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Friday, September 05, 2008

Alaska governor's position among the most powerful and most challenging in the U.S.

Given its source, today's article in the NYT entitled The Unusual Challenges Palin Faced in Alaska is remarkably balanced and informative. As PrestoPundit Greg Ransom notes, though, in his post linking the article,

Remember when the Democrat press wouldn't stop telling us about how Texas has a "weak Governor" system, when Bush was running for President? Well, don't expect them to talk much about the fact that Alaska has the most powerful governor in the country.

From the article itself:

That said, by other measures [than budgetary, given its current budget surpluses], Alaska is harder to govern than a smaller, more settled realm in the Lower 48. With vast distances, large numbers of indigenous peoples and a narrowly based extraction economy — with a handful of giant multinational oil corporations dominating the game — some economists say a country like Nigeria might be an apter comparison.

"Alaska really is a colonial place," said Stephen Haycox, a professor of history at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. "One third of the economic base is oil; another third is federal spending. The economy is extremely narrow and highly dependent. It’s not to say that Alaska is a beggar state, but it certainly is true that Alaska is dependent on decisions made outside it, and over which Alaskans don’t have great control."

Overlaid across all of that is a distinctly informal Alaskan style. At the annual governor’s picnic, usually held in July, the governor is expected to turn the brats and burgers on the grill — something Ms. Palin has done with gusto — with cabinet members in aprons rounding out the kitchen staff.

... [T]he State Constitution concentrates power in the governor’s office more thoroughly than in almost any other state — a legacy of the late 1950s, historians say, when statehood and a simultaneous trend all over the country toward elevating executive authority coincided.

The NYT misses an important point, though: When exploding revenues lead to budget surpluses, that's when it's toughest to sustain vetoes that have stripped pork-barrel projects from the state budget — yet that's exactly what Gov. Palin has done. And the NYT displays its reflexive liberal thinking again in this paragraph:

A debate is on now as to whether Ms. Palin’s policies will be wise for the state in the long run. Some economists have questioned, for example, whether the three-quarters of a billion dollars or so given to Alaskans this summer in the oil-bounty checks (a bill passed this summer with Democratic support in the Legislature), might have been better used in the state’s rainy-day fund.

An observer (or a thoroughly observer reporter) might have or responded to those "some economists" (or pointed out to his readers) that fiscal conservatives like Gov. Palin know better than to trust future legislatures and governors with that money. Sure enough, they'll decide that they know better what to do with the people's money than the people do. Alaska already has a permanent fund to which it's regularly contributing to hedge against the day when its fossil fuel resources are no longer filling state coffers, but Gov. Palin's Democratic opponent in the last election was already proposing dipping into it to fund current expenditures. Having instead continued making scheduled payments into the fund, fiscal conservatives like Gov. Palin would have no trouble deciding to return the people's money to the people, per capita, for them to save or invest as they choose.

Posted by Beldar at 07:31 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Alaska governor's position among the most powerful and most challenging in the U.S. and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


Tracked on Sep 5, 2008 9:43:20 PM


(1) caltechgirl made the following comment | Sep 5, 2008 7:52:55 PM | Permalink

As fair as this article is, I find it insulting that the author continually refers to Sarah as "Ms. Palin". Sorry NYT dude, that's GOV. Palin to you, and if you can't hack that, MRS. Palin. "Ms. Palin" is not an appropriate title for her, formally or informally and to refer to her that way demeans both her esteemed office and her marriage. Or was that the point?

(2) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Sep 5, 2008 7:59:54 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Many thanks for the link to the TIMES article. Those who are interested in the Beyle scale of gubernatorial power and how it is calculated (Alaska comes in #2 out of 50 on it) can find it at:


That's worth reading your blog for a year all by itself. Characteristically, the TIMES article does not link the Beyle index.

The article does raise a point I've mentioned here: the boom-and-bust cycles Alaska's extraction economy is chained to, and the corruption that all-too-often accompanies it. I'd still like someone to ask Palin what her thoughts on breaking Alaska free from this are. It isn't reasonable to expect Palin to have solved this dilemma in her first term, but she has made a start by renegotiating the severance tax, and I would hope she would have thought about this at some length.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(3) Terry made the following comment | Sep 5, 2008 11:41:27 PM | Permalink

The Alaska news reports keep referring to a constitutional provision that the resources belong to all the people. This comes across as everyone must benefit equally, hence the $1,200 energy check (subject to Federal Income Tax).

My apologies, dial-up makes further research tedious and unpleasant. Just reporting/repeating what has been in the news.

(4) Donna B. made the following comment | Sep 6, 2008 11:01:53 PM | Permalink

As for the Ms. vs. Gov. or Mrs., the NY Times style requires the use of Ms. for females, until the said female says she'd prefer Mrs.

As to the Gov. (or Pres.) title, it's supposed to be used for the first reference in the article and afterwards is either Ms./Mrs./Mr.

As long as this style is followed consistently I don't have a problem with it.

In fact, I think it's more respectful than the style followed by most other news outlets of subsequent references by last name alone.

If I weren't so lazy, I'd try to find that link to the NYTimes tidbit about this part of their required style for reporters.

But, alas... I am lazy!

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