Thursday, October 2nd, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
SHOULD LOUISIANA SECEDE FROM THE UNION?
We know that all good things have to come to an end. In Louisiana, we have tried the statehood thing for 205 years, but “maybe it’s just not working out.” Hey, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has flirted with the same idea up in Alaska. The federal government continues to shortchange Louisiana on virtually every federal program, from hurricane recovery funds to a fair shake on offshore oil royalties. So since Sarah Palin has raised the issue, maybe we in Louisiana should start considering the option of seceding from the Union and becoming our own nation.
You have got to hand it to those folks in Alaska. They have done a pretty shrewd job of figuring out how to lead the nation in raising taxes per capita, yet making the rest of the country pay for it. Alaska is number one in spending for residents, and its tax burden is 2 1/2 times the national average per capita. Its spending is twice the national average per capita. Their trick up north is that Alaska’s government spends enormous sums on its own citizens, and taxes the rest of us to pay for it.
For all practical purposes, Alaska is an adjunct member of OPEC. More than 89% of the state’s income is produced through four different taxes on oil and gas. And consider this. The state government takes three quarters of the value of a barrel of oil before the oil is permitted to leave the state. Alaskans pay no income tax, no statewide sales tax, and no property tax. And every a resident gets a yearly check for about $2000 from oil revenues, plus an additional $1200 confected by Sarah Palin last year to take advantage of rising oil prices.
The disparities of the two states, one north and one south, are dramatic when it comes to receiving federal funds from Washington. A typical example is the comparison of federal reimbursement to nursing homes that take care of the poor under the Medicaid program. The same patient that only receives $79 a day in Louisiana receives $317 per day in Alaska. When it comes to federal highway funds, Alaska receives $1.30 for every dollar it sends to Washington as do other states like California and New York. What’s Louisiana’s take? A little over $.90 back for each dollar sent to the National Highway Fund.
They play hardball in Alaska, while in Louisiana, the state’s leadership for years has often been pictured sticking out their hat and almost begging for a handout. As Governor, Palin has carried on a flirtation with the Alaska Independence Party (AKIP), and her husband was a card carrying member for a number of years. In an address to the party convention this past spring, Palin told the secessionists: “Keep up the good work.”
Palin has received her share of criticism for her secessionist sympathies. The Washington Monthly recently said that the idea of succession is “un – American.” Oh come on now. Maybe those in the press that are taking pot shots at the Alaska Governor for considering secession need to brush up on their American history. A good starting point might be the Declaration of Independence that clearly states:
“That these United colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states…… and that, as free and Independent states, they have the full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all of the things which Independent states may of right do.”
And what better source than Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural address who declared, “if there be among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
It’s not just a phenomenon stirred up by the residents of the last frontier where there is a movement to break away from the Union. This past July, according to a Zogby poll, more than 20% of US adults—one in five, about the same number of American colonists who supported revolt against England in 1775—agreed that “any state or region has the right to peaceably secede from the United States and become an independent republic.” A number of polls in recent years have indicated that almost half of Louisiana citizens agree that “the United States system is broken and cannot be fixed by traditional two– party politics and elections.”
The bottom line is that Alaska shares the same abundance of natural resources as those found in Louisiana. In fact, when you consider seafood, sulfur, agriculture and the largest port in America, the Bayou State has a lot more wealth beneath the ground, on the ground, and along its waterways than our compatriots up in the Yukon. Alaska has rattled its sabers, stood up to big oil in behalf of its citizens, and demanded more than its fair share of the pie from the federal government.
In comparison, Louisiana has been groveling for years to get a bigger slice of the offshore oil payouts. Louisiana officials declared a big victory last year when the feds agreed to give a pittance of $20 million a year for the next 10 years. Alaska would have considered such a settlement chump change, and would probably have started a secession movement along with a wall around its borders.
Seceding from the Union and becoming its own nation might prove to be an attractive option for Louisiana. If Mississippi wants to join us, we might even agree to create “a coastal nation of Louisissippi.” The French would be appalled, but who cares.
As for leadership? I would probably stick with Bobby Jindal as president. But if LSU coach Les Miles pulls off another national championship, he would certainly be a contender. If Lindy Boggs were a bit younger, she would be my first choice as Ambassador to the United States. Harry Connick Jr. would fill the bill nicely. We would definitely need to bring back General Russel Honore’, who told me how much he loves Louisiana, as our Secretary of Defense. A piece of cake here, since the US would be our protector, just like it is for Mexico and Canada. And for free. Our national flag would be a combination of black and gold and purple and gold, and we would certainly want Randy Newman to write our national anthem.
Over the past 200 years, Louisiana has been in a marriage of convenience. In 1913, the state entered this marriage with the rest of the US, and got a lot out of it. They received access to the American markets, and the flow of goods through New Orleans. It was a two way street and benefits flowed both ways. But by the middle of the 20th century, the bargain disappeared. Both the oil and the royalties flowed out of Louisiana with little to show in return.
So don’t knock Sarah Palin when she flirts with secession. Alaska has cut a good deal for itself. Maybe Louisiana should rise up and do the same
“We used to root for the Indians against the cavalry, because we didn't think it was fair in the history books that when the cavalry won it was a great victory, and when the Indians won it was a massacre.” ~Dick Gregory
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown’s column appears weekly, and is published on a number of newspapers and websites throughout Louisiana. You can read past columns by going to Jim’s website at http://www.jimbrownla.com/. Jim’s regular radio show on WRNO, 995fm out of New Orleans can be heard each Sunday from 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.