Opinion: The hollow satisfaction of undoing government

Opinion: The hollow satisfaction of undoing government

Going back to the problems we had before one side thinks they solved them isn’t “doing things differently.”

“The status quo came to a screeching halt with the last election,” Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy said after appointing three new commissioners on Monday. He expects them to “bring a bold, fresh approach to managing their respective departments,” adding “it is past time to start doing things differently if we want different results.”

Some of that message applies specifically to policies implemented during Gov. Bill Walker’s four years in office. Some go further back. And in what’s become a tradition of undoing the actions of previously elected governments, some will be different by virtue of resuming the way things were done in the past.

That’s the direction the Permanent Fund Dividend is headed. To balance the budget, Walker capped it in 2016. Lawmakers agreed to limit the payout the next two years. Now Dunleavy wants the checks we get to be based on the same formula that had been used every year before all that.

Just as Dunleavy’s pledge to restore the PFD was his biggest campaign promise, repealing Obamacare was the top priority of Republican candidates for Congress. And once in office they brought it up for a vote more than 60 times.

There have been two camps on this issue. Repeal and replace, which was really an attempt to amend the law. And straight out repeal, which essentially meant health insurance would be different than it’s been by going back to way it was before Democrats legislated doing health insurance differently.

Paralleling pursuit of the repeal effort were several lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. In the first of several U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the law was upheld but its provision which forced the states to expand Medicaid was invalidated.

It was after that decision that former Gov. Sean Parnell, Walker’s predecessor, opted out of Medicaid expansion. So, it’s fair to say Walker undid Parnell’s decision by expanding it. Dunleavy, who was a senator at the time, asked Walker to undo his own action or face a legal challenge of his decision to bypass the legislature’s appropriations authority.

That was 2015. Now Dunleavy says he has “no intention of kicking people off of health care.” He just wants to be sure the state can afford Medicaid expansion and can manage it efficiently.

But that could be as insincere as Republicans running for Congress this year. Despite all their promises to repeal Obamacare, they claimed only their party was prepared to protect its provision that prevented insurers from denying coverage for preexisting conditions. They made that pitch knowing the entire law could be overturned by the latest legal challenge filed by Republicans from 20 states.

My point here isn’t to argue that Dunleavy can’t be trusted to keep his promises. It’s that once politicians stake out positions like these, they can become irrationally focused on undoing legislation enacted by the opposition. And going back to the problems we had before one side thinks they solved them isn’t “doing things differently.”

After Obama became president, he relaxed enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where medical or recreational use is legal. Like prior Democrats, he established stricter fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. Both were policies that had been rejected by President George W. Bush. And by undoing what Obama did, President Donald Trump took us back to the way Bush dealt with those problems.

Then there’s the 1984 law signed by Ronald Reagan that prohibited U.S. funding of international family planning groups that provide abortions. Bill Clinton overturned it in 1993. Bush restored it 2001. Obama rescinded it in 2009. And Trump continued the cycle of doing and undoing by reinstating two days after he became president.

Alaska’s government has been no less erratic. In August 2006, Gov. Frank Murkowski did oil taxes differently by enacting the Petroleum Profits Tax. Soon afterwards, Sarah Palin undid that by getting Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share passed. And after two failed attempts to undo ACES, Parnell finally succeeded with SB21.

The oil companies are notorious for complaining about Alaska’s lack of a stable tax policy. Sure, their hypocrisy was on full display when they supported Parnell’s effort to change it the third time. But that’s also true of partisan voters who only complain about the other side reverting to policies undone by the short-lived status quo they voted into office.


• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. He contributes a weekly “My Turn” to the Juneau Empire. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

t
Opinion: Let’s keep the mandatory real property disclosure ordinance

It will better ensure fair, accurate and efficient property tax assessments and collections.

(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: Playing the old-timer card

Is the Empire really only interested in the problems faced by small communities?

Heavy metals run out of the Tulsequah Chief mine opening and down to holding ponds next to the Tulsequah River Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file)
Opinion: Officials must keep up pressure to clean up BC mine

In March 2017 I had a Commentary published Pacific Fishing Magazine imploring… Continue reading

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Why I’m voting for Walker

Walker is the only candidate with the potential to govern effectively for all Alaskans.

t
Opinion: The time has come to end Big Tech’s rule

The internet has opened doors and pathways to more than we could… Continue reading

Nick Begich III campaign materials sit on tables ahead of a May 16 GOP debate held in Juneau. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Nick Begich is who Alaska and America need now

It is in Alaska’s best interest to elect a member of the Republican party.

teaser
Opinion: If you see something, say something

Together we can fight to preserve this pristine place we live.

This photo shows the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: I’m a longtime educator, and I’m supporting Walker/Drygas

The issues our state faces are significant with regard to education.

t
Opinion: Congress could keep health insurance costs from rising, but it has to act fast

Some argue that the federal government paid out far too much money… Continue reading

signs
Opinion: A conversation about mental health

All in all, we want you to know that you are not alone.

Anselm Staack (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: Controlling women’s bodies — the coming tsunami

The Thomas Court wants to return us to the days before the 1960s, preferably to 1776.