Political Vows You’ll Never See

Susan Page
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Wednesday - March 09, 2011
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This is a fantasy of mine: honesty in politics. I know ... crazy, crazy, crazy.

Here’s my nutty dream: During political campaigns, all voters would be issued a “Wonder Woman lasso of truth,” making all political mailers state a candidate’s true agenda. No more touting “district projects” that rarely get funded. No more vows “not to raise taxes” to “help the poor” or “reduce crime.” Instead, the campaign flier says what the candidate really believes and, more importantly, will do as our representative.

Since we’re a one-party state, here’s what this fantasy mailer from any Democrat candidate for state Senate, House, governor or lieutenant governor might look like given this year’s Legislature’s record so far: If I am elected to represent you, I vow to:

Spend more money than the state takes in, then, to make up the difference ... Raise taxes and fees. Your automobile registration fee will probably double ...Vote for legislation in accordance with the desire of unions, contractors, etc. ... Abolish prayer to start the Senate session (the only state in the union to do so) ... Approve civil unions, aka same sex marriage, even though a majority of Hawaii citizens don’t approve ... Keep undisclosed amounts of money in 138 special funds, then raid them when a “special project” arises ... Raise taxes on products sold by small businesses, thereby increasing the likelihood of business failure ... Do nothing about traffic congestion except keep repeating that the underfunded estimated $5 billion rail project will solve it (though experts say that, with or without rail, traffic will increase by 81 percent in high-traffic corridors by 2030) ... Accept campaign contributions from special interest groups who stand to gain from 30,000 new homes proposed for Oahu’s Ewa area. Ensure their agenda passes, ensuring more money for campaign ... Fight transparency. (Darkness hides a myriad of deals.) ... Impose taxes on pensions ... Raise the state’s (taxpayers’) share of the public workers union all-encompassing deluxe premium health care benefits from 50 percent to 60 percent during a budget crisis, costing the state an extra $18 million this fiscal year, and $54 million in each of the next two fiscal years ... Impose taxes and restrictive regulations on businesses trying to operate in the state ... What a campaign advertisement that would be!

Whether you agree or disagree with all, some or none of the above issues, the point is these controversial stands and actions never appear on campaign material. Why not? Politicians fear revealing their true agendas during campaigns because they’re unpopular. Say anything to get elected.

I recently bought a hula hoop, a nostalgic purchase since, at 11, I won a Schwinn bike in a hula hoop contest. “Hula hooping” also is great exercise. This morning, as I whirled that sparkling piece of yellow plastic round and round my waist, I had an epiphany. Hawaii politics is like a hula hoop - a circle that keeps on twirling. Special-interest campaign donations come in, promises go out, tax dollars come in, tax dollars go out in deals to campaign donors, donations come in and round and round the taxpayers’ waist it goes. In linear terms, we taxpayers are directly paying special interests. The twirling circle is just to keep things legal - and hidden.

The non-partisan Grassroot Institute of Hawaii may not have a truth lasso, but it does have hawaiisunshine.org, a website that spotlights government expenditures. Besides checking out links to salaries and other pay-outs, people can post a verifiable “pork” expense for all to see. One post revealed $135,000 for massages and massage equipment, another showed $476.96 for one cab fare and a $700,000 outlay to Hilo Harry’s Taxi in 2009.

If citizens keep electing officials who hide their true identity, our representatives will continue to twirl in deceptive circles.

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