Hopefully our Alaska Delegation will get on its hind legs and fight those cuts tooth and nail, including the proposed reduction of Medicaid under the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The replacement named the American Healthcare Act threatens to leave 20 million Americans in the dust and without health care coverage. I wonder if anybody has done the math of the cost when those people, who most certainly don’t pay for preventative care out of their own pocket, get sick. So, without major interference by Congress whose members hold the federal purse strings, we are looking at a future where the US probably has the best weaponry, but an unhealthy and uneducated population because we can’t afford health care or education.
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” said Eisenhower in his speech. “We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
These words ring very true today just as they did in 1960. -D.H.-