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HOOSER: Political labels and the man under the bridge

A “radical centrist” is how I’ve recently taken to describing myself and my politics. Needless to say, I’ve taken flack from progressive friends on the left who see centrists as the enemy, blue dogs and regressive corporatists in hiding.

I use that label because I can’t believe that values based on equality and fairness are somehow fringe. Bigotry is fringe. Inclusivity and a celebration of our diversity is a value held by most. Ditto to so many other values and goals held by those of us who are too often characterized as being “far left.”

Don’t a majority of us believe that if someone works 40 hours a week, they deserve to earn a wage that can provide a dry, safe place to sleep at night?

Environmental protection, access to health care, and taking care of the elderly, the infirm, and the very young, are not radical ideas.

The radical part, I suppose, is the urgency of now. We want to actually move this agenda forward. Perhaps those on the left feel this more deeply than others. Many, I suppose, are more insulated from the hardship and injustice that surround us, view the world through a different lens, and literally may not see the world that we do.

We see the blue skies, the rainbows and the opportunity that is before us. But we also see that man under the bridge. We drive by him daily and know he is not there by choice. We know he would much rather live like we do, in a house with a roof and a refrigerator with food in it. Some who drive by will mutter that he needs to get a job. But we know there are no jobs for people like him, at least no jobs that pay a living wage.

We see the sea eating away at the side of the road, and we read about the fires and the storms. It’s common knowledge and accepted science that carbon emission from burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of climate change, yet our government does little to nothing. Grand proclamations, yet another task force, and endless lofty, feel-good, fake green-energy goals will not save the planet. Spoiler alert and our collective dirty little secret: It’s about consumption, not just generation.

There is no shortage of wealth in the world, and we live surrounded by abundance. Unfortunately, the vast majority of this abundance is held by less than 5% of the world’s population. Requiring that 5% who have so much more to pay more is not a radical idea. It’s not communism to require those who use more, consume more and pollute more to pay more. It is also not communism to strictly regulate corporations who extract, sell and profit from our planet’s natural resources.

The level of income inequality in the U.S. is higher than all European allies and Canada (G7 nations). According to Pew Research, “The wealth gap between America’s richest and poorer families more than doubled between 1989 and 2016…the top 5% held 248 times as much wealth at the median…”

The money we spend on militarism is obscene. The cost of just the F-35 failed fighter jet program so far is $1,700,000,000 (that is one trillion, seven hundred billion dollars).

The top federal tax rate in the United States in 1960 was 90%, and today it’s at 40%.

Again, there is no shortage of wealth.

Most of the moving-forward solutions are basic, tried and true, and really not that complicated: Increasing Social Security, raising the minimum wage, investing in education, expanding affordable health care and increasing taxes on the wealthy. The strict regulation of extractive and environmentally-harmful industry must be made a priority, and agencies charged with this oversight must put people and the planet above corporate profits.

The Green New Deal has been made into a boogeyman program by those on the hard right, but even a cursory review reveals the great potential it holds for job creation, climate-change mitigation and environmental protection.

There is no shortage of good ideas and solid public-policy initiatives that can move us forward. What’s lacking is the political will to buck the fringe on the far right that has claimed the mantel of the centrist. To be clear, the far-right — whether they be the entitled, the ignorant or the uninformed — do not represent the center.

Truth, equality and justice are the core centrist ideas and values the vast majority of us hold dear. It’s time now to roll up our sleeves and radically pursue them. Now. Today.

That man under the bridge will be dead and that road will be gone unless we act soon.


Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i 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 Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.

  1. YuCalJoe March 3, 2021 6:04 am Reply

    Did you see it? It’s clearly there, the “Tax and Spend” mentality. Let’s review:
    1 – Increasing Social Security Requires increasing taxes.
    2 – Increasing Minimum Wage: Requires that businesses take on the financial burden so that the government can collect more wage taxes from workers.
    3 – Investing in education: If college loans are wiped out, who really pays? All of us. Then pay educators more for less by increasing taxes.
    4 – Expanding affordable healthcare: By bringing costs down? Never! That would reduce tax income. Rather, raise taxes on everyone to pay for ever increasing healthcare costs.
    5 – Increase the tax on highly successful people who EARNED their income. How dare they earn and be successful! We must punish them! How about a flat tax percentage for everyone? No more complex tax preparations for individuals. Too logical.

    This is the illness that is ruining our country and several states.

    1. SumDumGuy March 5, 2021 11:53 pm Reply

      So your solution is not to do anything so that taxes stay the same? You realize that the tax rate on the highest earners have gone done over time right?
      People like you would rather pay $10 less on your taxes even if it cost you $100 more in health care.

  2. RG DeSoto March 3, 2021 6:21 am Reply

    “It’s common knowledge and accepted science that carbon emission from burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of climate change, yet our government does little to nothing.”
    Nonsense, Gary. No such common knowledge, backed by data, supports this preposterous statement. In fact the data points to the sun as the primary determinant of earth’s climate…and has been for billions of years.
    “There is no shortage of wealth in the world”
    Trying to play economist again, Gary? The very nature of economics is the study of scarcity and it is the driving factor for all of us (rich or poor) needing to economize our resources carefully.
    Get a grip…
    RG DeSoto

  3. David Sigala March 3, 2021 6:23 am Reply

    Gary Hooser is aligning himself with the Socialist Democrats
    like AOC and lying, or incompetent to think that destroying our
    energy access by the Green New Deal is good.

  4. Anahola Mike March 3, 2021 1:49 pm Reply

    If you are a “centrist”, I am the king of the moon. You are an unhinged totalitarian just like the marxist teenagers who burnt our cities, and their bitter parents who destroyed our election process. Donate your bloated pension to the guy under the bridge, who pays for your pension whenever he buys a pack of gum, or a bottle of water. Thank goodness you were booted out of the council by the voters before the crooked leftist goons forced mail in fabricated voting on us.

  5. Dt March 3, 2021 2:01 pm Reply

    Pretty sure if the guy under the bridge wanted a job, he would have a job. But he doesn’t want a job. There are lots of people on this island that don’t want a job. I met many of them. Frankly, if I could collect money and not work, I would be one too. So where do we sign up?

    Where do we define the line at what is an entitlement and what is considered the “pursuit of happiness”? It didn’t say all men/women should be happy. Life is a struggle for most people.

    1. Tom from Kapaa March 4, 2021 7:46 am Reply

      @Dt – Yes, well said. Tracing back the origin of the word happiness reveals there used to be more to it than the fleeting state of joy and bliss. I think it included purposeful struggle. People like Gary Hooser are so off the mark but as in any dysfunctional society that doesn’t preclude them from having big influence. The Mayor and County Council (including the previous members) are either just as lost, or lack the spine to pursue Truth.

      I’d say most people on Kauai either passively or actively accept the belief that government is supreme and they will go whichever way it makes them. Helps when fear has been stoked for a bit over a year now, but not necessary. “The government can make us whole” is the pathological assumption that the majority of people in the western world (R, D, foreign, etc) seem to have. The crises in 2020 have made it very clear to those paying attention that it is leading beautiful places like Kauai into a strange state of hell. One where people become increasingly weak, while feeling increasingly safer.

  6. kauaidoug March 4, 2021 10:59 am Reply

    Mr. Hooser, I agree with you in principle on most things and on this letter I find myself in agreement as well.

    Economics is not the study of shortages but only a part of economics. I would be so radical and fringe to suggest that the economic inequalities of American might be the single biggest threat to our American way of life. It has brought down other empires and civilizations and it looks like we’re witnessing it right now.

    I have taken 3 businesses from literally the streets to storefront, not big businesses or anything but I have taken nothing and made in into something by working it every single available minute in the day and sometimes from dreams at night! Not all wealthy people earn theirs, it has been handed down. The famous ex pres comes to mind as an example. The truly wealthy become really wealthy from money making stock market and investments.

    I am a believer in one tax percentage for all. Pick a percentage. What is % of 50,0000, 100,000, 1,000.000 or a billion. The taxed remainder is far greater the higher you go. Are you going to cry for the millionaire taxed 10%? He or she would still have 900,000 to live on.

    The man under the bridge, or huddled in tents at our parks cannot always get a job, not on this island and especially not now.

    I would just ask you to walk in the shoes or huddle under the bridge with that man, women or child for one night as most religions suggest. See if that might change your views a bit, I truly hope so.

    But, Gary, what we know now, especially since 1/6/21, there are a lot of people out there who have drunk the kool aide of he who cannot be named and must be brought back from this virus of collective dementia.

  7. RSW March 5, 2021 3:07 pm Reply

    “Economics is not the study of shortages but only a part of economics.”
    An absolutely incorrect statement reflecting the thinking of a non-economist pretending to know. ALL of economics is about scarce resources and their efficient allocation. Think of it this way: if resources were not scarce, there would be absolutely NO reason to economize or be concerned with their efficient allocation. Everybody would always have all they want.
    I suggest that you take the time to read “Economics in One Lesson” by Henry Hazlitt. You will learn something.

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