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5/18/2019
Defend AMHS

EDITOR, Daily News:

I am writing in response to your editorial of May 11, 2019, in which your page bemoaned the fact that:

“Undoubtedly, the ferry system will be a factor in reducing the budget deficit. Coastal communities served by the AMHS will be devastated by any further reduction in service. Service is much reduced already.”

Reading this passage, it occurred to me that the Daily News has failed to make a serious argument against the ferry cuts. While your paper has listed many good reasons why the ferry system should not be destroyed, these reasons are all sadly irrelevant within the overall discourse of austerity, which has destroyed many dearly needed public programs wherever it has been imposed.

Austerity is an ideology in which any shortfalls in state revenue must be addressed by vital service cuts and regressive taxation. This solution, presently in full force in Alaska, places almost the entire financial burden upon working and middle class Alaskans, while also gravely harming the long-term viability of rural communities. Under austerity, public programs like the AMHS are always slated for execution — its continued existence is but the result of temporary stay after temporary stay, each stay subtracting a little more from its failing life.

Presently, the cuts to services like the AMHS and the head tax on the PFD form a unity of supposed opposites, wherein two austerity policies ostensibly opposed ultimately accomplish the same ends in different ways, each justified by the same discourse and justifying the other in their operations. The gradual destruction of the AMHS and the tax on the PFD both take resources out of our town and make it a far less economically desirable place to live. At the same time the AMHS cut is justified to “protect” the PFD, while the PFD tax is used to “protect” the AMHS, while neither is protected, only gradually and inevitably undermined.

A true defense of the AMHS therefore requires an attack on the underlying ideological reasons that the ferry system is on the chopping block, an attack your editorial page has singularly failed to mount, perhaps because it has ultimately internalized the rationale for austerity and is incapable of thinking beyond it. So instead your paper engages in special pleading that can only fail.

GHERT ABBOTT

Ketchikan