As Palin debuts FOX show, Alaska struggles with run-up debt

To misquote Sarah Palin’s smash 2008 GOP convention speech, being a governor is kinda like being a Fox News personality, except you have actual responsibilities. Palin famously quit her office as governor to do things she couldn’t or didn’t want to really articulate. In the end turns out she wanted to be a media person, to go on book tours and host TV shows. It also turns out she wasn’t any good at conservative governance: she left her beloved Alaska and its future generations saddled with developing-world level debt.


According to a New York Times report on states finances, Alaska leads the way in its debt-to-GDP ratio when its unfunded pension obligations are taken into account. Although Alaska’s ratio is far lower than the debt of crumbling Greece, which was juked by Goldman Sachs, Alaska’s ratio matches Jordan’s. Palin’s Alaska enjoys a higher debt-to-GDP ratio than Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, India, the Philippines and Uruguay.

States like Alaska will face a reckoning.

California, New York and other states are showing many of the same signs of debt overload that recently took Greece to the brink — budgets that will not balance, accounting that masks debt, the use of derivatives to plug holes, and armies of retired public workers who are counting on benefits that are proving harder and harder to pay.

Colorado like New Hampshire has used program-specific pots of state money to plug holes in their general treasuries; Connecticut wrote its own accounting rules; Hawaii reduced the length of its school week; and California made its businesses pay their 2010 taxes earlier to make the budget appear more balanced than it is. All of the states are camouflaging debts by not releasing how much state employee pension funds owe or how far behind contributions to pension funds are lagging.

Palin’s “Real American Stories” debuts Thursday on Fox. The premiere episode will feature LL Cool J, Toby Keith, GE CEO Jack Welch and a Marine Medal of Honor recipient.

A man named Sean Parnell is now governor of Alaska.

Hat tip to Megan Carpentier.

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