The Value Of Opposing Voices
Wednesday - November 10, 2010
When Mainland America woke up last week covered in a blanket of Republican red, Hawaii managed to hang onto its Democrat blue blanket - in a pretty decisive way. While the rest of the country was rejecting big government and big spending solutions, our state voted in leadership and representatives who believe that government will take care of us if taxpayers just give them more money to work with.
Hawaii voters - at least the shamefully little more than than 50 percent eligible voters who cast ballots - have spoken. Congratulations to the winners. Condolences to those whose message of lower taxes, supporting small business and reining in government spending did not motivate our citizens - enough.
Here are my thoughts on last week’s election and the issues therein:
Take heart, all of you who worked so hard on campaigns of those who did not find themselves with a check mark by their name. Yours is the message that carried the day across the nation. And, at least, regardless of the big-government ideology of our congressional representatives, you won’t - if the federal tax cuts are extended by the new Congress - be hit with a double whammy: higher federal and state taxes, which are sure to go up. There are so many things our state can be proud of, but the CNNmoney.com state tax ranking isn’t one of them: ninth highest in the nation for personal income tax; first highest for sales and excise tax; and fourth highest for total taxes.
Republican candidates, for the most part, failed to make the case that high taxes and regulations on our job engines, small businesses, are directly related to unemployment. While it’s true that Hawaii’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, we have hitched our major economic wagon to only three main entities: tourism, military spending (a surety regardless of who serves in Washington) and construction of the rail. Lucky for Hawaii (but bad overall), the Japanese yen today is very strong against a weakening dollar. But remember 1992 when Japan’s economy went south? The unstable strength or weakness of the yen (or any currency) is hardly a solid economic anchor. We can only hope that the Chinese, who own us and our gigantic debt, will find our beaches attractive.
Further, pinning eternal construction jobs hopes on our massive train project forgets that, with this new fiscal attitude in Congress, federal transportation dollars may not be forthcoming. Our children who would like to find jobs in Hawaii after college deserve new enterprises in a broader array of industries supported by a friendly business climate of lower taxes and less regulation.
Tradition is very important, and change is slow coming to Hawaii, where I’ve made my home for almost 30 years. I get this. Tradition is important to me as well. Ironically, voters embraced the Democrat slogan of “change” when the only change we’re likely to see will be no “checks and balances” to an overwhelming Democrat Legislature. Remember, Gov. Lingle vetoed 14 tax hike bills last session (four of those overridden), held firm on traditional marriage and reined in spending to balance the state budget. Let’s hope Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie will at least not change these traditions.
By electing Abercrombie, by all measures one of the 10 most liberal members of Congress, Hawaii rejected the huge national movement toward a centrist, moderate, constitutionally principled American government.
The voters clearly spoke, and I honor their voice. Still, don’t expect me as a columnist and member of the media, often called the fourth rail of government, to forfeit my solemn duty to use my
voice when I differ with positions of our elected officials, not by attacking them personally, but by challenging them on issues.
Thank you, MidWeek, for allowing opinion columnists to speak on both sides of issues throughout this often contentious election cycle.
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