Grassroot Perspective: The Continuing PLDC Saga, Hirono on Judiciary and Susan Rice Withdraws From Nomination

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono at the 2012 Hawaii Democratic Convention
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Congresswoman Mazie Hirono at the 2012 Hawaii Democratic Convention

by Danny de Gracia, II

A weekly liberty briefing and news guide to keep you informed and prepared on what’s UP to more freedom or DOWN to bigger, more intrusive government.


Quote of the Week:

“Small business is the gateway to opportunity for those who want a piece of the American dream … that’s where miracles are made, not in Washington, D.C.”
Ronald Reagan



Money, power and moral hazard: Is Hawaii’s Public Land Development Corporation above the law? (TWTC, 12/11)

Many people in Hawaii are wondering just how an organization with such broad sweeping powers as the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) was able to clear the Legislature in 2011. Exempt from taxes and regulations and even able to issue revenue bonds all on its own authority, the PLDC is perhaps one of the most controversial organizations to ever be created in the State of Hawaii. I was very fortunate to interview with Hawaii State Representative Jessica Wooley – a legislator who was one of only nine who voted against the PLDC – to get a better understanding of just what happened behind the scenes and where the system failed on Act 55.

Rep. Wooley mentions in our interview that “When this bill passed, the legislative hearing process itself was rife with abuse and public input was bypassed. The irony could not be worse. There was no public input on the elimination of public input. Major new language appeared in the House amendment of the bill. There was only one opportunity for the public to comment on many substantial changes, including the county zoning, subdivision, and permitting exemptions. Notice to the public of that single opportunity to comment was provided less than two hours prior to the Finance Committee hearing.”

ANALYSIS: Above all else it is important to understand that the rules of a parliamentary body are a function of the agenda of the individuals who the people elect to office. Legislative specialist Walter J. Oleszek wrote in Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process (2011) that “a major consequence of rules is that they generally distribute power in an organization. Rules, therefore, are often a source of conflict themselves … Rules are not neutral devices. They help to shore up the more powerful members and influence the attainment of member goals such as winning reelection, gaining national influence, or winning congressional passage of legislation” (emphasis added).

In like manner, the Hawaii State Legislature – which is modeled after the U.S. Congress – is subject to occasional moments of procedural hijacking in which the system can be twisted to accelerate the passage of bills which the public may not even agree with (and that may be completely at odds with the average voter’s best interests).

George Washington famously said that government, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Always beware! The rules are set by the people we elect.

If the people of Hawaii want UP to more freedom and liberty, they need to vote for legislators who are receptive to the needs of constituents, honest and transparent in their approach to government and respectful of the Bill of Rights and Constitution.


New Hawaii Senator to Join Judiciary Committee (Main Justice, 12/13)

Elizabeth Murphy reports “Newly elected Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii will be the only new Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in next year’s Congress … Hirono, who had previously served in the House since 2007, will take the place of retiring Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin.”

ANALYSIS: Hirono’s assignment by the Democratic Steering Committee to the Judiciary Committee is a big honor for Hawaii but also a major responsibility that must not be taken lightly. The purview of the Judiciary Committee includes apportionment, bankruptcy, espionage, civil liberties, immigration, local courts in territories and much, much more. This assignment is an opportunity, if recognized by Senator Hirono, for Hawaii to lead the way in restoring constitutional law and the Founding Fathers’ view of a just and free society. As we congratulate Senator Hirono, we also urge her to use her assignments to vote UP for less government, less intrusion in the lives of private citizens, less regulatory handicapping of the American Dream and more freedom!


Fact Check: Hawaii Has Among The Lowest Unemployment (Civil Beat, 12/7)

Civil Beat recently fact-checked a claim by Gov. Neil Abercrombie that Hawaii has “among the lowest unemployment rate for urban areas and as well as across the state as any place in the country. We’re not falling off any cliffs any more.” Civil Beat determined in its research that “The state’s unemployment rate has been below the national rate since 2000, according to Eugene Tian, the chief economist at the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism … Tian said neighbor islands lost more jobs during the recession and have recovered at a slower rate than Oahu. The rate of recovery most recently, however, has been higher in neighbor islands than in Oahu.”

ANALYSIS: It should be emphasized that Hawaii’s relative unemployment ranking is not so much a credit to government but to the productivity and efforts of the people of Hawaii. Government officials always love to claim credit for economic success, but the fact of the matter is that the nature of a market is to provide consumers with what they desire and to reward producers with profits. Said another way, people will always do whatever it takes to survive and thrive, but when government interferes, market planning becomes harder and harder.

During the Cold War, when asked by Western diplomats what the unemployment rate in the Soviet Union was, the default answer by Russian authorities was always to say that no one was unemployed. The Soviets were being truthful: because the state controlled the means of production, everyone worked for the state, but despite the fact that everyone was employed, people were very unhappy because they couldn’t always buy the things they needed (or wanted). President Ronald Reagan even famously joked of how buying an automobile in the Soviet Union meant being placed on a ten-year waiting list before being approved to buy! The point in all this is “employment” by itself is a meaningless statistic – the real question is are you better off today than you were two or four years ago?

If Hawaii’s elected leadership wants a true benchmark for success, they should vote UP to less taxes and less regulations that waste private income and hamper private choice. Knowing that your neighbor is employed means nothing. Being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor, having access to equal opportunity through the free market and living without fear of government is real prosperity.



Falling On Soft Times (Town Hall, 12/9)

Paul Jacob, president of the non-profit organization Citizens in Charge shares in Town Hall that we should judge the economy from the perspective of Casey Mulligan: “The welfare state has vastly expanded to serve the pocket books of the unemployed. “[P]eople don’t suffer as much when they are not employed as they would have if they would have experienced this [economic downturn] ten years ago or five years ago or fifteen years ago. And when it’s less painful to be without a job there will be more people who are without a job. In other words, by the simple laws of economics (which boils down to the commonplace observation that people want to get as much for as little as they can), the more you give folks not to work, the less they tend to work. And it turns out that all sorts of programs have been increased in recent times. Unemployment insurance duration has increased, food stamp benefits have been increased”.

ANALYSIS: The economic regime that we are living in today can best be described as a socialist value transferrance society. The two groups who benefit most are the very top of the wealth pyramid and the very bottom, while the middle class – that is, the producers – see more and more of their income and savings disappear to taxes and of course, wasteful government spending. But this isn’t a random phenomenon we’re seeing in America – there is a very real, hidden culprit at work which few recognize.

Thomas Paine warned that government destroys a society by debasing the currency. “One of the evils of paper money is that it turns the whole country into stock jobbers,” Paine wrote in a 1786 pamphlet. “The precariousness of its value and the uncertainty of its fate continually operate, night and day, to produce this destructive effect. Having no real value in itself it depends for support upon accident, caprice, and party; and as it is the interest of some to depreciate and of others to raise its value, there is a continual invention going on that destroys the morals of the country.”

The very existence of a welfare state and a bloated government bureaucracy is only possible when government controls the money supply. Paine’s pamphlet even makes a warning which sounds shockingly descriptive of what happened to the United States in the events leading up to (and after) the 2008 banking crisis:

There are a set of men who go about making purchases upon credit, and buying estates they have not wherewithal to pay for; and having done this, their next step is to fill the newspapers with paragraphs of the scarcity of money and the necessity of a paper emission, then to have a legal tender under the pretense of supporting its credit, and when out, to depreciate it as fast as they can, get a deal of it for a little price, and cheat their creditors; and this is the concise history of paper money schemes.”

Sound familiar? After the housing bubble collapsed, we saw a massive injection of paper dollars – backed by nothing – through TARP and later through the quantitative easing programs.

Austrian economists have long warned that government, through its currency monopoly and manipulation of credit, can create boom and bust cycles that eventually lead to the total destruction of private wealth. Government loves to print money to increase its power (and favors to friends of the system) which you, the taxpayer, will ultimately pick up the tab for down the road.

America is in an absolute fiscal mess right now. If we are not careful, the U.S. dollar is dangerously heading in the same direction of the Weimar and Zimbabwe currencies, both of which were destroyed by hyperinflation. When money is destroyed, liberty is lost because government’s entire apparatus turns towards wealth confiscation to cover inflation.

If we want UP to more liberty and freedom, we need to stop destroying the U.S. dollar through inflation and reckless government spending.


What Next For Right-to-Work? (National Review, 12/13)

John Fund writes in National Review that “What Michigan’s right-to-work success proves is that each state has a unique set of political circumstances when it comes to unions. For some states, a moment will appear when all the political stars are in alignment and something as bold as right-to-work is possible. For others, a go-slow approach pursuing less ambitious reforms is necessary. Even in California, voters in Democratic cities such as San Jose and San Diego have given overwhelming support to curbs on public-employee pensions. What is clear is that, for the first time in decades, unions are on the political defense at the state level, and nationally their attempts to expand their power have not met with success in Congress. That’s why an important part of the battle will be fought in the coming months over President Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda to use federal regulatory powers to give unions what they want.”

ANALYSIS: America was founded as a nation of freedom and liberty. When one is free, no one can coerce you to subscribe to services you don’t need (or want) and no one can force you to associate with or join an organization that you don’t want to affiliate with. In the case of unions, the right-to-work is about having the freedom to opt out. Union membership should be completely optional in a free society. A worker should not have to pay dues to an organization that he does not want to be a part of.

The key thing to be remembered in right-to-work is that freedom means the ability to make personal choices without compulsion or punishment. If we want UP to more freedom, we need to preserve the ability of individuals to choose to opt out of unions. Let individuals and companies decide the terms of their employment. Don’t get government involved in the business of backing up private compulsion and coercion.


Susan Rice withdraws from consideration as secretary of state (CNN Politics, 12/13)

CNN reports that “In a letter to President Barack Obama, [Rice] said “the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive, and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country.” Obama acknowledged her letter in a statement that described her as “an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant.” He will meet with Rice Friday at the White House, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.”

ANALYSIS: While Susan Rice may have been controversial to some, the real “controversy” that Americans should take issue with is the fact that the United States is on an out of control fiscal trajectory and our government continues to spend billions on foreign aid to other countries and is involved in nation building all across the world even as our own vital infrastructure at home collapses.

Irrespective of who holds the position of Secretary of State, the American people need to be concerned about the fact that America is sending too much money overseas when we the people need it most at home. America needs to completely rethink and change the paradigm of our foreign policy to one that is frugal and fosters peace with all nations.

America cannot continue to be the policeman, fireman, mailman, and construction worker of the world while her own people at home suffer. Whoever President Obama selects as his next Secretary of State should advise the president that every dollar spent on foreign countries by the State Department is a dollar that was earned by hard working taxpayers!

Thomas Jefferson warned, “When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”

If we want UP to more prosperity and freedom at home, we need to stop meddling in the internal affairs of foreign countries. Imagine for a moment what would happen if the billions upon billions of dollars spent on foreign aid never left the taxpayer’s hands but instead went to private investment, private production, private employment and private enjoyment? Remember, every dollar that we give the people of Country X, Y, or Z is money that was taken out of the USA.

Until next time fellow friends in liberty!

Danny de Gracia is the Economic Policy Adviser for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

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