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LETTERS for January 7 issue

By Staff | Jan 7, 2016

Factors contribute to homeless problem

There are so many new people moving to Maui from the Mainland, hundreds of working illegal aliens here, as well as legal green card Latino immigrants that competition for jobs is intense. There are long waiting lists for decent-paying jobs, and foreigners have taken over our fast-food caf jobs locals used to be working for. Just look at who is behind those counters and the janitors – you will see it all over Maui.

Even if anyone can get a low-skill, underpaid job, a week’s wage is no good in the massive unaffordable housing crisis our government has miserably failed to solve, while they aid the rich developers building rooms for the aristocracy.

Past homeless camps have been bulldozed and burned down in recent years. Hundreds of affordable homes and cheap rooms have been bulldozed to be replaced with expensive condos, houses and hotels.

From the 1960s to 2010, there was a neat, clean, professionally run commune of affordable housing behind the big parking lot opposite King Kamehameha III Elementary School in Lahaina. The private cottages were mostly $350 to $500 each and built by a professional architect that managed the acres. The cottages were Native Hawaiian culture surrounded by a botanical garden, fruit trees for residents and home organic gardens. I lived there for three years and never saw or heard of violence, litter, spousal abuse and crimes. It was like a hidden mini-Hana paradise in a city, surrounded by a fence hiding it. So what did our evil government do? They had everyone evicted, bulldozed the botanical garden and organic farm into weeds and rubble, and made it into a rutted, terrible, dirt gated parking lot for the chosen few

There are dozens of families with children (and even babies) sleeping in the bushes and on beaches on Maui, and our mayor and council look the other way without compassion. Every year, they brag before elections on how they will solve this problem, yet they have done nothing effective. Where is the aloha and kokua? And Native Hawaiians – from their culture where everyone was allowed to sleep on beaches and lots and woods, with transportation for free – are being arrested by a cruel, imported culture for sleeping outside and in their towed-away, impounded vehicles.

Los Angeles recently solved a massive homeless problem by legalizing sleeping in vehicles and in public places after midnight until first light of sunrise, and they absolutely have to remove all their possessions from such property by daybreak. A lot of people on Maui put down the Mainland, but that is more aloha than we have on Maui!

On Oahu, they solved the problem to a great extent by removing homeless from camping in public parks and streets in Honolulu by giving them vacant Sand Island to live on without harassment. They have ordered huge used shipping containers with air-conditioning to move there to house the homeless. This is a win-win situation – getting the problem away from complaining tourists and shop owners into a remote area with outhouses and water!

Here we have the rich people in “Haole Camp” (Puamana) complaining about a proposed homeless camp in an empty nearby lot. Where is the compassion and aloha? The present camp at Kanaha is just another one the masses migrate to every time our county destroys one campsite, proving this method does not even work! They take over parks when their vacant fields are cleared, and they get kicked out of their parked vehicles!

I have been to over 30 primitive Third World nations that treat the homeless far better than on Maui. Our politicians should be ashamed, and those responsible removed. They would rather get their huge payday raises than use that money to feed and house the deserving homeless. Combine all those recent raises, and you could feed them all for a year.



Make a New Year’s resolution to eat healthy

Once again, it’s time for New Year’s resolutions – particularly those to improve our diet and exercise routine.

Although gun violence and traffic accidents remain the leading causes of death among young people, the most dangerous weapon for the rest of us is still our fork. Well over a million of us are killed each year by high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases linked to our meat-based diet.

But times are changing. According to Gallup, 22 percent of American consumers are avoiding meat, and 12 percent are avoiding dairy products. Supermarket chains, along with Target and Walmart, offer a growing selection of delicious and healthy plant-based meats and dairy products. Animal meat consumption has dropped by 8 percent in the past decade.

Hundreds of school, college, hospital and corporate cafeterias have embraced Meatless Monday and vegan meals. Fast-food chains like Chipotle, Panera, Subway, Taco Bell and White Castle are rolling out vegan options.

Let’s make this New Year’s resolution about exploring the rich variety of plant-based entrees, lunch meats, cheeses, ice creams and milks, as well as the more traditional green and yellow veggies. The Internet offers tons of recipes and transition tips.



Tax bill helps families, but corporations get a lot more

Surprisingly, Congress’s $680 billion holiday season tax deal will bring some cheer to working families and not just to big corporations this year.

Refundable tax credits putting extra cash in the hands of hard-pressed workers and parents were included in a huge year-end gift-wrapped package of tax breaks – the type of bill that usually only offers big rewards to corporate fat cats.

Every two years for the past few decades, Washington has renewed a collection of about 50 temporary tax breaks, called “tax extenders.” Even though some of them had been repeatedly renewed for 30 years, the giveaways were deemed temporary to hide their substantial $50 billion annual cost – 80 percent of which benefitted businesses. It’s an accounting trick. Tax cuts supposedly expiring in a year or two don’t make long-range budget projections look so bad, after all.

None of these corporate tax breaks are ever paid for – for instance by closing other corporate tax loopholes. All of the cost goes straight to the deficit. Moreover, a repugnant double standard is at work. Any time our side wants even a little bit more in spending to improve public services, conservatives demand it be paid for.

Tax extender legislation has always enjoyed strong bipartisan support. It’s a veritable lovefest between both parties and their corporate contributors. As usual, though, corporations wanted more. Objecting to the (theoretically) temporary nature of their special breaks, this year they pushed to make several of their biggest billion dollar loopholes permanent. This gave our side leverage to demand major concessions in return.

Progressives rallied around two tax credits that are very important to low- and moderate-income households – the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Improvements made to these pro-work and pro-family programs were scheduled to expire in two years. This would have pushed 16 million people – including eight million children – into or deeper into poverty.

Advocates demanded – and won – that any corporate tax cut package had to also make permanent the improvements to these effective poverty-fighting programs. That means a single mom working minimum wage with two kids at home will have $1,725 more in her pocket, for example. Another victory was the renewal of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. It provides a tax credit of up to $2,500 per year for expenses incurred while attending college, such as tuition, fees and course materials. This will give a helping hand to millions of families struggling with the costs of higher education.

Altogether, the final tax package makes a $250 billion investment in America’s working families. Of course, corporations still got more: over $400 billion in undeserved tax favors. Among them are two loopholes that make it easier for multinational firms to stash profits offshore in tax havens. The Active Financing Exception was permanently enshrined in law, while the CFC Look-Through Rule was extended for five years. It was the AFE that helped General Electric to go five straight years without paying any federal income tax and in fact get billions in refunds.

Together, the two tax breaks will cost the American people around $85 billion in lost revenue over the next decade. Alternatively, if we didn’t plow $75 billion of that money back into overstuffed corporate treasuries, we could guarantee preschool for every low-and moderate-income four-year-old in America for ten years.

Another gratuitous gift called Bonus Depreciation – originally intended as a recession fighter, and not even good at that – will go on for another six years, losing $28 billion in corporate tax revenue. Congress should not be making any corporate tax loopholes permanent or even temporarily extending them. It should be closing them.

Over the past half-decade of budget austerity, American families have withstood $2.7 trillion in spending cuts in everything from senior nutrition to college financial aid to affordable housing. America’s corporations haven’t contributed a nickel in extra tax revenue. Moreover, while corporations enjoy record profits, workers continue to struggle in a slow economy.

Working families need a hand. Corporations don’t need handouts. We have a long way to go towards the day when corporations routinely pay their fair share of taxes and families and communities get the public services they deserve. It may sound like a Christmas miracle today, but we can get there.

FRANK CLEMENTE, Americans for Tax Fairness