While perhaps a bit trite and formulaic, am thinking a year-end review and a preview of the year ahead is in order.
There is, of course, good news and bad news.
The bad news is that 2017 in a political sense at the federal and global level was, without a doubt, an unmitigated disaster.
The policies, actions and words (err tweets) of Donald Trump in only 12 brief months have effectively destabilized geopolitical conditions in every corner of the planet, expanded the already vast chasm of economic inequality, and accelerated environmental degradation while pillaging public lands and natural resources.
But the truly bad, bad news is that the Republicans who hold power in Congress, while in private they acknowledge he is an unstable narcissist and pathological liar, in public they embrace the role of sycophant.
The good news is that if you work for Bank of Hawaii, First Hawaiian Bank, Central Pacific Bank or American Savings Bank you have a $1,000 bonus coming and possibly a pay raise to $15 per hour coming your way very soon.
It’s clear the banks are in a celebratory mood following passage of the so-called Trump tax reform Bill.
And if your income status places you in the top half of the population, it is likely you will pay less taxes next year and also are sharing in the holiday cheer.
Those in the top 5 percent must be positively euphoric and laughing all the way to those same banks.
And the rest of us, well we will eat cake, at least those few crumbs that are left.
The next shoe to drop, sooner rather than later no doubt will come in form of spending cuts, needed to pay for the trillion dollar deficit created by those same windfall corporate tax breaks.
President Trump has already indicated he will be boosting, not cutting, military spending, so all that’s left to cut is education, environmental protection, social services and medical care.
As a result of this dark circus that now defines our national situation, the need for increased vision and leadership at the local level is crucial.
Our state and county government must step up, and into the leadership and policy void created by the Trump administration.
Hawaii could increase local corporate tax rates to counter-balance those excessively generous federal tax cuts, and use those funds to support the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP) which the Trump administration has already chosen to stop funding.
Hawaii could increase measures to protect the environment, countering the pro-corporate policy direction of the current EPA Director.
Hawaii could increase our State minimum wage to $15 per hour, so all workers in all sectors of the economy benefit.
The tax loophole for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT’s) could be closed and those funds used for affordable housing.
Hawaii could shine, and set an example for other states and municipalities. But our elected leadership at both the State and the County level must be willing to recognize and embrace their responsibility to lead.
2018 has the potential to be a game changer for policy and politics.
The peoples’ frustration with government at all levels is palpable.
In addition to the Trump administration’s actions and inactions setting the stage, we also have an emerging movement to elect new voices at the State and County level. This movement is building on all islands, as well as across the nation, acting as a catalyst for meaningful, dynamic change.
The people are angry and fed up with the status quo. They clearly have no faith or confidence in Congress taking any meaningful action to counter the current direction.
And the perception of local government is not much better.
People are mad at what they perceive is an ineffectual and do-nothing State legislature and county councils who seem equally impotent in their ability to do the people’s work. The people are mad because they are working all the time and still cannot afford a decent place to live. They are mad at the lack of responsiveness by their local political leaders who seem to offer only excuses, and rarely solutions.
Justified or not, people of all shapes and sizes, across essentially all demographics are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.
I am hopeful this anger will translate into increased involvement by regular citizens who will be moved to voice their opinions and desires to their elected representatives, both in testimony for and against legislation. I am hopeful that more and more regular citizens will voice their opinion via letters to the editor in newspapers on every island.
But most of all, I am hopeful and optimistic that a new crop of emerging leaders will run for office and be elected to state and county seats in 2018. This is my wish for the new year. Please join me in helping to make it happen. Imua!
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.