In Hawaii, Everyone Pays So a Few Can Benefit

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BY EDWARD GUTTELING – A recent news article described the amazing medical account of a woman with a rare brain lesion who “literally knows no fear.” She lacks that brain part that enables her to be afraid. Ever.

Superficially, this may be a good thing, but all parents understand absence of fear can be dangerous, too. Naivete can be costly, can get you hurt and even killed.


Collectively as a community, perhaps we also have a very specific brain lesion, one that prevents us from seeing danger clearly.


Our Hawaii County Council is considering a $56 million construction bond. “We can put people back to work,” Mayor Kenoi said. “It’s part of our economic stimulus program.”

Isemoto Contracting’s president testified: “People need jobs.” Wallace Ishibashi, business agent for the ILWU, echoed that sentiment.

But a West Hawaii Today article explained: “Experience with other Big Island projects that were meant to stimulate the economy shows large construction projects don’t make much of a dent in the island’s 9.5 percent unemployment rate. The $33.8 million for the Ane Keohokalole Highway in Kona resulted in only 19.3 full-time equivalency jobs. In comparison, 7,785 Big Island residents were looking for work.”

That’s right, $33.8 million for 19.3 net jobs.

The wisdom of acquiring extra debt is one thing, on top of next year’s projected $21 million deficit. It is another to claim, during a recession, that it is a good thing for us all to commit to taking an extra $56 million, plus interest, from the taxpaying people so the county government can spend it on hiring just a few.

Doesn’t anyone object to that “logic?”

Maybe most folks, given the choice, would rather keep their money for themselves instead. And maybe they would make more net jobs than the government could, too. Perhaps the community needs these projects, or maybe not, but to justify them as job generators seems dangerously bogus.

Another example: Young Brothers Ltd. recently filed for a 24 percent shipping rate increase, threatening to cut services if it’s not granted. It said three-quarters of the request is due to a decline in business, the rest in anticipation of loss of revenue when Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines enters the interisland cargo business.
Young Brothers claims it will lose money on shipping to Molokai and Lanai, and will now lose even more overall in competition. As nearly everything on the Big Island gets here by barge, every citizen will end up paying more so that Young Brothers can subsidize both itself and the folks on Lanai and Molokai.

And there’s the letter to the editor in the Jan. 8 Tribune-Herald: “When properly proportioned, government employees’ incomes work the same as union incomes and help all sectors of the economy grow. The Tea Party’s agenda for wholesale reduction of both unions and government will create falling incomes. And, yes, even non-union or government workers will be impacted by falling incomes.” So the author wants us to believe that if unions take a cut in income, everyone else will suffer, too. And if taxes go up so that union wages go up, every taxpayer will benefit. Seriously?

The common theme? Everyone pays so that a few can benefit, but that is not what we’re told to see.

George Orwell said: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” (Animal Farm, 1945). When we as a community actually see that danger clearly, we’ll demand things get done differently.

Dr. Gutteling is a Big Island orthopedic surgeon and vice president of the Conservative Forum for Hawaii. This article originally appeared in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald