The situation sounds almost surreal, beyond belief. This nation stands on the brink of war. Hawaii’s economy, a major portion of which is dependent upon tourism, will certainly decline to some extent when the war begins. The national debt is approaching 7 trillion dollars and the vast majority of state governments are awash in red ink from their profligate spending. The stock market is in the third year of decline with no end in sight. One of our primary tourist markets, Japan, is in such an extended depression that it is experiencing monetary deflation, despite all that government efforts to alleviate the situation.
With all these potential threats to Hawaii’s economy, what is the best answer that our elected officials and representatives in this state can come up with? To raise taxes at every possible level. From the city level, to the state level, and wherever possible in between, raise taxes. Just attempting to list all the revenue increases sought by the varying levels of government is where this becomes surrealistic.
Some want to raise gas taxes, already among the highest in the nation, to repair roads. Some want to raise the general excise tax to pay for schools. In the Advertiser this morning it was reported House Human Services Chairman Michael Kahikina, D-44th (Nanakuli, Honokai Hale), said it would be “responsible” for the state to do the same for social service and the most needy. When in doubt, the responsible thing to do is just raise taxes!
There are proposals to tax every working adult, the largest tax increase in the state’s history, to provide very limited assistance to seniors in nursing home care. There are schemes afoot to give the hotel room taxes to the outlying counties and give Honolulu unprecedented taxing authority. As it stands now Mayor Jeremy Harris just wants to raise property taxes.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Frankly, the plethora of tax proposals and clearly disingenuous maneuverings, such as making the Pacific Health Center in Waipio, “exempt from all statutes, ordinances, charter provisions, and rules of any governmental agency relating to planning, zoning, construction standards for subdivisions, development and improvement of land, and the construction of units thereon,” or the stealth bill that, “will abolish the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation and puts its hospitals under the state Department of Health,” are so numerous that it is difficult to keep up with them all.
There are increases in user fees for parks. Talk of increases in bus fares and moorage fees. All the while there isn’t the slightest consideration in reining in expensive and uncertain proposals. Controversial issues like the inner city BRT or ending the extravagant “On the Beach” functions continue as before. I worked downtown and we dreaded the “On the Beach” events because traffic dropped to next to nothing, especially during the Sunset events. One thing about government officials, they never let reality get in the way of their presuppositions. If people are eating brunch or watching a free movie on the beach, they can’t be in stores spending money. Logic always takes a back seat to ideology.
Throughout all of this is a clear contempt on the part of the legislators and officials that propose these changes for the people of Hawaii. The dominant party in this state has a mindset that it knows what is best for the people of Hawaii, whether we can afford it or not. That every tax increase is going to damage the economy and further impoverish the people of this state is never considered. The attitude is, “If you don’t like it, leave. Get off our rock.”
Something is happening in the land though, which began to become evident the last election. The election of the Republican governor of Hawaii is an indication. One can see it in the refusal to let the socialist mindset go unchallenged. On every front it is being called for what it is: divisive, damaging and counter productive. We simply cannot, as a state or a nation, continue to progress with the same failed ideas. Yet our legislators will not get the message, stubbornly refuse to change and continue to play the same old political games.
The result is something I think these legislators are completely missing. That something is the people are coming to a slow boil. There is a smoldering anger building toward this cynical manipulation of the system for political reasons. The subterfuge no longer works. In this state there is an anger building at the obvious corruption that riddles all levels of government, from curbstones to hospitals. There is a deep resentment building at the idea that we all have deep pockets that governments can endlessly pluck at will for whatever the latest boondoggle happens to be.
Linda Lingle was elected to the governorship, in part, based upon her proposals to change the education system. The quite specific proposals which she submitted have been shelved and killed by the Democrat majority for purely political reasons. She made a pledge not to raise taxes so the Democrat majority looks as if the response is to present her with a wide array of tax increases. She will either have to veto these tax increases, raid the Hurricane Fund, which she also rejected as an option, or break her word to the people. So the stage is set for confrontation after confrontation. This is cynical politics at its worst.
None of this is lost on the electorate though, and this is where things are different, where things are changing. A growing majority of the voters aren’t being fooled by these games anymore. Instead such maneuverings are making the people fume. This is the slow simmering anger that I spoke of earlier. Lincoln said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” But what Lincoln didn’t say is that those people who realize they have been fooled will get angry. Some of the people will still be fooled by the shenanigans these legislators are pulling now but in increasingly smaller numbers. The game is up.
So much as it pains me to say this, go ahead. Raise our taxes, make us angry. Rather than cut the endless construction projects, from uprooting Waikiki for the shortsighted inner-city BRT to whatever else you may have in mind, raise our property taxes and make us even angrier. Please, raise the GET and drive grocery prices and everything else through the roof so that we will be certain to remember exactly who did this to us. Feel free to give the TAT receipts to the outlying counties and give Mayor Harris the power to add a city GET to the state tax. Make living in Honolulu next to unaffordable and increase our growing wrath.
Finally I would like to say to Gov. Lingle, please veto each and every proposal. Please fight for everything you ran on and make them override your every veto. Make it perfectly clear who wants to pick the people’s pockets and who thinks the people have a right to keep their hard earned money. Fight and battle and make it starkly evident just who stands where in this struggle to free this state from the status quo of tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend. That way, come next election, we will know exactly upon whom to direct our anger when we enter the ballot box. We should be just livid by then.
”’Don Newman is a free-lance writer in Waikiki. He can be reached at:”’ mailto:email@example.com