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In Parting, Palin Decries Federal Largesse She Accepted for Alaska

July 27, 2009

In her fiery parting shot in Fairbanks Sunday, now-ex Governor Sarah Palin resorted to all of her now trademark rhetorical tactics. Bashing the media while using the U.S. military as human shields, she told the television cameras, "How about, in honor of the American soldier, you quit makin' things up?" She warned listeners of "enslavement to big central government" and the need to "be wary of accepting government largesse."
Of course, when it comes to largesse from American taxpayers, Sarah Palin's Alaska believes it is better to receive than to give. As it turns out, whether in the form of Washington's annual budget, earmarks or the stimulus spending itself, American taxpayers are "spreading the wealth" to Palin's home state.
But listening to Palin's valedictory, you'd never know Alaska ranks third in federal tax dollars received per dollar of taxes paid by state residents:

"We can resist enslavement to big central government that crushes hope and opportunity. Be wary of accepting government largesse; it doesn't come free. And often, accepting it takes away everything that is free. Melting into Washington's powerful, care-taking arms will just suck incentive to work hard and chart our own course right out of us. And that not only contributes to an unstable economy and dizzying national debt, but it does make us less free.
I resisted the stimulus package and we have championed earmark reform, slashing earmark requests by 85% to break the cycle of dependency on a stifling, unsustainable federal agenda. And other states should follow this for their and America's stability. We don't have to feel that we have to beg an allowance from Washington, except to beg the allowance to be self-deterrmined."

As it turns out, not so much. As I noted in March, Sarah Palin's Alaska was only too happy to tap the one-flow of federal funds to the state.
As a 2007 analysis of federal spending per tax dollar received by state shows, the reddest states generally reaped the most green. Eight of the top 10 beneficiaries of federal largesse voted for John McCain for President. Unsurprisingly, all 10 states at the bottom of the list - those whose outflow of tax revenue is funding programs elsewhere in the country - all voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
The data for Sarah Palin's Alaska is particularly telling. Back in the early 1980's, Alaska was a net contributor of tax revenue to the federal government in Washington, DC. But in recent years, the state has been the beneficiary of a massive geographic transfer of wealth from the Lower 48. By 2005, Alaska ranked third in feeding at the federal trough, taking in $1.84 from Washington for each dollar sent there. That performance puts Sarah Palin between fellow stimulus refuseniks Haley Barbour of Mississippi ($2.02 payback on each dollar) and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana ($1.78) atop the charts.
But when it comes to earmarks, the woman who mythically said "thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere almost always says, "yes." In the $410 billion omnibus spending bill passed this spring by Congress, Palin's Alaska led the nation in per capita earmark spending. Alaskans hauled in almost $210 per person in earmarks, while Californians got $16 and New Yorkers $13 in comparison.
And then there's the windfall from the stimulus bill itself. As a recent analysis in the Wall Street Journal ("After Voting No, Republicans Tout Funds") showed, Alaska was near the top of the list in several areas of ARRA spending. Alaska ranked #1 among the states in the per capita allocation of $72 billion in education funds contained in the stimulus bill. The state came in second as a per capita recipient of housing (HUD) funds, anti-crime spending and money for job training. For per person spending on water projects and health care, Alaska is third and 10th, respectively.
As I've noted before, none of the above is to suggest that there is anything untoward or inappropriate in the underwriting of red states by blue ones. On the contrary. After all, many of these Republican states are home both to key defense contractors and military bases which help ensure U.S. national security. Just as important, Americans nationwide want to provide the funding and resources for the education, health care and anti-poverty programs their red state brethren badly need - and deserve.
But for all her grandstanding, Sarah Palin was the queen of what she might otherwise call red state socialism. And in when it comes to the generosity of the American people, Sarah Palin concluded that charity begins at home - in Alaska.
UPDATE: Still failing to understand the First Amendment, Palin announced, "Together we do stand with gratitude for our troops who protect all of our cherished freedoms, including our freedom of speech which, par for the course, I'm going to exercise."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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