The Hypocrisy of Putting Down ‘Mainland Money’ Flowing into Hawaii

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BY DANNY DE GRACIA II – With November 2nd just right around the corner, you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing at least one person crow about how millions of dollars of “mainland money” has been pouring into our islands to influence the upcoming elections.

The Star Advertiser’s Sunday October 31st cover story bemoaned how we have seen a “record $3 million onslaught of advertising by national Democrats and Republicans on top of the heavy spending by local candidates, political parties and labor unions.”


The implication, of course, is that “mainland money” is bad for Hawaii because of the external control that off-island cash brings with it. I agree!

Mainland money is also bad for Hawaii because it has inflationary effects on our local economy. I also agree. But there’s only one problem: though during election season everyone seems to hate “mainland money” when all is said and done and everyone has been elected, both our federal and state elected officials have absolutely no problem injecting supermassive doses of “mainland money” to pet projects and special interest groups. Why doesn’t anyone complain about the controlling interests that those injections bring?

For Fiscal Year 2009, the State of Hawaii was one of the top vacuum cleaners for “mainland money” in the form of Congressional earmarks, receiving $210 dollars in “mainland money” per capita ($270,736,707 total).

By contrast, Maine which has a population roughly the same as Hawaii only received $55 dollars per capita in earmarks. In FY08, Hawaii was the second highest gobbler of “mainland money” from earmarks, receiving 131 earmarks totaling $228 dollars per capita.

In 2009, Sen. Dan Inouye either sponsored or co-sponsored requests for 144 earmarks totaling $450,452,157 of “mainland money.”

Sen. Daniel Akaka requested 69 earmarks totaling $208,850,702 in “mainland money.”

Former Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who is now seeking to be Hawaii’s next governor sought 41 earmarks for a total of $165,034,800 in “mainland money.”

Rep. Mazie Hirono sought 71 earmarks for a total of $162,135,002 in “mainland money.”  In sum, Hawaii’s congressional delegation unsuccessfully attempted to flood $986,472,661 in “mainland money” to the islands for FY09.

Next to those figures, national political parties and special interest groups spending $3m on our local elections seems like mere pocket change – and certainly more polite than nearly a billion dollars in earmarks alone.

We haven’t even begun to look at the other forms of “mainland money” deluging Hawaii – from February 17, 2009 to September 30, 2010, some $1,575,039,165 “mainland money” in aggregate dumped into our state in the form of 605 contracts, 485 grants and 5 loans funded by the federal stimulus program.

And without even beginning to study numbers, anyone who spends more than five minutes at the Hawaii State Capitol knows that the phrase “let’s see if we can get more federal matching dollars” is like a verse from a cheesy song that you can’t ever get of your mind.

Let’s just put it this way: 17.4% of this year’s bloated state budget was balanced using “mainland money.”

Our politicians and local media must think that we are stupid fools: politicians blast billions of offshore dollars through Hawaii and that’s okay, but yet $3m of campaign contributions in election season means that an “onslaught” of mainland money is flooding Hawaii and offshore interests are seeking to manipulate our process?

Where is the media? Where is the outrage? Where is the rancor?

What we see instead is praise for that kind of “mainland money” – after all, Hawaii politicians cite those same figures on their own campaign mail pieces, hoping it will woo us into re-electing them.

(And we usually do.) George Orwell, author of the dystopian future novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called that phenomenon doublethink – “to know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and [yet] believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it … to forget, whenever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the right moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again.”

I say that we have a chance to verify whether or not we really are stupid fools or not by electing or failing to re-elect those who perpetuate doublethink upon the people of Hawaii. It’s absolutely true that “mainland money” destroys our islands … but who is guilty of the greater sin?  Abraham Lincoln wrote, “the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

It doesn’t have to end that way. It’s up to you and me on November 2nd.