Why drastic education cuts in Alaska tell us everything about the coming dark age


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Faced with a gigantic $1.6 billion budget deficit, last month Alaska’s Republican governor, Mike Dunleavy, used his line item power to veto about $444 million from the state’s total budget of $8.3 billion. Among those cuts included an unprecedented almost 41% cut in the state’s university system.

Understanding the background for these cuts is not something easy to pin down in today’s partisan press. I first came across the story today in this Nature article, clearly written to lament the cuts and the harm they will do to education and science. This quote will give you the flavor:

Researchers are waitivng anxiously to see how university administrators will apply the cuts, which could fundamentally reshape science in the state — including UA’s world-class Arctic and climate research programmes. The first hint came on 30 July, when the university’s governing board voted to consolidate the system’s three main branches — in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

“It’s awful,” says Milligan-Myhre. “I had to turn away a student planning on starting in the fall because I just don’t know what the department or his degree would look like in a year or two.” She’s also encouraging her current students to graduate as soon as possible.

The problem with the article is that it gave literally no background into the cuts, and Dunleavy’s reasoning for doing them, a example of today’s typically bad journalism. We might justly oppose these education cuts, but before we as sane citizens can do that we must at least understand why they are being made. Nature failed to give us that information, and instead spent its time propagandizing for the blind spending of money for education.

I started doing searches on the internet to find out some background information. (More on that experience later.) Most of the articles were very superficial, though this article at least outlined the difficult budget situation faced by Dunleavy.

After a lot of searches on two different search engines requiring me to dig down several pages on both, I finally found this article at U.S. News & World Report that outlined in a very non-partisan way the issues.

Non-partisan is important here, because this battle isn’t a typical big-spending Democrat vs fiscally conservative Republican story. In fact, practically everyone here is being driven by irresponsible greed, including the voters.

It seems that since the 1980s the state government has used the money it was getting from the state’s oil revenues to give every citizen a yearly check, called the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). In recent years however that oil revenue has plummeted. Alaskan politicians were thus faced with a choice of either reducing/ending the PFD, raising taxes, or cutting services. In 2014 Governor Bill Walker, an independent, choice the first option.

Most notably, Walker reduced the amount Alaskans received from the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend in 2016, 2017 and 2018, enraging many Alaskans and inviting a state Supreme Court challenge from a Democratic state senator. That challenge failed, leading to the backlash that brought Dunleavy to office in November 2018.

And it’s the PFD that is driving Gov. Dunleavy now. He campaigned on a promise to restore the full PFD and pay $3,000 this year. That’s an appealing promise to Alaskans who feel as if they have been deprived of their rightful dividend for three years in a row.

The problem is that by paying a dividend of $3,000 to Alaskans, major spending reductions or eliminations to basic services must be imposed, despite rebounding oil prices and a $65 billion savings account. [emphasis mine]

So, the situation is actually being driven by the greedy desire of Alaskans to keep getting paid off by their government, even if the government can’t afford it. And they are being encouraged in this by the newly elected Republican governor.

It would be a mistake to blame the Republicans entirely, however. Many Republicans oppose Dunleavy. The bottom line remains however that it is the public that has chosen this short-sighted position. Moreover, they want their cake and eat it too. The protests and demands right now appear to want both education spending and that yearly government check, a clearly unsustainable option that will bankrupt the state.

If this isn’t another sign of what I call the coming dark age I don’t know what is. It also acts as a perfect mirror of the entire country, as Americans nationwide have been making this same choice now for decades. Give us big spending government programs that give us lots of money, but don’t cut the spending on anything!

As I say, the coming dark age.

One more side detail: In doing my web searches to get this background, I used two different search engines, Startpage and DuckDuckGo. Both are privacy oriented, which is why I use them.

In both cases, the only news stories I could find on the first few search pages were from mainstream and generally liberal sources. Though I know that the conservative press had covered this last month (I had seen the articles but at the time did not follow up and read them), none of those articles appeared in my searches. The search engine results had been very clearly tilted to favor mainstream leftist outlets.

Since Startpage uses Google’s search algorithms, imposing itself between the user and Google to protect the user, I can understand why this leftwing bias might have happened there. The evidence that Google is working to cut off access to conservative websites is extensive and continues to build.

Why DuckDuckGo however would show the same results is more disturbing, and suggests that this effort is more widespread, and is based on deep cultural forces that cannot be stopped. The modern liberal culture is very intolerant, is very dominant, and it wants to squelch conservative thought, by any means necessary.

More evidence I’d say of that coming dark age. Intolerance is the watchword of today’s generation. Oppression is certain to follow.

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15 comments

  • Foxbat

    This seems to be a clear example of the dangers of the UBI concept (Universal Basic Income) and the permanence of entitlements. Socialism ends in the streets.

  • MDN

    Bob:

    What search engine yielded the best results and what search machinations did that entail?

    I use DDG as well and find it generally serviceable, but haven’t tried or graded much politically oriented traffic through it. I use Bing often too, and resort to the G-sters only when necessary.

    In my experience I find G to generally find the most relevant hits, so long as you ignore the first listings offered. I avoid using them when I can more to deny them data on me, vs. getting too poor results. Also, a useful trick I use.to screen clutter out Is to include a date criteria if you can (i.e. Putting a “month” and “year” in quotes and such) as news articles and tech pubs tend to have date stamped bylines and title pages.

    Perhaps you could add a Search Tips page to your site and we could gather the collective tricks of your readers? Effective search is an art, and I think the more advanced your query syntax is, the less the AI filters can get in the way. At least for now : )

  • m d mill

    I would prefer the state gives any oil revenue directly to the residents. They can then decide whether to spend it on a college education or something else. Collage research programs and research departments should not be paid for out of the attending students tuition or state educational budget…this simply increases the costs of their education even more. If the State or Federal Government wish to subsidize academic research it should be done with direct science grants that are completely independent of the normal college/educational budgeting process. In fact higher education should be completely privately run, possibly with partial vouchers from the state if subsidies are deemed absolutely essential. The average resident should not be subsidizing those whose chose higher education. This would result in a much more efficient, streamlined, effective, and lower cost educational system, with many fewer goof-offs getting degrees in Renaissance basket weaving, and many fewer unpaid student loans. The costs of higher education have become absurdly high over the last 40 years precisely because of the increasing control of state and federal government bureaucracy.

  • born01930

    I can’t say I have enough info to jump on the unwashed are greedy bandwagon. Cutting the PFD can be equated to raising taxes if the money cut was used to fund government. I don’t know if that is the case or not but I wouldn’t be surprised. Just like the “it’s for the kids” argument used to raise taxes to pay more for education. How did that work out? I would rather them pay out the PFD than fund government. At least they have to balance their budget and are forced to do that.

  • Gary

    The last data I’ve seen (FY2016) had Alaska’s state support of higher education at $9.08 per $1000 of state personal income. The average for all states was $6.29 with a range of $13.15 for Wyoming and $1.91 for New Hampshire.

    One source for data relevant data is https://sheeo.org/project/state-higher-education-finance/

  • F16 Guy

    Robert
    Your observations about search engines are spot on. As we approach this next election, they will play a huge part in what people see, as well as the main stream media and DNC (but I repeat myself) presenting only one side of the political issues.
    News sites like Yahoo, which is heavily viewed by the younger crowd, and MSN will do their best to defeat the current president with lies and “fake news.”
    Sadly, I see no solution to these issues.

  • andy l.hehnlin

    My son used his PFD to pay for his college.

  • F16 Guy

    Here’s something even scarier about search engines and the electorate. How can we fight these billionaires?

    https://connect.xfinity.com/appsuite/#!!&app=io.ox/mail&folder=default0/INBOX

  • Lee S

    I am keeping out if the politics here…. But F 16 guy… I have teenagers…. And they laugh when I mention Yahoo….
    I do also TBH… The “kids” news comes from Reddit, YouTube, etc… and they reassuringly know how to beat the wheat from the chaff.
    The youth of today, on the whole, are no less and no more stupid than any of us were a few decades ago.. they have access to more information, and I would say are in general better educated… Regardless of qualifications…
    I also weep regarding the whole snowflake generation meme… But I believe it’s a fad which will pass… The squeeky wheel has been getting the oil.. but on the whole the youngsters of today are well informed and somewhat more realist than they get given credit for.
    I think our host is unduly pessimistic when talking about “the comming dark age”… The pendulum swings… The snowflakes will melt… And the next generation will be the most informed and rational humans that have ever had the opportunity to lead.
    Perhaps I’m overly optimistic, but I believe in the power of the human spirit.

  • Lee S: And your host sincerely desires your optimism to be right.

  • m d mill

    It seems historically that those generations who work mightily to create great and prosperous societies are inevitably replaced by lazier softer generations who then think prosperity and success are simply an easy entitlement to be bequeathed by the state bureaucracy. I think the collapse of most great societies follows this cycle…and the cycle continues.

  • Ryan Lawson

    Found this on Wikipedia, an interesting rabbit hole I fell down a few weeks ago. Ibn Khaldun, Muslim historian around 1377 AD in his scientific analysis of the cycles of civilizations:

    “Ibn Khaldun describes Asabiyyah as the bond of cohesion among humans in a group forming community. The bond, Asabiyyah, exists at any level of civilization, from nomadic society to states and empires. Asabiyyah is most strong in the nomadic phase, and decreases as civilization advances. As this Asabiyyah declines, another more compelling Asabiyyah may take its place; thus, civilizations rise and fall, and history describes these cycles of Asabiyyah as they play out.

    Ibn Khaldun argues that each dynasty (or civilization) has within itself the seeds of its own downfall. He explains that ruling houses tend to emerge on the peripheries of great empires and use the much stronger ʿasabiyya present in those areas to their advantage, in order to bring about a change in leadership. This implies that the new rulers are at first considered “barbarians” by comparison to the old ones. As they establish themselves at the center of their empire, they become increasingly lax, less coordinated, disciplined and watchful, and more concerned with maintaining their new power and lifestyle. The ʿasabiyya, dissolves into factionalism and individualism, diminishing their capacity as a political unit. Thus, conditions are created wherein a new dynasty can emerge at the periphery of their control, grow strong, and effect a change in leadership, beginning the cycle anew. Ibn Khaldun also further states in the Muqaddimah that “dynasties have a natural life span like individuals”, and that no dynasty generally lasts beyond three generations of about 40 years each.”

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