People must make their voices heard

One of the greatest and often hardest goals to achieve in any government is fiscal responsibility, the ability to manage an appropriate level of government spending.

We’ve witnessed for decades the governmental money-pit projects even at a local level that have squandered billions of dollars of tax revenue.

However, what is equally alarming are the basic freedoms that have been slowly and meticulously taken away from the people through excessive regulations and policies while creating inventive ways to increase their tax base. It just makes sense to do a complete audit of all state and county departments to find how our hard-earned tax dollars are being used or abused. We the people deserve to know how our money is being managed or mismanaged.

The freedoms fought and paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of countless Americans and most on foreign soil in some wars that we had no reason being in is being undermined by the very government that sent them away.

We’ve lost autonomy over our own bodies with the government dictating what is healthy and not healthy for us while applying fines or even jail time for our personal choices that affect no one else but ourselves.

One of the ways in which Hawaii residents have been stretching their dollar is to purchase items online and up until now it has been one of the only ways for many people to afford gifts come Christmas time.

A bill now up for proposal (HB398) appears to be one way that the state is throwing a wrench into that by imposing taxes on internet sales. The bill further makes it a requirement for out-of-state vendors to send an annual report of sales to Hawaii residents to be used for tax reporting at the end of the year.

Each out-of-state vendor must list all of the items that you have purchased and must pay a state tax on or face a penalty. What this may mean for us in Hawaii is the possibility of some online stores to refuse sales to Hawaii or a rise in the cost of products to offset their costs of complying with our state law.

The apparent hidden agenda is the approximately $122 million in uncollected taxes that the state isn’t getting for items sold online. This bill if effected does nothing to out-of-state sales in person but imposes it upon those choosing to do so online. If the people don’t oppose it then the chance of it becoming law is an imminent possibility.

But there are other bills and laws out there with seemingly honorable intentions that reek the odor of a nanny state and threaten freedom of choice. Some of the Hawaii state government’s policies overbearingly interfere unduly with an individual’s personal choice.

Case in point, there are several bills which target the tobacco industry and those who partake. The proposed “Internet Marketing and Purchase of Cigarettes and Tobacco Act of 2017” via HB1495 makes it a felony to transport, attempt to order out of state or purchase through any remote sales of not only cigarettes and cigars but also electronic smoking devices that contain no tobacco at all.

Opponents of the bill are saying that this forces the purchase of overpriced and over-taxed tobacco products locally and is yet another ploy to increase tax revenues to offset government waste.

Whether we agree or not on the ills of tobacco what is at stake here is something greater. It is the fact that we the people through tacit consent have by our own ignorance to governmental proceedings allowed the government to limit our voice. We have allowed the power of the people to be relegated to the power of the public servant which is what all political leaders are.

People need to be more involved with the lawmaking process. They need to know what is being introduced and passed that limits our voices and our freedoms that many have fought and died for. They need to know that there are ways to object and demand that unsuitable or antiquated laws be amended or repealed.

The people also need to know that their voices do count as long as they are willing to take a stand to maintain their rights, vote accordingly, hold elected officials accountable and position the government as they seem fit. I remember the words of a very wise man who once said that “the best way to lose your freedom is to do nothing at all.”

The freedoms that we choose to win or lose tomorrow depend on the action each one of us living in Hawaii is willing to take today.

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Dom Acain is a resident of Kekaha.

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