There are few things more important to our form of representative democracy than honesty in government. Without such honesty one can never know for whom one is actually voting, what interests that person truly represents, and what policies that person will advocate once elected to office. Anyone can say anything, but actions ultimately are all that matter.
Honesty is a quality that emanates from the integrity of an individual. It is no coincidence that the word, “integrity,” has the same root as the word, “integer,” which means “to be whole.” Personal integrity requires a person be consistent, of a whole, of a single piece. To the contrary, we say a person who isn’t consistent is duplicitous, meaning not single but doubled. In everyday parlance we call this two-faced.
To be found to have lied once is proof of lack of integrity. Thus nothing a liar subsequently says can be trusted because one can never know which face, which side one is now viewing. Truth is coherence with reality and lies are a denial, a falsification of reality. For government representatives this is all important because the public must be able to trust that the person, or the party, is telling the truth when it gives the public reasons for actions taken. The words must correspond to the action.
Nowhere is this more important than in the area of taxes because the money to pay taxes is bought by the sweat of one’s brow, and the investment of a portion of a person’s very life, the time it took to make the money. Time is money, as the old saying goes, but this is only partly correct. Time is life, literally.
To place political expediency ahead of honesty in government is to demonstrate a lack of integrity and a duplicity that throws into question everything such legislators do. It also demonstrates a contempt for the very electorate that put them in office. It is a belief that the truth does not matter, the lie will not be discovered, or if it is revealed, as long those who are being duplicitous are of the proper political persuasion the voters simply will not care. Only political triumph counts. It is political cynicism at its worst.
That Hawaii’s Democrats are determined to pass the deceptively named “long-term-care” tax, and that the Republicans are steadfastly opposed to it, is common knowledge. There is no doubt as to the views of either side of the aisle on this subject. But as reported in HawaiiReporter.com on 4/15/03:
“Two Republicans Reps., Galen Fox and Barbara Marumoto, had their votes improperly recorded as ‘yes’ when they spoke against the proposal, but were counted as ‘yes’ votes. House leadership would not allow either to fix their improperly recorded vote, although the error was discovered moments after the record was taken.”
Representative Marumoto confirmed this story first hand on the Rick Hamada radio show at the Capitol on Thursday at the No New Taxes rally.
In a publicly recorded vote, where the views of the participants are common knowledge, the majority party leadership subverted the truth for their own political gain. What this clearly reveals is that the Democrats aren’t even concerned with winning the argument honestly. It isn’t the process of democracy that counts here, only the proper political outcome. In other words, the ends justify the means.
When discovered, within moments, the House leadership refused to allow the Representatives to correct the improperly recorded votes. This is so transparent as to be beyond belief. There isn’t even an attempt to disguise what is going on here. It is the unabashed exercise of parliamentary power purely for political expediency. This then is the true character of the majority leaders in the House in this state. This is the extent of their integrity.
The question then becomes, if they are so blatantly dishonest in such a public forum, how can anything else they say be believed? Hasn’t the Democrat majority proved that the truth means nothing? Only the extent and maintenance of their political power is of any concern.
When the same majority says that the “long-term-care” tax isn’t just another scheme creating a special fund to be raided for the general fund at some point in the future, how can they be believed? If they cannot be trusted to maintain the integrity of the legislative process, how can they be trusted to maintain the integrity of such tax programs in the future?
The answer is, they can’t.
As this session wraps up and the final votes taken, this Legislature will have to be watched very carefully. They have proven they are capable of anything. They have proven that they will not even honor their own words.
The “New Beginning” that Gov. Lingle ran on has been all but thwarted. Despite all the flowery words at the beginning of the session it has been business as usual, with a vengeance. Hawaii’s residents are going to have to have long memories to hold these legislators accountable come the next election. The Democrats are counting on the voters to fail in this regard and for things to carry on as usual. They have been playing the same game for so long they can’t conceive the idea that such means will fail. They don’t think integrity matters.
Ultimately it will come down to what the electorate values more: Truth, honesty and integrity; or the pandering of the Democrats. If the voters continue to vote the same ticket, elect the same people, and endorse the same methods that have been exercised in this last session, then the Hawaiian people will never see the “New Beginning” that they voted for last year. Hawaii will continue to struggle economically despite the incredible potential it contains. And the people will have no one to blame but themselves.
It all starts with being honest about exactly what is going on in government in this state. Maybe then the electorate will demand honesty in government, something clearly lacking at this time.
”’Don Newman is a free-lance writer in Honolulu. He can be reached via email at:”’ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org