For starters, let's talk about process
In creating their unpopular bill to cut taxes and explode the deficit, Senate leaders stuffed as many giveaways as possible into the measure, offering something to please almost every Republican while never calculating the real cost.
There has been little published analysis and commentary in Alaska about the contradictions between the senatorial press releases of Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and the fiasco they continue to champion.
Rather than simply complain about what is missing, however, I've decided to do my part to expand the discussion, if only in a small way.
So that's what this site is about. We'll see whether it is illuminating or infuriating. Probably some of both. My twin brother, Terrence, a history professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and one of the most prolific historians in Alaska, may contribute as well. Aileen, one of my tech-savvy daughters, worked on the design and encouraged me to get started.
In the two months since the Alaska Dispatch News eliminated my job as a columnist, I've thought a lot about writing and research projects. I've started work on another book, which may appear before President Trump's tax returns see the light of day.
I come to this self-appointed task with a lot of experience, having been working to understand Alaska politics and history since I became a newspaperman in 1976. I think I have something to contribute, but finding readers for this venture is another matter. We'll just see what happens.
I don't intend for this site to consume my waking hours. If it consumes an hour here and there every few days, that will be sufficient. I'll offer commentary, raise questions, give opinions and write about the weather or Alaska history.
But let's get to the tax bill that got me started on this.
In September, Sen. Lisa Murkowski called for a sensible process for the U.S. Senate to deal with health care. She correctly diagnosed the mess, while Sen. Dan Sullivan never got much beyond the mindless mantra, "repeal and replace."
"I am convinced that by returning to regular order we can find a bipartisan solution of enduring policy that lives beyond this Congress," wrote Murkowski about health care. She didn't want to be part of a process that excluded the public and promoted secrecy and speed.
But in voting for a giant tax bill with more options than Amazon, Murkowski abandoned those lofty September sentiments. The decision of Senate leaders to allow Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling in the budget bill—where it doesn't belong—probably secured Murkowski's vote.
ANWR drilling, approved on a one-party vote, will be vulnerable to court challenges and future opposition to those who see a powerful national symbol at stake. That risk and the uncertain timing will not be lost on the oil companies when they bid for exploration rights.
The tax bill, complete with hand-scribbled numbers that could have come off a discarded Fred Meyer shopping list, came together too fast for Murkowski or Sullivan to know what was in the bill. They haven't confessed that to Alaskans and are keeping up the front that this was done with care.
To claim now, as Murkowski does, that this bill is the result of years of meticulous study is ridiculous.
There was no effort to involve the public or experts with conflicting views on the implications of the plan. There was no effort to create a bipartisan solution of "enduring policy" that will last beyond this Congress. Republicans were so afraid of not getting a bill passed that they were eager to get any bill passed.
They are trying to sell it to the public on the grounds that this is a conservative and coherent effort to help average families.
The individual tax cuts come with an expiration date, followed by a tax increase, while the massive cuts for businesses do not. That alone proves that this is not about the average American.
There are a trillion reasons why Murkowski will never again be taken seriously when she says she believes in an orderly approach above all else. I think she agreed to keep quiet about this disgraceful process in exchange for ANWR leasing and a seat on the conference committee as well as one for Rep. Don Young.
As for Sen. Sullivan, there was never any doubt he would follow the party line and vote for whatever Senate leaders conjured up.
The video below features Murkowski answering hard-hitting questions from her staff in a strained attempt to defend the giant tax scam.
Below that is a document by 13 law professors and tax experts that counters much of what Murkowski says in the video, highlighting some of the mistakes, loopholes and unintended consequences of this reckless and careless exercise.
If you care to comment, please do. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org