Crudely differing views

oil prices.JPGToday along the southern edge of the North American continent, where business has been booming, there are growing concerns that a slowing global economy already dragging down oil prices could do the same to oil production and throttle the boom.

Meanwhile, on the northern edge of the continent, where the economy has been struggling for years, there is a push to increase taxes on oil producers in the belief this could raise the funds needed to prop up state government spending.

Clearly, the nation’s two biggest states – Texas and Alaska – couldn’t be farther apart on their views of oil prices, taxes and the intersection of the two.

“It’s time people understood the hundreds of millions of dollars our current oil tax law is giving away, and taking away from our communities and neighbors,” former Alaska state legislator Les Gara writes of the northern view in the Juneau Empire. “Policies that smartly encourage business are good. Ones that give away a publicly owned oil resource through unjustified tax breaks just harm Alaskans from the youngest to the eldest.

“Fixing roughly $1 billion in oil revenue giveaways is a major, fair part of a plan to move this state forward again.”

The view down south is starkly different.

“…The economic indicators we monitor have begun to look like the beginning of the end for the economic expansion and West Texas’ ‘booming’ Permian Basin, as it has become known,” writes Houston Chronicle business reporter Erin Douglas wrote.

“Oil prices are stuck in what my colleague Jordan Blum describes as a ‘purgatory’ ($50-$60 per barrel) and jobs are already being cut across the state’s energy sector. Today, we think of the global market as oversupplied — after the initial spook of the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil field, the market hardly shrugged at the news. The state’s mining and logging industry, which in Texas is dominated by the oil and gas industry, cut its workforce for the third consecutive month in August.”

Good news

Thankfully, Alaska doesn’t have a logging industry about which to worry. It’s so small that if it went away it would hardly be noticed. The mining industry is bigger, but it is in large part today as in the past tied to the extraction of gold, which usually trends upward as the global economy softens.

As the Business Times headlined in August, “Gold Prices Break $1,500 Mark As Investors Run For Safe-Haven Cover.” The run was sparked by the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, one of the big factors slowing the global economy, which brings this back to oil.

“When countries’ economies slow down, there’s less people driving, less business activity, less power usage… All leading to less demand for the oil pumped in West Texas. The market going forward looks like it’s going to be over-supplied,” Douglas wrote last week as if presaging the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF Monday described the global economy as in  “a synchronized slowdown.” 

The same factors apply to oil in Alaska as oil in Texas only a maybe a little more so given higher production costs in the frozen north than in the sunny south. And the Alaska economy, for better or worse, remains largely dependent on oil both to power the private sector and support the public sector where oil taxes continue to fund most state and local government.

The local governments doing well by oil – those like the North Star Borough which can collect hefty property taxes from oil facilities – are largely insulated from the revenue ups and downs of oil prices and production. The state, however, is not.

How much money Alaska collects in oil royalties and taxes is the result of three factors: the tax rate, the oil price and the level of production. The only one of those things the state can control is the tax rate, which can influence the production rate.

With the flow of oil in the Alaska pipeline falling through most of this decade, the state several years ago offered oil producers incentives in the form of tax breaks to find more oil to put into production, and the scheme worked.

Production crept upward from 519,000 barrels per day in 2015 to 550,000 barrels per day in 2018 only to start sliding downward again, according to Alaska Department of Revenue figures. 

Revenue expects about 548,000 barrels per day for this year with production then steadily falling toward 503,000 by 2027. Considerable new oil has been found on the North Slope in recent years, but discoveries are by no means guarantees of production.

BP, the multi-national oil giant that arrived in Alaska at the start of the 49th state oil boom, certainly didn’t see a bright production future. It decided it’s time to leave the state. Many connected to or familiar with the Alaska oil business say they would not be surprised to see ExxonMobil, which holds a 36 percent interest in the Prudhoe field, follow BP out of Alaska if Exxon can find a way out.

The company has had nothing but problems trying to develop Point Thompson, primarily a natural gas field where Exxon says it is experimenting with a “high-pressure gas condensate cycling project (that) will be key to helping unlock Point Thomson’s potential.”

No gas

The big play, however, was always for gas. As Exxon put it, “the ongoing work and investments in Point Thomson are also laying the foundation for future gas development. Alaska has the opportunity to become a global natural gas leader. We are excited to be contributing to the next chapter in Alaska’s energy legacy.”

That was back before former Gov. Bill Walker browbeat the producers into letting the state take over a gas development project Exxon had been leading. Walker eventually got his way, hired a half-million-dollar per year Texan (now back in Texas) to find the way to the promised land, and courted Chinese financiers to put up the estimated $44 billion needed to finance the project.

China spurned Walker in favor of deals with Russian to obtain gas by land and by sea. Some in the industry have suggested the Chinese might have played Walker to negotiate better prices with the Russians.

The gas pipeline that was to be Walker’s pride and joy is now looking like another Alaska pipedream, although the state is continuing efforts to obtain a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permit for pipeline construction, having already spent the tens of millions of dollars necessary for the studies required for such a permit.

Nobody, however, expects a pipeline to get built anytime in the foreseeable future if at all.

Exxon – like BP – has meanwhile expressed its attitude toward Alaska with its actions. Mozambique earlier this month announced the company had agreed to invest up to $33 billion in a natural gas gas project in the African country.

As was the plan in Alaska, the gas will be liquified for shipment and sale in what has become a huge market for liquified natural gas (LNG) in a world the International Energy Agency says is already oversupplied.

Demand will, however, catch up with supply as it always almost always does, and that will change. In the interim, unfortunately, there is no telling how many sources for gas develop that are cheaper than the remote North Slope.

Iran only days ago reported a major new gas find. Alaska gas appears to have missed its moment with the 2015 words of former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson echoing: “Alaska is thier own worst enemy.

New players

Against this backdrop, Hilcorp, which bought BP’s assets, is expanding its operations in Alaska following a company model of “redeveloping oilfields after the major companies have moved on to more lucrative prospects,” as John Dougherty writes for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“A key component in (company owner Jeffery) Hildebrand’s business model is to slash operating costs to the bone while offering six-figure bonuses for the rank-and-file as incentive to get the work done. The model appears to have worked well when oil prices were high.”

How the model works with oil prices low has been questioned, and it does come with some risk. Hilcorp has had safety and environmental problems. As a private company, it can deal with some of those issues easier than publicly traded BP, which took a public-relations beating anytime an old and corroding Prudhoe Bay pipe sprung a leak.

Given the high costs of fixing all the corroding pipes in a North Slope oil pipeline system designed to last only to 2005, industry authorities on the issue say the most cost-effective way to deal with the problem is to monitor the field closely for leaks, fix them and clean them up quickly when they happen, and pay the fines – if any – should environmental monitors decide the spilled oil did significant environmental damage.

For a good part of the year at Prudhoe, the damage is minor. The ground is frozen, and covered with snow and ice. The latter protects the soils below and eases spill clean up. And Hilcorp can get away with a program of monitor, fix and cleanup in a way that BP couldn’t.

Thus it has a different view on the economic viability of Prudhoe than BP had, which helps to explain its investment in Alaska. Still, economic viability remains a key point. Businesses exist to make money. If they don’t make money, they fail.

Enter the issue of taxation.

Too much, too little?

Gara and others don’t like the tax incentives the state gave the oil industry to up production and wants to do away with them. The view from their side is that Alaska is no longer getting its “fair share” of revenue from the oil found beneath the state.

“I refuse to go so far as some of my friends, and say one action will balance the state’s budget,” he wrote. “(But) fair oil revenue will help a huge amount. We don’t have to decimate a Marine Highway coastal Alaskans and businesses rely on. We don’t have to damage the opportunity, job training and road to success good public schools and a high quality university provides.”

The world, unfortunately, is seldom fair to everyone, and fair is itself a very subjective word as Roger Marks, a former petroleum economist for the state, pointed out in a commentary in the Anchorage Daily News.

“Most economists would say fairness entails taxes being competitive; taxpayers should pay a similar amount to what they pay in other similar places. Otherwise investment will go elsewhere and production suffers,” he wrote. “As measured by percentage of net pre-tax profits going to the state and federal government, the current system is competitive. (Including the “credits,” which do not really function as credits, but rather provide progressivity to the system.)

“Presently, the state alone is getting 45 percent of the net profits at current prices. It would get 64 percent under the initiative.”

Marks isn’t a fan of the initiative to raise oil taxes, classifies it an economic “mess” and questions its basic fairnesss. But fairness, or lack thereof, is not the way on which to judge this sort of political action.

The bigger and more important question is this: Will it work?

Will the initiative, in this case, do what its sponsors hope and produce more money for the state over the long run? Or will it cause oil producers to scale back and produce less oil, meaning less state revenue and possibly an earlier demise of the transAlaska oil pipeline?

One conspiracy-minded Alaskan actually wondered if some environmentalists might get behind the initiative for the latter reason. Alaska oil production is already falling steadily. A further decrease in production could lead to an earlier, rather than later, shutdown of the pipeline, and if the pipeline goes, the threat of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) leaves with it.

At the moment, however, no economist was willing to offer a for-the-record assessment of what passage of the initiative might mean for oil production although most admitted they didn’t see how it could be anything but a disincentive to spend money to put more oil in the pipeline.

Why would companies pump more oil when it doesn’t help their bottom line?

“The initiative raises taxes at low prices, high prices, and in-between,” Marks noted. “At prices under $45 per barrel,  the taxpayers (ie. the oil producers) would lose money while the state makes several dollars per barrel. At high prices, the marginal tax rate would be 70 percent. The taxpayer (ie. the oil producers) assumes the downside risk and the state gets the upside potential. It is a classic ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ scheme.”

Tough times

The oil-tax initiative, of course, comes after years of recession in the state with the future still looking bleak.

Opponents of state budget cuts are trying to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy for red penciling about $450 million in state spending, although some of those cuts were eventually restored and the final reduction ended up being closer to $400 million.

Despite those cuts, the state also looks like it will be facing another $1 billion budget deficit year.

Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Labor’s October 2019 issue of Alaska Economic Trends is out and though the authors try to spin the Alaska economy toward the positive, things don’t look so good.

Alaska’s notorious boom-and-bust economy hasn’t really cycled like that that for the last 60 years, writes economist Neal Fried. Instead, he said, Alaska has weathered four recessions since statehood in 1959 while the nation as a whole has suffered six such economic setbacks.

He marks 2015 as the start of the last recession, but the state began bleeding residents a full two years before than in 2013, and the state’s generally accepted economic marks of the moment don’t look good.

Alaska leads the country in the percentage of unemployed at 6.2 percent, is tied with Louisiana and Hawaii for the last-place ranking in job growth, and tied with Maryland for last in private-sector job growth. The only bright spot is an uptick in public job growth tied to military expansion and related construction in Central Alaska.

State and local government jobs have been declining slowly but steadily since a peak near 68,000 in 2010, observes Dan Robinson, Labor’s chief of Research and Analysis, but “Alaska still has more government per capita than the nation as a whole.”

That has helped fuel the debate over whether Dunleavy’s attempts to balance the budget are a good thing or a bad thing.

At 8.9 government jobs per 100 people, Alaska is third behind Wyoming, now the nation’s least populous state, at 10.6 per 100, and North Dakota at 9.6. Robinson notes that big states with small populations tend to have the most state and local employees, but the range is wide and with considerable variation.

Vermont, the nation’s second least populous state, has only 7.9 state and local employees per 100, and Texas, the nation’s second-largest state, is near the national average of 6.1.

“About two-thirds of all state and local government jobs nationwide are connected to education,” Robinson wrote, but the rate is less than half in Alaska where 4 per 100 in education is close to the Texas rate of 3.9 per 100. The Texas rate appears to reflect that state’s many inefficient rural schools, something it shares in common with Alaska.

The 4.9 per 100 non-education state and local government employees in Alaska is essentially the same number as in North Dakota, and Wyoming is only slightly higher at 5.5. Robinson notes “the top five states in this category all depend heavily on natural resources and oil in particular.”

It is not clear, however, whether that requires they hire more employees or simply have more money to spend on hiring. The states with the most employees per 100 also appear to hire more and pay less.

Wyoming, North Dakota and Alaska are all below the national median average for state employees – $60,751 per year – and local employees – $51,515 per year. Alaska pays the best of the three states, but can’t begin to match California’s nation-leading, average wage of $80,316 or Hawaii’s local leading average of $70,708.

Whether Alaska has too many or two few public employees, and whether they are overpaid or underpaid, can be debated at length. What is true of oil taxes is also true here as Robinson observes:

“Whether Alaska still has too many government jobs is a policy question rather than something these numbers alone can determine, but it’s clear that Alaska has become considerably leaner over the last eight years.”

The most troubling statistic in the October Economic Report might, however, might be economist Lennon Weller’s observation that both the size of the Alaska labor force and the number of Alaskans working (the employment to population ratio) have been shrinking since 2011.

“These two measures identify a state’s overall ability to support its population and its
potential for economic growth,” he writes. “While there’s no ideal employment-to-population ratio, in theory, more people working relative to the size of the population
leads to greater wealth. A lower employment-to-population ratio suggests a greater burden of support on those working and less ability to meet a population’s needs.”

The Alaska labor participation rate long topped the national average, but that ended in 2018. Part of the reason is obvious; baby boomers aging out of the job marketing. Alaska used to be a place people left when they retired. That is not necessarily the case anymore.

Almost one in 10 Alaskans of working age is now older than 65, and that number is expected to nearly double by 2030. More trouble, Weller wrote, is the decline in young Alaskans and their absence from the workplace.

“Alaska’s population ages 16 to 19 decreased from 43,369 to 37,453 between 2011 and 2017. At the same time, their labor force participation rate dropped from 50.7 percent to 42.5 percent,” he wrote.

Olders Alkasans helped to fill the gap in the job market by “working longer than past
generations, whether by choice or economic necessity….But working older can only go so far, so this buffer isn’t sustainable. In the not-too-distant future, this mitigating factor will disappear and, if nothing else changes, the labor force participation rate will fall even lower.”

Basically, the portrait here is of an economy ever so slowly but steadily cycling downward despite recent claims of 0.01 percent job growth. It’s not a pretty picture. And the state needs to have a good debate about whether increasing taxes on oil will make it better or, possibly, a lot worse.





















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25 replies »

    • Well Monk, why do you do everything you do? To make my life better? If so, thanks! If no, why not? You greedy bastard, you! (kidding!)
      As my good friend Ayn Rand would say ‘I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.’

      • Jack,
        Not sure if you have any children, but if you did you would clearly see how you can put another person’s well being in front of yours.
        I am reminded of the late Dr. Andy Embick who would go on international “missions” to help many impoverished individuals across the globe.
        He would take months away from the ER and forego his salary to help others…mostly paying for medical supplies out of his own bank account.
        Sister Teresa was an amazing example of a person who would put the needs of others in front of her own…many times risking her own health to help others.
        My old medic partner has worked as a firefighter in NYC for nearly 20 years and has gone into burning high rises (many times a year) to save lives and limit destruction…he has seen nearly a dozen brothers parish in his time on the job yet he fears “retirement” more than burning buildings…obviously money is not his motivation in life nor does it make man “complete”.
        Ayn Rand was nothing more that a talking head for the establishment…her characters were plagued with constant conflict both at work and in their romantic lives…not my role model by any means.

    • Jack , ayn Rand made an effort but missed the end game . Her concept that man should live for their own happiness is self comforting but very very short sighted and not well thought out at all . Example- if I live for my own happiness then nothing legal or illegal is off limits which for many men would create world chaos – think gengis Kahn , unless you consider him a liberator from Roman “oppression” your stated interpretation of ayn Rand saying I will never live for the sake of another man is dishonesty by her at best ( she tried to get her relatives a legal right to emigrate)( though maybe she was a simple creature and only made the effort to make herself happy) or abhorrent at worst . – think family- nation-humanity/ sacrifice for greater good . Living only for yourself may well negate the usefulness of existence. I personally think humans should use their gifts to help others and ensure the survival of all life on earth. If the humans are happy in the process then that’s a bonus. Rands concept reduces the meaning of life . If we all lived by her idea of life , everything would end rapidly as selfish desires took prominence. Also of note is you have equated greed with capitalism. A fallacy. They are two different ducks with two very different meanings. I will leave it to you to carefully look up their definitions and work to understand them . Hint – a person may be a capatilist for- many – different reasons far beyond greed. Greed is limited. Now do yourself a favor and look it up in a real dictionary . Carefully Read each definition for a minimum of 10 minutes and try to understand the correct applications . There is no meanness is my thought when I say this to you . I’m giving you a method irregardless of my happiness that eventually helps everyone. An ability to be on a similar page during communication. By the way ayn Rand supposedly used amphetamines for 3o years . For whatever that’s worth.

  1. Walker , our x governor almost single handedly finished sinking Alaska’s economic future . ( Thanks you self serving criminal jerk ! ) the prior legislative branch and governors since the 80s were little better. Not qualified to handle large sums of money – did they not get through grade school math ? they sure lined their pockets and used a public servant position to make connections , dole out favors and push for development of lands they or their friends owned . Pt Mac ect . Hickel might of been exception but it would surprise me . Totally irresponsible to have legstarure and governors office in juneau a very wasteful state situation, very spendy – private governors plane ? Come on . Waste waste waste . Walker – what kind of idiot takes a job ( gas line ) out of professional hands / Exxon and forges his own path using other people’s money to pay his friends huge fortunes by most of our definitions. from pfd and savings money. With no gaurantee of successful returns ? Either an idiot or a criminal. He got through high school so I say – criminal. He sure was fast and happy to get his hand in the pfd jar . The only good thing is we didn’t get involved with the ethically challenged Chinese thieves and killers / government banks – though walker should move over there with them . He’s similar. Now we finally have a realist as governor ( Dunleavy) who wants to balance the budget and politicians and certain groups are trying to pretend he’s criminal for doing the right thing by balancing budget. “ part of his job” it’s not ethical to spend money that compromises our future finances when you have to rob Peter to pay Paul . It’s an up side down world when doing the right thing is bad . Hopefully our new governor can persevere/ cut waste / reset Alaska , invest wisely and make Alaska a safe stable place for families and buisness to grow . Unlike the prior unstable environment created by self serving walker ect . Sooner the politicians change fish farming laws the better. We need more options for growing our economy. Hopefully more good people start getting into politics as dirty a job as it is . It’s safer to clean toilets.

  2. Sadly, Alaska is governed by a crew of ne’er do wells and semi-unemployables. These folks are beholden to the unions and the government workers as they make up a large segment of both the voting block and the donor class. For this reason, Alaska will continue to be an example of a state led by uninspired and corrupt buffoons.
    Oil companies need to plan 30-40 years into the future as they are investing enormous sums of money. When the rules change with every new administration it makes for a much less attractive investment environment. Stability with government regulations and taxes are what is required to keep oil companies in Alaska for the future.

  3. The Alaska Gasline will go down in history as the biggest Farce ever pushed in the Media…
    The reality is BILLIONS have been wasted on “planning” since the Murkowski administration and none of the producers would ever commit.
    The answer lies in simple “supply and demand” economics that rules the Capitalist World.
    There is already too much gas in the lower 48 and adding a large diameter pipeline in AK would hurt shareholders profits.
    A more sensible (and cheaper) approach would be to figure out how to ship LNG from the Beaufort Sea…this body of water is now ice free most of the year and the routes over the Arctic offer a direction to many markets around the globe.
    Russia is not bound to corporate controls nearly as much as we are, hence they were able to fund a $55 billion dollar pipeline to NW China…
    Alaska should have built a state owned gasline back in the early 90’s…when the market was open and there were plenty of Benjamins in the bank.
    Today the PF is cluttered with a global portfolio that does not include many investments in AK.

  4. I’m not sure it takes a conspiracy-minded person to read the tea leaves when it comes to taxation being used to dissuade certain activities. Mayor Berkowitz recently tried to add additional taxes on to alcohol to try and keep the homeless drunks from being quite so drunk or quite so homeless or maybe a little of both. Elizabeth Warren, last night during the Democratic Presidential debate, suggested taxing “assault weapons” to make them unaffordable.

    Taxation and the lack thereof is used to pick winners and losers all the time. Some of the more rational minded folks who suggest more taxation might be looking at it with a view of the Laffer curve in mind, although I suspect that these same people would also argue the Laffer curve has been discredited…but that is a whole different conversation.

  5. In terms of the 2020 election, now and into the winter is when the GOP & DJT want to see the global economy sag. That way a rebound can be set up for the period approaching election day. Conversely, to bust a gut to prop up the global index during the winter, only to watch it slide as the election nears, would be stupid.

    Not that Alaska should expect to be excused from their current hind-teat role. They just got the ANWR minor holy grail. Strong players are expected to ‘take one for the team’.

    In recent times summer pumping in the Pipeline has slowed or even stopped, because flow must continue in the winter to prevent freeze-up. Pumping less – slower flow at lower pressures – is the right way to manage an aging pipeline. But more can be pumped in the summer, at lower costs, because it’s warmer … so the line still has quite a bit more capability that its current numbers. Increases in production capability should dribble, not gush.

    Oil companies are still under a Congressional requirement to Remove the pipeline, if it shuts down … it’s highly doubtful that recent restructuring or exits constitute an escape from that liability.

    The logisitics of renovating to pipeline say THAT’S when to also work in a gas line … so we should keep an eye on, keep track of indicators that say rebuild-time is, or is not, upon us. No chance through the near term, afaict. Sooo … the gas is fine right where it is.

    Going to East Africa can be seen as a favor to the West, the US, the UK, and the British Commonwealth. So AK takes another kick in the shorts, but the Team is in better shape. Especially, in this case, in denying China what is an obvious opportunity for them, and in communicating to them that when we want to, we can indeed place these barriers in their path.

    We’ll be able to tell a lot more about what this all does or doesn’t mean, whether the Team is actually in control of the game or not … next summer.

  6. “Gara and others don’t like the tax incentives the state gave the oil industry to up production and wants to do away with them.” There are no tax incentives anymore, there’s just a more reasonable tax than what we had before.

  7. Ah yes, the “Golden Egg” is actually made of fools gold. I know big corp is bad. Evil as the Democrats would say while lining their pockets. Corporations are in business to make money, grow and please their shareholders. Nothing says they are in ther welfare business except here.
    I am 100% behind big business. They are the drivers of our roaring economy. Without them we’d be living the AOC lifestyle in caves and being taken over by the Chinese.
    Are they greedy at times? Of course, refer to above. The problem with the PFD is it has become WIC, Food Stamps, Welfare, dependency, greed, and anger all rolled up in one big ball of expectations. Nobody owes you anything. You want to stake your welfare on oil, have at it. You want to bad mouth big business, have at it. They do not care, nor do they owe you anything. You need higher wages, job skills, cheaper food and housing MOVE to the lower 48. My god, salmon and oil. Give me, give me, give me!!!!! Now you have your answer to the lower participation rate – laziness, PFD dependency and victimhood.

    • If Trump is reelected, if the GOP continues to stabilize in its new Reformed image … we should expect the Tongass and SE to become ANWR 2.

      In the bargain, Interior and other state forests should expect to see meaningful increases of their recent small-single-digits sustainable harvest rates.

      This would bring the Timber Industry into the corporate mix, which of course has its own ‘ecosystem’, just as does Oil, Salmon, and Gold.

    • Bryan,
      Your comment:
      “Evil as the Democrats would say while lining their pockets.”
      Made me think of the recent “undertow” to the current Impeachment circus along the Beltway.
      “Hunter Biden’s $50,000 a month, unqualified position on a foreign corporate gas company’s board while his father was vice president doesn’t exactly pass the smell test either.”
      How did we get to the “state” we are in or has America always been this corrupt?
      And don’t tell me that POTUS is trying to right the ship…looking at our current history in prosecution of whistleblowers and where we are headed.

      • Steve, for this we can agree.. But, I am going to insert DJT’s name here, because without him, being a billionaire and all (which allows him to be this brash), and pulling back the layers of cancerous skin from inside the Beltway, we wouldn’t be in this exposed state of corruption we are in.
        So, when you say “how did we get to this state or has America (or any other country) always been this corrupt”, the answer is simple. We wouldnt know or have found out about all this media or Congressional corruption, to include their corrupt families, without Trump. Hillary was supoosed to win and we weren’t supposed to find out about the media, Congressional, and Washington agencies (CIA, FBI, or IRS) corruption. So, while you bash Trump, the reasons listed above are why I support him. One man exposing the world. Talk about a weight to carry.

      • Bryan,
        I can still remember watching the video of Biden lecturing the Ukrainian parliament back in 2015…on Corruption…go figure!
        I thought, what the hell is Joe Biden doing in front of a foreign parliament?
        It seems more are making this correlation/ cover up and calling him out on it.
        “By contrast, Mr. Biden’s ardent talk of the need to put an end to Ukraine’s ubiquitous corruption and the power of its oligarchs was met with stony silence…
        And as a Western leader who has made Ukraine his special project, he was also right to warn Ukrainian legislators to waste no more time in rooting out corruption…
        In his address, Mr. Biden specifically called for an overhaul of the office of the prosecutor general, changes in the energy sector, transparency about official sources of income and other reforms.”
        Sounds a lot like our current administration in Alaska…run by global oil Oligarchs!

      • Steve, they are all corrupt swine. Term Limits! The Binden Children, the Clinton’s, the McConnell’s, the Romney’s, the Bush’s, and the many, many, many corrupt “Swamp” families making millions if not billions off taxpayers and foreign “contracts”. And no, Trump isn’t even taking a salary to put up with that chit sandwich for trying to “right the ship”.

      • Jack,
        You said it:
        “I want to be rich so that I can do the same.”
        This is the competition greed driver at the root of all Capitalism.
        Luckily there are still a few souls who find “wealth” in experience not just pieces of paper or digits in your account.
        One’s environment influences greed and jealousy along with envy…
        I am reminded of an old song written by the late Chris Cornell…the song is called “Hunger Strike”.

        “I don’t mind stealing bread
        From the mouths of decadence
        But I can’t feed on the powerless
        When my cup’s already overfilled..”

      • So Steve, are you suggesting that I not try to improve my lot in life and that I shouldn’t help others out? Do you think that I’m taking from people? Should I just give my services away to everyone? I’m pretty sure that I engage in fair trade and that my customers come to me because my work is good and my prices are fair. They are not using my company out of the goodness of their hearts, they are using my company because they are getting a service for a price that they feel is worth it.
        I highlighted those billionaires because of their ability to use the tool of money as a public service to the world. That’s how I view money, as a tool. Not as a notch in my belt or a level up in my bank account.
        Cheers sir!

    • Hey Bryan,
      You mentioned greed like it’s a bad thing. I am proudly greedy and feel that this desire to improve my lot in life helps my friends, neighbors, employees and community. I want the best product possible so that my customers (who want the best product possible) will hire me. In order to produce the best product possible, I have to pay high wages to hire the best employees possible. This in turn drives up the demand (and wages!) for competent employees in my community. Works pretty well. Scrooge greed = going out of business. Greed as an economic driver is awesome. Ayn Rand anyone?
      Cheers sir!
      PS – I know that you feel similarly to me with this situation. I just thought that I’d spell it out for some others…

      • it’s a simple ecologic reality, Jack: all animals want to get fat.

        the true outliers are those few humans, and there are some, who don’t want to get fat, or who limit their desires to get fat because of a desire to believe in a responsibility to the “greater good.”

      • Jack, one cannot argue with your points of course but, I think you confuse greed with being industrious, diligent, and taking pride in one’s work ethic. I am not sure you’d want to be known as “greedy” in your business?

      • Jack,

        What you are talking about is capitalism, not greed. Some would have us believe that the two are the same, but they are not mutually exclusive. In fact unrestrained socialism is far more greed stricken than capitalism…if you need a source for that, see every socialist nation ever. Any half-assed capitalist knows that the very basic concept shows that you get what you pay for. Socialists want the cheapest of everything and get it, capitalists want the best value and will pay to get it…two entirely different world views.

      • Hey everyone,
        Good points all, however, I would just say that greed is the reason why there is capitalist, industrious people who are diligent and take pride in their work. Greed (in my opinion) helps all. I like your analogy of the failed communist states, Steve-O – without the ability to improve ones life, the entire country fails. Craig, I don’t think that the good humans are the outliers – I just feel that we only get to see the poor examples of rich people (Zuckerberg anyone) and then we decide that ‘they are (wealthy people) all greedy” in a bad way. I think that many people are wealthy and generous and are doing what they do ‘for the greater good’. Look at the greed of Gates, Buffet and (gasp!) the Koch brothers. These people and their greed have helped literally millions of people through their businesses, investments and charitable giving. I want to be rich so that I can do the same. Obviously, my goals are slightly lower than that lineup, however, I think that all of us can use our diligent, industrious, capitalist desires (greed) to improve our lives and those around us.
        Cheers all!

      • Jack, again, I think you confuse “greed” with work ethic. Think about, if Gates, Buffet, or the Koch brother’s are greedy per say, they wouldn’t be giving away hundreds of millions of dollars. Granted a lot of it is for tax write-offs but, greed means they would never have enough and want more. Gates, Buffet, Koch brother’s, and Trump most likely started a business, invested in that business (Capitalism), found a niche, and invested in the stock market, etc.. because they have an over-achieving work ethic and not because of greed per say.
        Greedy is when you are in a McDonalds and see two kids with 6pc Chicken Nugget Happy Meals and one kid reaches over when the other kid isn’t watching and steals 2 nuggets when he still has 6 in the box. A greedy lil prick. See the diff?

      • Hey Bryan,
        I guess that 1 mans work ethic is another mans greed. Just semantics I guess.

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