When I grow up, I want to be an editorial writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. What a sweet gig that would be. I’d just have to get up in the morning, come to the office, change around a few sentences in a press release from some favored organization (or on a really strenuous day, check in with the head of Hawaii’s Democratic Party for the official line), then head out for a good lunch and a refreshing siesta.
What? You say there’s more to it than that?
You’re right. Sometimes I might have to go to staff meetings. But still . . . .what a great gig.
Too harsh? Well, perhaps you should consider the Advertiser’s recent editorial on the OHA suit against the state (mentioned in Wednesday’s post by the way). Titled “Real leaders find a way to pay debts,” it is little more than a rearrangement of OHA’s press release, accompanied by the wonderfully obvious title point. I’m sure that in response, Hawaii’s leaders are slapping themselves in the forehead and saying, “Of course! It’s all so clear now! Since we aspire to be real leaders, we’ll just hand over the $200 million tomorrow! I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before!”
It’s just so darned easy to be a left-leaning editorial writer. The Hawaiians deserve their money. Teachers deserve to be paid more. The environment needs to be protected better. The state of our health system needs to be improved. Government housing is a scandal. There isn’t a problem under the sun that can’t be addressed by the state treasury. Unfortunately for the actual real leaders involved, there isn’t a money tree sitting outside the state house. (Believe me, I’ve looked. Something has to explain the way the rationale of the state budget process.) And Hawaii’s taxpayers–though mellower than many–still have this weird desire to hold on to the bulk of their earnings. So sometimes, no matter how much something is deserved, there is no easy solution. Because that $200 million owed to the Native Hawaiians doesn’t come from some mysterious fountain of gold coins in the Governor’s office. It comes from our paychecks. And a lot of us have seen those paychecks take a hit lately. So we’re hurting. And the state is hurting. And it makes the whole thing a lot more complicated than OHA or the Advertiser want to admit.
Ah, the “special interest.” It’s every politician’s favorite bogeyman. So convenient as a target for political diatribe–not least of all because it’s so vague. After all, what is a “special interest” really? When it comes right down to it, it’s a group with political currency that you don’t particularly care for. After all, the ones you like are “legitimate and necessary issues or expenditures.”
Witness Rep. Oshiro’s recent opinion article in the Advertiser (on April 20th, 2010). In it, Rep. Oshiro talks about the difficulties of the budget process and blames special interests for the “hard decisions” that are part of that process, especially when so many of those aforementioned special interests benefit from tax credits or tax exemptions. Not to be insensitive or anything, but it’s not like there’s all that much to being a legislator. (Believe me, anyone who has watched C-SPAN for more than 10 minutes and retained consciousness throughout would agree.) So pardon me for not being overcome with sympathy over the difficulties of occasionally having to make a hard budgetary decision. We regular folks do that every day. It’s called, “trying to get by.” Only when we mess up, we don’t get to make exculpatory speeches about it. Instead, we get our electricity disconnected or the car repossessed. So yeah, we elected you all to make the hard decisions. Make them.
But that’s not actually the worst part. After all, “special interests” are just the ones you feel don’t deserve any financial help or breaks. So some politicians would call businesses that get incentives to stay in Hawaii and employ people “special interests.” Others would say that political groups or specific classes of citizens (including those that get a lot of government funding) are special interests. And some might point out that the legislature gave itself a raise, making it one of the special-est interests of all.
What would be nice (other than being able to vote myself a raise–what a great gig that is) is if our representatives stopped trying to manipulate us with their have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too talk about special interests and instead were more honest about where our money was going. Because I may not be that special, but that’s where my interest really is.
The CEO of OHA, Clyde Namuo, makes remarks in the Honolulu Advertiser of 4/15/10 addressing David Shapiro’s regular column of 4/12/10 opining that Shapiro made some “good observations” but “overlooks the bigger issue of why federal recognition makes sense for Native Hawaiians and for all in Hawaii, in the first place”. He follows that with mostly platitudes, but specifically mentions land, rights and resources “owed” a new Akaka Tribe.
Shapiro, on the other hand, discusses the secret, closed door method used in DC to make the latest changes before they were sprung on then Representative Abercrombie, the Governor, and virtually everyone else, just before the House vote. His observations then turn even darker. Here are some quotes:
“ The Akaka bill would change life in Hawaii in profound ways and confer enormous power on a relative few, but there has been little clear explaination….” Senators Inouye and Akaka “are basicly saying ‘Trust Us’ which many are unwilling to accept on a matter with such enormous impact on local life and so much opportunity for political mischief”
Here are my questions for readers:
Which person outlines the bigger issue?
Which of these two stands to gain power, money, etc if the Akaka bill becomes law?
The best course of action at this time is to stop all consideration and action at this time in the US Senate until extensive educational hearings are held in Hawaii so our people can evaluate and judge what the federal government is planning to do to us or for us and what we think of it. For those of you who like that idea, call an elected official and propose such.