Pedestrians not safe crossing the lower road
I never thought I'd be in favor of another stop sign on our aina, but after last night, I feel it is a must.
I was in the crosswalk on Lower Honoapiilani Road adjacent to the Rose Mall and the ABC Store on the corner of Honokowai Kauhale. While crossing over to the ABC Store, a white, older model car driven by a blond woman sped through the crosswalk that I was in.
She was going way too fast to get her license number. I yelled at her to let her know I was in the crosswalk, and she had the audacity to give me the finger!
I use this particular crosswalk every day to get to my destination, and about 90 percent of the time, motorists do not stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk.
Recently, I walked way down the lower road to see if there were any stop signs, speed signs or to see if the crosswalks were visible from a distance - negative on all three!
The motorists think this is an Indy 500 raceway and are free to race down this stretch of the lower road without any consequences. I'm tired of it! Every time I need to cross the street here, I'm concerned. A motorist will use me, another adult or our keiki as target practice!
I don't want to see another stoplight go up, but proper attention is needed in this area - speed signs put up, pedestrian crossing signs, or a yellow flashing light to notify motorists to slow down or just abide by the law that obviously states that pedestrians have the right of way.
Motorists are to come to a complete stop at a crosswalk. This is the only positive solution. Drive with aloha or don't drive at all!
MARY K. WOOKEY, Honokowai
Inouye was soft-spoken
On Monday, Dec. 17, when Sen. Inouye passed away at 88, I thought of the first time I had the privilege to talk to him in Lahaina.
We both came to a meeting 20 minutes before everyone showed up. We started talking about Washington, D.C., and that I had grown up there and attended Walt Whitman High School in Potomac, Maryland.
He said his son had also attended the same school, and they had lived in the same area.
We bonded immediately and talked the whole time until everyone showed up. He had a gentle, soft-spoken way of talking, as if he had known you for years. He was such an intelligent man who loved Hawaii and our country and was a hero to all of us.
PEG ROBERTSON, Lahaina
The dropped ball
Millions of Americans watched the ball drop on New Year's Eve. The glitzy one in Times Square symbolized joy and hope for the New Year. Just a few hundred miles to the south, Congress dropped another ball - one that no doubt sent champagne glasses clinking among the richest 1 percent. But the rest of us shouldn't celebrate.
While the White House and much of the media spun the hurried, late-night move as a victory for the middle class, it was a win paid for with hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax cuts for America's wealthiest families.
At midnight on Dec. 31, all of the Bush era tax cuts expired. So when the Senate voted a couple of hours after midnight, they technically voted on new tax cuts for everybody. The bill that the Senate passed raises $1 trillion less than President Barack Obama's original budget proposal. And much of it flowed directly into the pockets of America's richest 1 percent.
Obama not only failed in his promise to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of taxpayers, he couldn't even raise taxes on all of the richest 1 percent. Only those with individual incomes above $400,000 ($450,000 for couples) will face higher tax rates. The threshold for the top 1 percent starts at $369,691. The tax cuts for the richest Americans are permanent, while the child tax credit, college tax credit and earned income tax credits that benefit Americans of more modest means expire once again in five years.
President Obama's original budget proposal would have increased the annual tax bills of the richest 1 percent by nearly $10,000; the bill that Congress just enacted instead cuts the income taxes of the average top 1 percent family by $17,840, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.
The very rich got an even greater belated Christmas gift: the budget deal raised the estate tax exemption to $10 million per couple. That level is so high that only the richest 0.3 percent will pay it - just three of every 1,000 estates or about 7,000 estates each year. When the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, the estate tax rate was 55 percent. Two hours later, when the Senate acted, it dropped to just 40 percent.
Taking into account the new health care tax on unearned income, the wealthiest 1 percent also saw taxes on their dividends nearly halved from what would have become a 43 percent rate to 24 percent. With this fiscal deal, Congress continues to honor the perverse American tradition of rewarding income from wealth more than income from work.
And lest corporations feel left out of the New Year's Eve party for the rich, Congress snuck 31 corporate tax breaks into the bill, including two pernicious provisions called the Active Financing Exception and the Controlled Foreign Corporation Look-Through, which helps companies like General Electric and Apple avoid billions of dollars in U.S. corporate income taxes.
While eight senators opposed the deal, only one, Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa, did so because he felt it threatened America's middle class.
"Every dollar that wealthy taxpayers do not pay under this deal, we will eventually ask Americans of modest means to forgo in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits," Harkin explained. "It is shortsighted to look at these issues in isolation from one another, especially when congressional Republicans have been crystal clear that they intend to seek spending cuts to programs like Social Security just two months from now, using the debt limit as leverage."
Because the deal the White House brokered with Congress does little to reduce the debt, deficit hawks will soon be back at it, seeking to cut more from Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other programs that benefit millions of families.
If that happens, middle class and low-income Americans will have less money to spend, which will mean fewer customers for Main Street businesses and ultimately fewer jobs for all.
STEVE KLINGER, Via E-mail
Schatz reflects on new role
Happy New Year to you and your family. Let us ring it in with aloha and hope. And let us look back on the year past as one that taught us as a state the value of how we live and what we stand for collectively as many people, and yet one people.
As we closed out the year, we lost one of the great leaders this state and our nation have produced: Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. He was honored across Hawaii by thousands of us, and dozens of congressmen and women put aside their political differences to honor him at the rotunda of our nation's Capitol. His truly was a most remarkable life.
On Dec. 27, I was humbled to be sworn in as a United States senator from the state I have loved my whole life. If you watched on TV, you would have seen Sen. Akaka, with a slight smile on his face, refer to me in his remarks to the Senate as Hawaii's "Junior Senator." Thank you, Senator Akaka, for the warm reception, for a remarkable lifetime of public service and for modeling a spirit by living it.
Chilly as Washington is this time of year, I took my family to my first day at the Capitol there. It was very important to me for my children to have this experience and to understand the depth of this obligation. Ultimately, they will know, as I do today, that democracy is to be treasured, and that there is no greater trust than public service.
I assure you, as the new year rolls in, I will fully dedicate myself to this trust. It is an extraordinary opportunity given to me by the Democratic Party and Gov. Abercrombie that I will fulfill for the people of this state. I hope you will follow along on Facebook or Twitter as I strive to keep you informed about our progress in the Senate.
You have my gratitude for your support and my best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.
SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ