What West Virginia can learn from Sarah Palin

It’s time for West Virginia, and the rest of America, to take a page out of the Palin Playbook. Louise and I spent the holiday weekend near Lewisburg, West Virginia. While we were there, we saw some pretty extraordinary signs of wealth. But we also saw the extreme poverty that West Virginia is known for. That extreme poverty, and the gap between the rich and the poor in that state, is being driven by the coal industry.

West Virginia’s principal industry is the extraction of coal, and most of the profits from that coal extraction (and now gas fracking) are going out of West Virginia. And the profits that do stay within West Virginia stay in the hands of a very small number of very wealthy families. But what if West Virginians were to say to the coal industry, “If you’re going to take our fossil fuels out of our state, then you have to pay us in the form of a carbon/coal tax.”

And what if all of the money that the state raked in from the coal industry each year was cycled back to the people of West Virginia?

This same sort of scenario has been playing out in Alaska, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, for over 30 years with great success. Back in 1976, Alaska established the Alaska Permanent Fund, which was designed to help all Alaskans profit off of that state’s oil industry. Since then, Alaskan citizens have received a check in the mail each year. It's essentially a "guaranteed minimum income" like many European and Middle Eastern countries have.

In 2013, the permanent fund’s Annual Individual Payout was $900.00. This year, it’s expected to be between $1,300 and $1,400. The program is incredibly popular and even Sarah Palin who’s scared straight by the slightest mention of the word socialism, supported the fund, and even raised taxes on the oil industry even more, to fund an additional $1,200 one-time payment to Alaskans in 2008.

Now imagine if West Virginia was able to reap some of these same rewards. If that state put a tax on coal and gas extraction, effectively a carbon tax, and then cycled all of the money it took in back to the people, the results could be extraordinary. Say the West Virginia government collects $3 billion from the coal industry under a coal and carbon tax in one year. That $3 billion is then redistributed to the people of West Virginia, every man, woman, and child. Based on 2012 population numbers, that would mean roughly $1,600 for every West Virginian.

The coal and carbon tax would create a transfer of wealth from the coal companies to the people that would instantly reduce poverty in the state, stimulate local economies, create demand for local goods, and encourage more local entrepreneurship. And, it would also very slightly increase the costs of coal and gas, making alternative energy sources more affordable in West Virginia, the U.S. and across the globe (much of West Virginia’s coal gets shipped overseas), and helping to keep at least some of that dirty coal right where it belongs: in the ground.

Way back in 1797, political activist and philosopher Thomas Paine wrote in his famous Agrarian Justice pamphlet that, “Men did not make the earth. It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds.”

Basically, Paine was arguing for a guaranteed minimum income, like the one the Alaska Permanent Fund provides, for all U.S. citizens as compensation for, “loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property.” West Virginian coal is just that. It’s West Virginian.

It’s owned by the people, and any profits that come from it should be going back to the people. It’s common-sense and it’s good economic sense. But let’s not stop at West Virginia.

It’s time for every state to follow Sarah Palin’s Alaska model, and put in place state carbon taxes that cycle money back to the people, reduce income inequality, and spur local economic growth. It'll reduce poverty and help save us all from global warming - a definite two-fer!


chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 50 weeks ago

I thought West Virginia and Alaska were part of the USA.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 50 weeks ago

Where is my money?

kstrickle's picture
kstrickle 9 years 50 weeks ago

This is such a great public policy campaign that should in no way be ignored. Great Idea, that i cant believe this has not be implimented earlier on.

agelbert's picture
agelbert 9 years 50 weeks ago

As part of being responsible, caring human beings, we have to pressure our government to take major action to stop the degradation of the biosphere from climate change. This is causing death and disease to both domestic animals and wildlife, all of which have done nothing to deserve such a horrible fate at our hands. It's time to eliminate the excuse our fossil fuel loving oligarchy uses for "subsidies" for coal and oil that bring nothing but misery to us and profits for them.

Let's make oil and coal liabilities, not an assets!

Why? Because that is what they actually are! Burning fossil fuels is killing us. the sooner we stop "valuing" that poison, the sooner we strip the power away from the biosphere degraders that wield it. Our very democracy is in jeopardy because of centralized energy corporations. That's right; it's just as much about political power as about energy.

Demanding 100% Renewable energy is the way, not only to the extremely important goal of a viable biosphere, but absolutely essential to regaining our democracy from the fossil fuel industry that buys our politicians with the profits from pollution producing fuels while said politicians keep fossil fuel and nuclear power plant "subsides" (taxpayer theft!) to tilt the energy playing field against renewable energy.

This is a chart of the fossil fuel subsidies versus renewable energy! If that isn't a "level" energy playing field that looks like an alpine slope, I don't know what is.


I started a petition on Care2: Demand Liberty From Fossil Fuels Through 100% Renewable Energy WWII Style Effort. I'm hoping that if enough people sign my petition, we can make a difference. We have 231 signatures. Will you help me collect more by adding your name?

Posters to download and print to publicize the petition:



Here's a link to the petition: http://www.care2.com/go/z/e/Ai3Tb

Thank you and please pass it on. The Biosphere you save may be your own...

patrick H.T. paine's picture
patrick H.T. paine 9 years 50 weeks ago

So, "slower death"......are you running for "governor"? Be careful what you wish for,......

Seriously? How about....."and a FREE* weekly lottery ticket." ( you might REALLY end poverty for a few people. )

Considering, past, present and future DAMAGE, that proposal is a JOKE. In fact, if I were one of the wealthy of West Virginia, I would via "citizens united" be backing a candidate ( or all of them ) to "run" on just such a platform.......and I would make SURE the proposal eventually succeeded, thereby "owning" both the state and the people in it, FOREVER. ( which sounds like a long time but isn't. )

Seems the lesson of history hasn't really made an impression on you yet, and that "lesson" was nowhere comparable to the one being taught NOW!!!!

delster's picture
delster 9 years 50 weeks ago

I believe there is a reason Alaska gets kick backs from the oil. Because there are not that many Alaskans. Wealthy individuals in this nation have been purchasing elected mules on capital hill since I was a teenager in 1964. Its been progressively getting worse over the years. They have mules on both sides of the political isles from Nancy Pelosi to Mitch McConnel, and I believe they bought or at least threatened the president of this nation. Who is running the show ? I for one would really like to know. It was Donald Reagan during Ronald Reagans tenure. We know Ron didn't put up much of a struggle to protect our liberty. Now Obama has caved in and probably for a good reason. I really don't see much hope for the land of liberty. Not when we are being managed by some huge Human Resources group controlling everything. You can bet on one thing. The only time liberty exist for most is when you not working for a coporation. We would be wise to remember that any corporation is not a democracy and they certainly do not believe in liberty of any kind outside the employee handbook. They do enjoy the freedom and liberty intended for private citizens. It's a sham. Why should any us citizen fear international terrorists, when the worlds biggest terrorist threaten our privacy, liberty, and democracy right in our own back yard.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 50 weeks ago

Right on "delster"! I second that, and I mean the whole enchilada. - AIW

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 9 years 50 weeks ago

I'm certain that almost all citizens of West Virginia would be on board with this compensation idea, but without a massive payout to those who really run the circus, the politicians will have no incentive or motivation to act on behalf of the vast majority. Without representative government all good intentions are a moot point.

Kend's picture
Kend 9 years 50 weeks ago

Isn't the oil in Alaska taken from state owned land, that is why the state gets royalites like here in Canada and the coal is coming from privately owned land that was sold by the state to the new owner So all profit is the land owners.

I guess if we are going after the coal and gas shouldn't the same happen to bottled water companies, it's state water. wind turbines that wind is state wind, what about crops that corn comes from the ground Just like coal and gas.

Tom1945 9 years 50 weeks ago

Why is Thom mentioning Ms Palin? She was 12 years old when Alaska's "Permanent Fund" became law.

Maybe I'm missing something but how does this policy help reduce global warming? By providing a cash incentive to the populace that votes on fracking, drilling in the wilderness, mining coal...it seems like this will increase the displacement of carbon from the ground to the atmosphere.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 50 weeks ago

And what about AIR, Kend? You're too funny. - AIW

BMetcalfe's picture
BMetcalfe 9 years 50 weeks ago

There is a great divide about what is fair for the citizens of States, and those who control the land by Ownership thereof, or the Ownership of large corporations which - as the Supreme Court has said - are people.

No one who already has money and power is going to be willing to share wealth with the poor of those States - the ones who are the walking dead due to bad Laws, bad representation, and bad work conditions.

It's so sad to me that those who have everything they could ever want to raise their own families, look at the working poor and the desperate, unemployed, and uneducated as a probable drain on their incomes. Many of those sacrificial lambs and sheep could be just as smart and just as well educated as those who Lord over their politics, their healthcare opportunities, and their well-being. But those people are also naive. They are kept naive purposely, because they are easier to manage. If they're told that voting for someone who could possibly make their living conditions better, then they're also told that it's all just an election time lie... and if they vote outside the box, they can lose their benefits or their jobs. The poor of West Virginia (for the most part) have no idea how long they have been purposely kept down. I'm not sure they would ever believe the truth, even if it was explained to them. If they had any idea of how much they're being controlled, they wouldn't be allowing their mountains to be leveled, and they would have demanded repariations after the coal ash made their drinking water unsafe for several weeks. They grumbled, they complained, but the coal ash is still being released into their streams, and they have to drink what's available.

I feel so sorry for those people. But until they get legislators who fight for THEIR right to be treated better, it isn't likely to happen.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 50 weeks ago

Is Hillary Clinton just another Neocon? Don't vote for Hillary Clinton and here's why:

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 50 weeks ago

Hi Palin! This morning on the radio, I heard Stephanie Miller plugging Hillary. Gag me.

After five or six years of Obama, my motto is: not just any black person or woman will do!

I'm up to my eyeballs in chores right now, but I'll check out that link when I've got more time.

Every blog forum needs a bloodhound like YOU! - AIW

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 50 weeks ago

Thank you, AIW! Much appreciated. I occasionally watch Stephanie Miller. Didn't she used to be a right-wing radio host before she became a left-wing host?

I hear that Miller slammed Fiorina on birth control a couple of days ago...I missed it. In order to watch it on several of the known liberal web sites I would have to ok a number of scripts to run on my computer which I am not familiar with...many are just snoops or ads. So I tried finding the show on youtube and there seems to be a bit of trickery there in that if you search on Stephanie Miller Carly Fiorina there are a couple of videos that pretend to be what I'm looking for but what it is instead is a CNN talk show, without Stephanie Miller, and they are interviewing Carly Fiorina.


chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 49 weeks ago

agelbert -- Thanks for the chart. How do I know if I already signed your petition?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 49 weeks ago

Pal -- One thing I hang my hope on is that FDR when running in 1932 could have been viewed as a blue dog. Do you think there is any chance that hillary could be converted to progressive ways,in the same manner as FDR was?

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 49 weeks ago

Chuckle8: Nope! Not a chance! Unless violent revolution is at hand then they will be forced to.

And I don't believe FDR would have done the things he did unless it was so obvious to so many that the ruling elite of FDR's days, the über wealthy who crashed the stock markets, who made life so miserable to so many, were out of control and a massive revolution would be the only way to deal with it.

The country turning communist was a real threat in those days. The 1929 crash helped to solidify in many people's minds that old Karl Marx was right. The Russian Czars lost control to what eventually became communism..ie: state ownership and complete control wrested from the ruling elite of those days. Think: Dr. Zhivago forced to share his very large house with homeless vagrants.

Although there were those über capitalists, in FDR's day, who would rather have danced at the end of a rope by mob violence than give in, I think most, especially FDR, were looking for a way to save face and ease tensions. He knew that the upper classes, from which he came, had been reckless and way too greedy which is what caused the great crash of 1929. He knew the dangers of not having psychologically and physically fit and united citizenry that he could rally into battle..if need be. The wealthy, although they didn't know it then, needed the people to be willing to defend the ruling elite's wealth and power.

Things were brewing in Europe and Asia and it would not have served the wealthy in the US if the US was left as a militarily weak and disunited country. Some even had a lot invested in what happened in Europe and Asia. They needed gullible canon fodder to go and fight over there so that no fighting, and eventual confiscation of our ruling elite's properties, wouldn't happen over here.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 49 weeks ago

Pal -- Maybe Spain can have a violent revolution to scare Hillary in to doing the right thing.

I know, I know, very little hope.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 49 weeks ago


Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 48 weeks ago

I will NEVER vote for that war mongering, "free trade" pushing bitch. I'll cut off my arm first. Like I said, not just any black person or woman will do! BERNIE SANDERS FOR PRESIDENT!! - AIW

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 48 weeks ago

I'll second that, Aliceinwonderland!!!

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