West Virigina Deserves a Living Income

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West Virginia is in a state of emergency. Three in 10 West Virginia kids under age six live in poverty; tens of thousands more live right on the edge. More than half are low income or poor.

The recent coal industry ‘leak’ poisoned the drinking water for over 300,000 people. West Virginia did not even have regulations in place that would cover such a leak. According to the The Journal of the American Medical Association, WV has had a 550 percent increase in overdoses this decade— the highest in the U.S.

If West Virginia were a country it would be the 64th richest in the world – so why are the people of West Virginia among the poorest in the US? The national poverty rate is 15.9%. West Virginia’s is 17.8%. In terms of media household income, West Virginia ranked 49th among the 50 states in 2012, at $38,482. Only Mississippi is poorer.

Alaska, on the other hand, is the largest state in the U.S. with the smallest population. Just as in West Virginia, the wealth of Alaska has come from its natural resources.

Yet Alaska figured out a way to share the wealth of it’s natural resources with all its citizens. When Alaska started making lots of money in the 1970s oil boom, they came up with the idea of investing the profit from the oil. The result was the Alaska Permanent Fund – this Fund became a yearly, single, unconditional cash payment to every state resident.

Why can’t the same be done for West Virginia? As of yet, no other state has followed Alaska in distributing money from the extraction and profit of natural resources.

West Virginia should be next. The Alaska Permanent Fund is a a Living Income – an actual, working dividend that is helping the state of Alaska take control of its own economic future within a model of shared ownership of the natural resources. This is what West Virginia deserves.

“The current system is concerned with the well-being of the political connected corporatist instead of the common good – Appalachian communities. This system exists because legal privilege is granted to industry. The development of this socio-economic order is indeed political, as opposed to free and participatory. The current authority in the coalfields, the corporate state, is illegitimate – it is far past time we transition to society free of it.”

Investigate a Living Income Guaranteed

 

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Nationalizing Resources: Reclaiming the Commons in Alaska

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The Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), or Alaska Dividend, is a unique yearly dividend for Alaska residents. In 1959, Alaska’s largest oil reserve was discovered, resulting in a great deal of wealth for the state from its oil reserves. In 1976, Alaska amended its constitution to dedicate approximately 25 percent of its yearly oil revenues to a state investment fund. It is called the Alaska Permanent Fund. The purpose of the fund is to ensure future generations of Alaskans will be able to benefit from Alaska’s natural resources, even when those resources have been depleted.

The 1976 Prudhoe Bay oil lease sale brought in $900 million in revenue. The Fund was invested entirely in bonds. For four years public discussions took place regarding whether the Permanent Fund should be managed as an investment fund or as an economic development bank. In 1980 the state legislature created the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation to manage the investments of the Permanent Fund and to create the first Permanent Fund Dividend program.

In 1982 the first Permanent Fund dividend check of $1,000 was distributed. The Legislature pays this first dividend, not with Permanent Fund income, but with surplus oil revenues.

Monies from the Permanent Fund were invested in the stock market and in real estate – within a few years the Permanent Fund’s performance ranks in the top 9% of all public funds in the US. By 1993 assets in the fund reach $15 billion. In 1998, Fund earnings exceed state oil revenues as the Fund reaches the $25 billion mark.

In 2001, the Board of Trustees endorsed a constitutional amendment to change Permanent Fund payouts to a percent of the Fund’s total value (POMV).

Republican Governor Wally Hickel, who was instrumental in bringing about the Fund,  has sought to spread the model to other countries. In a 2009 message via video conference to Durban, South Africa, a 90-year-old Hickel said:

In Alaska, we live on the commons. We benefit from the commons. We care for the commons. From common ownership of our land and our resources, has emerged a new model for modern society. We call ourselves the Owner State. And what we own is the commons. We believe our model surpasses both capitalism and socialism. When this approach is understood, worldwide, there will be no legitimate reason for poverty; especially in Africa, a continent so rich in resources. This year, Alaska marks its 50th anniversary as one of the 50 United States. But we are different from all the others. Prior to statehood, we were a colony, and a helpless victim of mining, fishing, and shipping monopolies. They plundered our resources, and left our people ignorant and in poverty. Just as multinationals today plunder South America, Asia, and Africa, sucking the wealth from the resource-rich wealth commons, leaving the rightful owners hungry and destitute… I urge you to study the building blocks of the Owner State. We are far from perfect, but our experience can be helpful as you reclaim your commons.

The state legislature created the Permanent Fund, run by a board of trustees. In 2004, the Legislature changed state law to require cause before any of the four public members of the Board of Trustees may be removed, helping insulate the Board members from political pressure. The Legislature makes a significant change in how Permanent Fund investments are determined 2005 on Trustees will make investment decisions solely under the guidelines of the prudent investor rule. Fund assets reach $30 billion. After the stock crash of 2008, investments are grouped by the market condition that those assets are intended to address.  This better fits the Board’s goal of building a portfolio that will provide a more stable return under a variety of conditions. As of today the fund is valued at 50 Billion Dollars.

An important effect and result of the fund is it has become a “population magnet.” It creates an obvious incentive to move into and remain in Alaska.

 

The Power of An Idea

Like most people I believe that I deserve better. This is a theme that resonates throughout the industrialized world; it drives the market economy and it drives the individual – impulsing  that on my own,  within my small nucleus of a world I must carve out my security; in competition with others who are doing the same. This either/or scenario is a belief system that says there  is ‘not enough to go around’ –not  enough food, not enough resources, not enough to support to sustain everyone. This belief is a lie. Common sense tells us we do not have to choose between our comfort and the comfort of another – common sense tells us we can create enough for everyone. The Living Income Guaranteed is the fruit of this realization; the realization that there is in fact, more than enough resources to provide food, shelter and care for everyone, right now.

The Living Income Guaranteed is a huge SIGH of RELIEF for humanity. Nothing requires to be ‘overthrown’; there is no call for revolution; no ideological manifestos: just the application of common sense and decency within a small adjustment to the paradigm/system of the world we live in today. The Living Income Guaranteed is guaranteed to succeed because it is the antidote to our collective ill. It is the homeopathic dose of monetary medicine that will cure systemic poverty and human degradation. Like will cure like.

Please take the time to investigate and see for yourself.
Living Income Guaranteed: The Proposal

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