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Do Elected Officials Have What It Takes to Turn the Economy?

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

It is interesting to listen to the reactions of elected officials to the recommendations being made by the (what I call the grunts and the groans) people who have served on the Working Groups of the Economic Revitalization Task Force.

These are the people who were asked to serve at the last minute, after the elected officials thought that they had it in the bag by appointing all high level executives of business and labor. What happened is that these working business and labor people gave their frank and honest opinions of what needs to be done and now it seems that elected officials on the Task Force don’t want to accept those options.

It is not so much the business people on the Task Force as much as it is the elected officials and representatives of labor. Imagine the rejection to the idea of “downsizing” government! “No way,” say the representatives of labor. Cut spending? Why elected officials point to the poor and say, “How can you cut spending for the poor????”

Well, guys and gals, guess what, it looks like those in command don’t want to do anything. And that’s too bad. Because doing nothing insures that Hawaii continues to be mired in this slumping economy. Talk about the poor? Guess what, federal welfare reform says get these people off welfare and into the workforce. If there are no jobs, guess what, those people have no where to go. While elected officials balk at the idea of cutting government spending because it is going to hurt the poor, as the economy continues to decline, just where are the poor who must get off welfare and into a job going to find those jobs?

Here is an interesting statistic that most people seem to have overlooked. According to the state data book, Hawaii actually lost more people than came into the state in 1996. This is the first time in the history of the state that there has been a net out-migration of people. And why do you think people are leaving?

Could it be that they can’t find jobs or the jobs that can be found don’t pay enough to keep up with the high cost of living and doing business in Hawaii? At one time, it could be argued that it was the high cost of housing that drove many to move to places like Las Vegas, Seattle or Gardena, but with the softening of the housing market, it has to be more than just the cost of housing that is driving people away.

People ask, “What is it going to take to attract investors to Hawaii, to come and open up shops and to create the jobs that are needed?” Let’s face it, no one is going to invest money anywhere just so he or she can lose it. Not only do they not want to lose their investment, but they want to make a good return on that investment. An example of this phenomenon on a smaller scale occurs when savers shop around for the best interest rate on a CD and then take their money to that bank or savings and loan because they can make more interest income. And that folks is called profits!

So if government in Hawaii is so bent on making sure that taxpayers pay every possible cent to government because elected officials like spending those tax dollars, do you think investors find Hawaii an attractive place to invest their money? This is the kind of thinking that has driven Hawaii right into the tank. Tax as much as you can so we can help the helpless.

Instead, that very approach to government is making sure that the poor stay poor, because there are no jobs to be had so that the poor can get off welfare. Certainly there is some validity in charges about “corporate welfare” but when businesses can’t make profit because they have been saddled with unreasonable taxes and regulations, it is time to reassess the situation.

And that high burden of taxes applies not only to businesses but also to families who must struggle with a smaller take-home pay because state government has just ripped everyone off at ten cents on a dollar. So it is all taxpayers who suffer, the businesses who can’t make a profit and the customers of those businesses who don’t have the disposable income to spend in those businesses.

The problem here is which of the elected officials will have the political will to make that paradigm shift? Or will we be lost forever because they can’t make that shift?

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