Big Oil

Rugged individualist Alaskans get ready to suckle on their annual government handout

Today comes word of how much money, exactly, almost every man, woman and child living in Alaska will collect from the government next month.

Now, obviously one has to be just a bit different from most other Americans to go live in The Last Frontier State. And you have to give them credit for struggling through long, dark winters without (most of them) going stark raving mad.

But this annual announcement -- this year's check from the Alaska Permanent Fund will be $1,305 -- shows up a bit of a contradiction in Alaskans' political leanings.

To paint with perhaps an overly broad brush, Alaskans are known for being conservative, I-can-do-without-government types. Even former Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat, and current U.S. Sen. Mark  Begich, also a D, can hardly be classified as lefties, while their Rs -- Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkokowski, as well as just-departed U.S. Sen Ted Stevens -- are longtime conservative stalwarts. (Sarah Palin, on the other hand, did at least talk a good game about keeping the oil companies in line. Before she wigged out ... uh, I mean retired.)

[caption id="attachment_4318" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Lisa Murkowski"]Lisa Murkowski[/caption]

But this annual check from the gummint? Isn't that welfare? Doesn't that make Alaska a welfare state? The money comes from the oil flowing off the North Slope. One-quarter of all lease revenues going to the state are diverted into the Permanent Fund, which invests the money and makes payouts in according with a rolling five-year average of how the investments are doing.

One thing those checks do is help cement Alaska's political leadership behind the oil industry.