My Turn: Obituary for the Last Frontier

  • Friday, January 8, 2016 1:01am
  • Opinion

Alaskans are proud of the independent, free spirit that built this state. People from the Lower 48 watch shows and travel here to just feel a closeness to the mystique that is the Alaskan dream.

Striking out, making your own way and being independent is what made Alaska strong and made people dream of coming north. But times have changed, and the true Alaska frontiersman is being killed and replaced with a socialist dream.

First there is health care. Our state has the highest cost for private health insurance in the country. A person attempting to buy private health insurance for a family of five on the open market will pay about $27,000 a year for the one of the lowest benefits packages and over $50,000 for one of the more comprehensive packages.

Now, we hear talk of a state income tax.

These two over-reaching costs will cripple entrepreneurs and independent business in our state. Let’s runs a quick math problem. You have a business plan that could bring in a profit of $120,000 before taxes. Sounds great, until you figure that after covering the cost of your private health insurance and state income tax you would be better off with a typical state job. Why should hard working, intelligent people strike out to create independent businesses that would create jobs and drive the economy when the risk of the venture has no financial benefit?

Alaska has been a rich state in the past, which has allowed us to foster independence as well as provide some of the most costly and extensive social services in the country. We have the second highest number of state and local government employees per capita in the country. Alaska provides social services that are more extensive than almost anywhere in the U.S.

Yes, we need to care for our poor and indigent, but we also need to establish the difference between needs and wants. How is it that many Alaska housing units are nicer than where I lived when I first moved here? I would argue that lifeline cell phones that provide unlimited talk and text coverage with a smartphone and a data package might be more of a luxury than a need.

People down on their luck may need a reliable phone to search for a job or for medical reasons, but could that not be accomplished with a basic flip phone and limited service? Is it possible that in Alaska you have a higher standard of living on assistance than if you are working? We cannot expect that all these services can be paid for off the backs of hard working Alaskans. Soon we will find that our fishing fleets are owned by corporations instead of our neighbors because we can’t make the math work. Our entrepreneurs, who could create jobs and employ others, will leave the state because taxes are too high.

Increased taxes are a sure way to finalize the death of the frontiersman. It will ensure that entrepreneurs and the independent thinkers — fishermen, loggers and bush pilots that built Alaska — can no longer afford to live here. Instead, we are creating a socialist welfare state that caters to the idea that hard work should be taxed, not rewarded. We are legislating the death of the last frontier.

• Nicole Johnson lives in Ketchikan.

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