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Elections & Voting Last Updated: Sep 5th, 2008 - 01:10:37

Big Oil and Palin�s �experience�
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Sep 5, 2008, 00:18

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It�s difficult to evaluate the experience of the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, since her job as governor of Alaska was somewhat atypical. Aside from the fact that the state has a population of 680,000, about a third of Brooklyn�s, Alaska has a budget surplus of $5 billion thanks to its oil and natural gas supplies. After you gasp, listen to this . . .

In fact, Alaska, as the New York Times reported, is now passing out a $1,200-per-resident oil-bounty bonus check. This while the governors of 31 other states wonder how their people, working in the shattered US economy, will make it through the winter with the price of fuel oil, gas and other commodities going through the roof.

Actually, one third of Alaska�s economy has been sustained by Big Oil, another third by federal spending, and the balance by the state�s own efforts. And so, working people across the country might have real trouble identifying with the bonanza belt�s US oil and natural gas exploitation. I don�t know of many extractive industries -- or of any other kind in America -- that are passing out bounty bonus checks. Do you?

Mrs. Palin arrived in office in time for the bonanza, having run-out some of her own Republican Party members from cash-guzzling power, albeit with considerable help from state Democrats, who are actually a minority in the legislature. She wielded her power to best her own party members on important bills and suggested that those in disagreement with her were in the pocket of �Big Oil.� Actually, the whole state of Alaska is in the pocket of Big Oil.

The question is, what will this oil bonanza garnered by raising the tax on oil do for the state in the future, and won�t it be passed along by Big Oil to the rest of us in one way or the other? The three-quarters of a billion dollars passed out to Alaskans this summer via the oil-bounty checks, also leaves Alaska vulnerable in other ways.

The �tax overhaul� [increase] tied these state payments to the net profits from the oil companies as opposed to their gross revenues. This exposes Alaska to the possibility of severe hits when oil prices decline. There aren�t any regional or neighboring state economies to offer alternatives if the local economy goes dry. And there isn�t a state income tax to fall back on. Imagine that.

So Alaska is now really riding on the vagaries of the oil industry�s waves. Nobody, including Mrs. Palin, knows how to deal with the potential disaster of that issue, since it�s never happened. Yet there was a time when oil went for $9 to $22 a barrel and state budget cuts and downsizing were de rigueur. You could say, as the Times did, that Alaska is operating like a US colony, rather than as a US state.

But then, given Mrs. Palin�s previous experience as mayor of her small hometown, as she puts it, sort of like a �community organizer, except [with] actual responsibilities,� Alaska might be at a loss, a kind of one-trick pony with a hobbled leg if something should go wrong. But then, we won�t worry about that until it happens. The wildcat spirit of Alaskans, many known for their escaping debts, the law, taxes and spouses, might be enough to carry them through.

Yet for America, which is facing some of its darkest economic days since the Great Depression, I would like to think that those at the helm are more than an Alaskan wildcatter and a Senate wild man, who has already offered to fight for 100 years in Iraq and is ready to bomb Iran, and now go for Russia�s juggler with the Bush administration -- which, by the way, is about to hand Georgia one billion dollars for attacking South Ossetia, I mean, for �humanitarian and economic assistance to help rebuild itself� after its stupid mistake.

As you can see, the litany of wars will be endless if these Republican hackers of the previous two elections are permitted in office, no matter how folksy, small-town, family-oriented, working-man-centric, and all for America they claim to be. We have finally hit the bottom of the political oil barrel and even the Democrats are beginning to look like sunshine and smell like roses. Well, sort of, if you squint and hold your nose.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at Look for his new book, State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 onat, Amazon or

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