Alaska (and Wasilla, especially) on the teat

Why would Alaskans, and Wasillans, want to secede, given how much they cheerily accept from the feds?

Published September 2, 2008 4:35PM (EDT)

For space reasons, I had to cut a chapter from "Whistling Past Dixie" called "The Republican Massachusetts." That's the moniker I apply to South Carolina, a state that is not merely the most conservative in the country but, more than any other, has been complaining about, leaving or threatening to leave the Union almost since it joined. (Did you know the Palmetto State threatened to secede from the Confederacy because the other 10 states were only prepared to keep slavery as an ongoing institution, whereas S.C. wanted to reopen the slave import trade that, by constitutional edict, had ended in 1808?)

What really amazes me is that the states always complaining about the oppressive, big-spending federal government also seem to be the same ones with their lips securely and cheerily fastened to the federal teat. With the exception of Maryland and Virginia -- which, by virtue of proximity to the nation's capital, have many federal employees, military or otherwise -- many of the states that most benefit from the net difference between taxes paid to Washington and federal outlays from Washington are the poorer and/or Southern states. That is: red states.

And guess which state is perennially near the top of the list? According to the Tax Foundation, which tracks such things, Alaska ranked among the top 6 in per capita federal receipts for each of the past seven years (1999-2005) for which the foundation reports data. (The link starts, alphabetically, on Alabama -- another major teat sucker, a top 10 recipient every year since 1990! -- but just click the arrow in the top right once to reach the Alaska page.)

Surely Sarah Palin rejects such largess, right? Wrong. According to the Washington Post:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for a town of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, according to an analysis by an independent government watchdog group.

There was $500,000 for a youth shelter, $1.9 million for a transportation hub, $900,000 for sewer repairs, and $15 million for a rail project -- all intended to benefit Palin's town, Wasilla, located about 45 miles north of Anchorage.

BTW, when you divide 6,700 into $27M, that works out to more than $4,000 per person.

Rugged individualism, self-reliance, freedom from the feds ... the Alaskan way! Whatevs.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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