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Friday, January 28, 2022

The Economic Freedom to be Poor


New kids at my high school were rare. Most of us had been together since what felt like the beginning of time — and that wasn’t always a good thing. Remember the time Eric barfed in the lunch room? Yeah. Remember when the elastic in Kim’s sweatpants surrendered during fourth-grade dodgeball? She froze like a statue. New kids were suspect curiosities. It took a while to figure out if they were going to be one of “us.”

I remember one in particular. He complained constantly about how lame Homer was. He was in town to live with his relatives for a year — some sort of punishment for rowdy behavior back home. We figured out pretty fast that he wasn’t one of us (and represented a new kind of mischief we didn’t need).

I thought about him this week while listening to a Alaska public radio. Jeremy Price, a former aide to both Don Young and Lisa Murkowski, is now in charge of the Alaska office of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. He’ll probably do a good job for his bosses — but it’ll come at the great expense of struggling Alaskans across the state.

The Kochs’ goal, boosted now by four employees and a shiny office, is to stop Gov. Bill Walker’s expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance for low-income people. It’s one of the tactics being employed to torpedo national health care reform.

I’ll go out on a limb and bet that all four of them will have employer-provided health care, so they won’t have to worry about a financially disastrous medical crisis while they’re busy blocking the extension of health care coverage to 20,000 lower-income Alaskans.

I’ve gotten reports of people answering phone calls this week in which they’re asked to “stand up for Alaska and stop the expansion!” The voice on the phone refuses to say where he’s calling from; a return to the “campaign” number reaches only an overflowing voice mailbox. Is this part of Americans Against Progress’ effort to deny access to health care for all those Alaskans?

I guess the Kochs weren’t impressed when candidate Bill Walker made Medicaid expansion a centerpiece of his campaign for governor, and then knocked off the incumbent who opposed it. Or maybe they just don’t give a damn what the majority of Alaskans want for our state.

Their pitchman Jeremy Price explained the work as “a long-term effort to promote economic freedom.”

You know, economic freedom to be poor and lose everything, or die trying.

Economic freedom to declare bankruptcy when you aren’t poor enough to qualify for assistance and not wealthy enough to cover $100,000 in medical bills and keep your house?

Economic freedom to gamble that skipping preventive care won’t lead to a big, expensive trip to the emergency room?

Back when the Anchorage Daily News did its annual Neighbor to Neighbor series around the holidays, every year we rediscovered that the No. 1 reason middle-class people became destitute, needy people was under- or uninsured medical catastrophe.

Gov. Walker explained during the campaign that we could cut in half the number of uninsured Alaskans. At the same time, the state could save $29 million that we would otherwise pay over the next five years. With oil at $50 a barrel, that seems prudent. And Medicaid, if we expand it, would create a lot of jobs here, at a time when we’re really going to need them.

So since when do the words “economic freedom” mean stupid, self-destructive decision-making?

Maybe the Republican Koch clones down in Juneau should cut off their publicly-funded health care before they start blocking it for others.

The majority of Alaskans are smart enough to understand that Medicare, Veterans Affairs, the Indian Health Service, the federal government and the military all provide government-funded health care. Is getting rid of all of them going to be the next step to “economic freedom?”

Sadly, the Koch spokesmodel, Mr. Price, is not just some guy from Kansas, here to hurt us and then go home. No, he’s from Fairbanks. He’s homegrown. I can’t tell you how disappointing that is.

If you run into him, I hope you’ll tell Mr. Price: “We aren’t interested in inflicting your kind of ‘economic freedom’ on our fellow Alaskans.”



4 Responses to “The Economic Freedom to be Poor”
  1. Zyxomma says:


  2. mike from iowa says:

    Here is a quote from Charles Koch about how koch industries does not pollute. As Molly Ivins once intoned-if chutzpah was a word here in Alaska you would use it here-

    harles Koch, the 78-year-old CEO and chairman of the board of Koch Industries, is inarguably a business savant. He presents himself as a man of moral clarity and high integrity. “The role of business is to produce products and services in a way that makes people’s lives better,” he said recently. “It cannot do so if it is injuring people and harming the environment in the process.”

    Read more:
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  3. Susan Pacillo says:

    Great story Shannyn, keep up the good work! Thanks for keeping their feet to the fire. {{{:-)

  4. mike from iowa says:

    Didn’t see anything about benefits. 53k sounds pretty cheap for a former congressional staffer.