(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Elected officials must share burdens of the pandemic

We implore elected officials to take this important message to heart.

The Alaska Department of Labor tracks and publishes population, jobs, wages, and other valuable data. This data is easily accessible and, when plotted over time, is very revealing.

For example, graphing shows service sector jobs from 2001 through 2020 were decimated by the pandemic. The sharp 15% downward drop in 2020 stands out after two decades of slow, steady growth.

On the other hand, plotting government jobs data for 2001-2020 reveals a relatively flat line with only a 5% dip in 2020.

This means the private sector service-providing jobs declined three times as much as government jobs. Does this matter?

To answer, let’s remember Southeast Alaska was crawling out of a recession before the pandemic started. In her 2020 Alaska Public Media article, Abbey Collins said, “In 2019, Alaska emerged from the state’s longest recession on record.” The private sector had never actually recovered from the recession before going into the pandemic.

When a population is impacted by the most prolonged recession in its history followed by a catastrophic global pandemic, elected officials must address the unprecedented burden upon the electorate. Failure to do so exacerbates the combined economic and social distress described above. There has never been a more critical time for our elected officials to prioritize essential needs over mere wants. The implied compact between government leaders and the electorate dictates that they share the burdens of hardship with taxpayers.

We implore elected officials to take this important message to heart.

Don Habeger,


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