LETTERS for January 5 issue
DOES MAUI REALLY NEED A PRISON?
The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population and boasts 25 percent of its prisoners. The prison industrial complex has become big business – a big, profitable business.
I’ve read letters suggesting that Maui’s new prison be built on Kaho’olawe or Molokai. But I think residents of Maui need to ask some serious questions. Is there a corporation involved here that stands to reap the profits? Does Maui really need a prison?
U.S. prisons are mostly filled with poor drug abusers. Poor drug abusers of color dominate the incarcerated populations.
Maui is showing the world the way to energy efficiency with the wind farm on the West Maui Mountains. Perhaps we should lead our country to a new way of dealing with drug abuse and treat it like the medical/social problem it is.
Perhaps a clinic, instead of a prison, would be best. I don’t have the facts and figures on who inhabits Hawaii prisons, but I’m not seeing a whole lot of murder, rape and robbery on the 5 o’clock news. Live aloha!
JOHN R. HALL, Kihei
MAN AND NATURE
Landscape and gardens of color, texture and shape.
The eye should flow freely between form and space, but must include both.
It takes harmony, rhythm and order for nature to manifest. Man’s too!
FREDRIC CUMPIANO, Honokowai
WEST MAUI TRAFFIC PRIORITIES IGNORED
There must be another major tourist draw coming to the north end of this island. How can I tell?
The County of Maui is out repaving a portion of Highway 30 between Napili and Kahana Ridge and painting the bridge in Kaanapali – and messing up traffic very badly while doing it!
Interesting that the section of road being repaved (maybe a half mile total) doesn’t even need repaving.
How about repaving, instead, Lower Honoapiilani Road, which carries a lot of traffic and is full of potholes? All the lower road ever seems to get is patches on top of patches, and there are some very bad holes in this road, especially between Napili and Honokowai.
Also, how about enforcing the speed limit on the lower road, where heavy trucks and the Maui Bus regularly exceed the limit and make a lot of noise while doing it.
Finally, I’d like to suggest that the entire Highway 30 between Kapalua and Kahului be widened to a four-land road for safety reasons. We are constantly seeing ambulances and emergency vehicles trying to get through traffic congestion caused by only having a two-land road most of the way.
In short, how about spending the taxpayers’ money – my money – where it’s needed and NOT just to impress the tourists.
Come on, Maui County. We can do better.
NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST
INDEPENDENT LEADERS CAN SOLVE BUDGET CRISIS
Discouragement, concern, anger, disgust. That’s how most of us felt at the congressional supercommittee’s failure to produce a solution to our national budget crisis. In fact, our confidence in government has fallen so far that most never even expected it to succeed.
The supercommittee was not destined to fail. At least three other bipartisan groups, including the U.S. Senate’s own “Gang of Six,” proposed difficult but honest and workable solutions.
The supercommittee failed because it and Congress decided on failure for purely political reasons. There could be no more compelling evidence of what’s wrong with Washington today. But now we need to move on, face reality and make the hard decisions required to right our nation’s finances.
First, the reality. In 2000 our annual budget was balanced and our total national debt was $5.6 trillion. We’re now running a $1.3 trillion annual deficit, our total debt just passed $15 trillion, and without action we could easily rack up another $8 trillion-plus in debt in just the next decade. On that path, there’s no reason whatsoever that we would magically avoid the fate of countries like Greece.
Revitalizing our economy and running an efficient government will certainly help. But the budget puka is so deep that “growing our way out of this” and “cutting waste, fraud and abuse” without more are just sound bite cop-outs.
Similarly, in our polarized politics, one extreme backs only tax increases and the other only spending cuts. But solving this crisis through only the former would destroy our economy and through only the latter would cripple our government.
I’ve been talking story across Hawaii as this fiasco has unfolded, and agree with most that the only real way forward is a fair combination of options – fair meaning that current tax and spending policies favoring too few at the expense of too many cannot continue; combination meaning a balanced mix of revenue increases and spending restrictions.
On revenues, I voted as congressman against the Bush-era upper income temporary tax cuts because they were unfair, unaffordable and unnecessary; they should lapse. Comprehensive tax reform to curb the plethora of special interest breaks, which just increase the burden on the rest of us, is also long overdue. These provide a solid start on the revenue side.
On the expense side, 55 percent of all federal spending is “mandatory” (mainly benefit programs), 20 percent is “defense discretionary” (our military), 19 percent is “non-defense discretionary” (the rest of government like education, health and the environment) and 6 percent is interest on our debt. Like revenues, the budget puka is so deep that no one part can be declared automatically “off limits.”
Mandatory spending can be curbed without altering the basic promises on which so many depend. National defense can be maintained with proven weapons systems rather than new expensive ones and at post-Iraq/Afghanistan troop levels. Non-defense discretionary growth must be fairly leveled off. These would provide a solid start on the expense side.
All of the Gang of Six, Deficit Reduction Task Force (Domenici-Rivlin) and the president’s own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Simpson-Bowles) got to the same basic place. Only the supercommittee and Congress couldn’t rise above the toxic political culture of today’s Washington to do its job.
That just won’t be good enough to solve our budget crisis and so many other pressing challenges. Going beyond the supercommittee will require a critical mass of independent leaders willing and able to break with the current Washington culture to face reality and make hard but fair decisions for all Americans.
If you agree with my thoughts, we need your support. It’s that simple.
ED CASE, U.S. Congressman (2002-07)
TOO MANY AMERICAN CHILDREN LIVE IN POVERTY
The Census Bureau recently delivered some disturbing news about how the Great Recession and its aftermath are affecting the most vulnerable among us: America’s school children.
More than 20 percent of the nation’s counties saw significant increases in poverty among school-aged children between 2007 and ’10. Nationally, 22 percent of our children are living in poverty.
This poverty increase has hit large, urban school systems the hardest, with 96 of the 100 biggest school districts reporting increases in the number of poor children. In Detroit, for example, 47 percent of school children are poor. In New York City, the rate stands at 29 percent.
This is a moral outrage. While the debate drags on in Washington about the right balance of spending cuts and taxes, a real and preventable tragedy is unfolding before our eyes. Through no fault of their own, millions of children whose parents have lost jobs need free school lunches, and in many cases are going without health care. As depicted in a recent “60 Minutes” segment, some are homeless and living in cars.
The new Census data comes on the heels of news in September that the number of impoverished Americans has risen to 46.2 million. That’s 15 percent of us, the largest number in 52 years.
Many previously middle-class families are finding themselves standing in line at food banks and homeless shelters. And, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, one in three African-American and Latino children are living in poverty. This should be a loud and urgent wake-up call to Congress and policy makers.
If Congress fails to act, already struggling families face the end of the payroll tax cut in the New Year. This would add about $1,000 to an average family’s tax bill. Lawmakers may also fail to extend unemployment benefits. According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, unemployment benefits, together with supports like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, are keeping 7 million people out of poverty.
The fact is, we shouldn’t even be talking about child poverty in the richest nation on Earth. We have the means. We simply need to summon the will to end it.
If we can find the money to bail out Wall Street and give tax breaks to the wealthy, surely we can find the resources to provide food, shelter, health care and a good education for our children.
As Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, has said, “A country that does not stand for and protect its children – our seed corn for the future – does not stand for anything.”
MARC MORIAL, President, National Urban League
INFLUENCE PEDDLER FOR PRESIDENT
Mea culpa… I have called Newt Gingrich a lobbyist.
Apparently he hates that tag, even though he has indeed gotten very wealthy by taking big bucks from such special interest outfits as IBM, Astra Zeneca, Microsoft, and Siemens in exchange for helping them get favors from federal and state governments.
But Gingrich, his lawyers and his staff adamantly insist that it’s rude and crude to call him a lobbyist. No, no, they bark, Newt is “a visionary.”
Major corporations, they explain, pay up to $200,000 a year to the corrupt former House speaker’s policy center for the sheer privilege of bathing in the soothing enlightenment of Newt’s transformative vision. Also, as the man himself constantly reminds everyone, he has a Ph-By-God-D. So he’s “Dr. Newt,” the certified visionary.
Yet, the center’s own sales pitch to lure potential corporate clients makes crystal clear that the visionary services he offers entail doing what (excuse the term) lobbyists do.
For example, the center brags that Newt has “contacts at the highest levels” of government, and that being a paying customer “increases your channels of input to decision-makers.”
One corporate chieftain who hired the well-connected Washington insider for $7,500 a month plus stock options says that Gingrich “made it very clear to us that he does not lobby, but that he could direct us to the right places in Washington.”
So, Mr. Do-Not-Call-Me-a-Lobbyist is, in fact, selling his government contacts and peddling his political influence. But he doesn’t lobby. Instead, he directs, makes calls, arranges meetings, opens doors and (of course) has visions.
I’m glad we got that cleared up. From now on, I’ll call Newt what he is: a Washington influence peddler. Yes, that’s much better.
JIM HIGHTOWER, Via E-Mail