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LETTERS for May 18 issue

By Staff | May 18, 2017

A solution for the national health care dilemma

The Lahaina News has been very receptive to contributions from me and others regarding ensuring the quality and provision of the health care on Maui. I have an idea for solving the national health care dilemma, and how to possibly bring the different sides together, but I do not know how to readily access the national media or constructive politicos in order to carry the idea forward. Hence, I come again to our Lahaina News.

The current and newly proposed plans for providing health care for all Americans at reasonable but sustainable costs falls far short of that goal. The main problems are how to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions and how to fund the system. The underlying problem is that many will put-off purchasing coverage until a medical condition occurs.

My plan and possible solution is to simply make the coverage for pre-existing conditions time-limited, like for one year. This would be a stimulus to encourage people to enter the plan before the year is up in order to avoid having no coverage after then, if and when something happens. This plan would then provide the large numbers of enrollees needed to fund the system, which would make rates low and ensure that individuals have coverage for future medical problems – the way insurance should work.

Compared to the complicated and convoluted options now being considered, re-considered and newly considered, this plan is simple but does the job. This plan is the basic structure, but there are details, the frosting if you will, that of course would need to be worked out. But it should be mentioned that people would not have to be coerced into joining this new plan. They could still self-insure, join another plan or obtain insurance coverage themselves, which is now, hopefully, to be more competitive and lower in cost.

The inevitable number who will not join our plan, obtain coverage from another plan or acquire medical insurance would still not be left without care, as has been trumpeted by some. When sick or hurt, they could still use the present safeguard of guaranteed access to hospital emergency departments with salaried staff and on-call caregivers. Those resources could then be reimbursed directly by the government, by-passing the more expensive “middle-step” of insurance companies.

By the way, since my name is Lavenson, we could call this new plan “Lav Care.”



Reject the dairy industry’s cruelty

The Washington Post recently published a major expose of the U.S. dairy industry, concluding that mega dairies scam consumers into paying extra for “organic” milk that isn’t. The timing, a few days before Mother’s Day, could not have been more appropriate. Dairy cows, worldwide symbols of motherhood, never get to see or nurture their babies.

The newborn calves are torn from their mothers at birth and turned into veal cutlets, so the dairy industry can sell their milk. The distraught mothers bellow for days, hoping in vain for their babies’ return.

Instead, they are chained on a concrete warehouse floor, milked by machines, then impregnated artificially to renew the pregnancy and keep the milk flowing. When their production drops, around four years of age, they are ground into hamburgers. Let’s all honor motherhood and our natural compassion for animals by rejecting the dairy industry’s cruelty. Let’s replace cow’s milk and its products, laden with cholesterol, saturated fats, hormones and antibiotics.

Let’s choose delicious, healthful, cruelty-free plant-based milk, cheese and ice cream products offered at our grocery store.



Use land for affordable housing and agriculture

We need affordable housing and viable agriculture. Existing development policies misuse Hawaii’s limited land and water resources.

As written in the Hawaiian Constitution of 1840: “All laws of the Islands shall be in consistency with the general spirit of God’s law.” The Bible’s land-use criterion is compatible with Hawaiian culture.

Biblical Levitical practices prevent powerful land monopolies and promote prosperity. Even if you’re not Hawaiian, consider the benefits of returning the land to its rightful owners.

Restoring property is associated with atonement – making amends and reconciliation. God said, “Don’t take advantage of each other. Observe my laws and you’ll live secure in the land… You must provide for the right of redemption of land.”

Basic principles entail public use and urban-designated land remaining unchanged. Equitably compensated agricultural/rural-designated land is retained by Hawaiians in perpetuity, leasable at a fair price.

Leasehold property allows for affordable housing, since the cost is the build-out rather than the land value. Likewise, agricultural land would be valued for what it produces.

God’s law states, “The alien living among you is to be treated as native-born. Love him as yourself.”

“‘You are to distribute this land among yourselves and the aliens who have settled among you and have children. You are to consider them native-born; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.”

Thankfully, grace and forgiveness is God’s redemption plan through Jesus’ sacrificial love. “The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness.” Hawaiian allodial/kuleana-land practices aligned with God’s ideas will succeed.



House tax plan still allows rampant abuse

For all the concerns raised by economists and others about the House tax plan, it is generally assumed that the proposal will reduce the gaming of the tax system by multinational corporations. Among the more active debates: will the currency adjust perfectly or will retail prices rise? Is the plan legal under our trade agreements? Do foreign investments take a dive?

While all those questions are hotly debated, consensus is that the current gaming will end. So, it is curious that earlier this year, General Electric, Pfizer and others that have been called out for aggressive tax avoidance publicly aligned with a coalition of companies to push the House tax plan.

Between 2001 and 2015, Verizon paid an average of 12.4 percent in federal income taxes, as opposed to the 35 percent statutory rate, on steadily increasing profits. In five of those years – all profitable – the company paid no federal income tax. General Electric, for more than a decade, paid negative 1.6 percent on $58 billion in profits. Yet, the senior management of these companies clearly believe they will do better under the proposal.

How do you reconcile these competing assumptions? After several conversations with economists, the answer is in the definition of “gaming.” The House plan, if implemented, would end the incentive to invert or book profits offshore. That is true. Instead, it would shift the gaming from location of profits to location of sales.

The few economists looking closer at this problem have written about how Microsoft or Apple could potentially locate servers in tax havens. Any downloads of software, music or movies could count as foreign sales and therefore generate no tax liability. That would increase the impact of tax avoidance, as those companies currently do owe taxes on profits they book offshore – to be paid when they repatriate those profits to the U.S. parent.

By switching from a system in which companies pay on all their profits to a so-called “territorial” system, the House plan would permanently exempt future taxes on all revenues booked offshore, opening the door to rampant abuse.

When asked about this, one economist was not terribly worried. Presumably, only a small number of companies are in a position to use that method of avoidance. But just 50 companies account for two-thirds of the roughly $2.5 trillion in U.S. profits that are currently recorded offshore. Apple alone owes more than $60 billion on its profits booked offshore. These practices are not widespread throughout the corporate world. Technology companies, pharmaceuticals and finance are the major players in offshore gaming. Just “a few” very large companies are the problem.

There is also the potential for exporters to merge with importers to share excess tax credits. This would reduce or eliminate tax liability for the importer on whom the plan relies to pay the lion’s share of the taxes. True, mergers are a legitimate business practice, but in this instance, it is still a practice driven not by product or service quality, not by delivery or manufacturing efficiency, but by the tax code.

While there are numerous incentives in the tax code to affect corporate behavior, this one has no other purpose than tax avoidance. It seems a misplaced goal to stop the booking of profits offshore as an end unto itself. It is not as though the majority of profits are actually held offshore – waiting to be brought back to this country. The issue is the lost tax revenue or, as most in the public would see it, tax dodging. Since tax dodging via tax havens and other methods would continue among the largest players, it seems misleading to say to the public that the House plan would end the gaming.

Our goal in tax reform should be to agree upon a corporate tax rate that helps the country cover our costs, and then minimize the unintended ways to avoid paying it.

The most straightforward and hardest to game among reform proposals is to leave the basic structure in place but end the ability for multinationals to defer paying the taxes they owe. Individuals pay taxes on money they earn, whether they earn it in Des Moines or Dublin. Small and wholly domestic businesses pay taxes, timely, on their earnings.

There is no economic justification behind the special treatment of multinationals. We should also tighten rules to prohibit inversions and ensure companies are playing by the rules by publicly reporting – country-by-country – their profits, taxes paid and certain operations. This is a pragmatic, comprehensive and comparatively simple tax reform that solves the specific problem of lost revenue due to offshoring profits in tax havens.



Navy League to honor Maui soldiers and veterans

Well, our glorious Flag Day is upon us. Once again, the Maui Chapter of the U.S. Navy League is proudly sponsoring the fifth annual “Salute To Our Service People” spectacular event.

Each year, dedicated members of our local Navy League chapter, with the assistance of patriotic owners of various maritime endeavors, get together to provide veterans with fun-filled ocean activities. In fact, without these generous patriots, none of this would be possible.

Active duty servicemen and all Maui County veterans are welcome to participate. Enjoy sports fishing and/or a lovely sunset sail – all of this is at no cost. This year, we are proud to announce that Die Hard has joined with us to provide a half-day charter. Thanks to the great generosity of previous donors Maui Jim, Start Me Up and Queen’s Treasure, we are once again able to offer these great opportunities.

Fishing excursions will be offered on June 14, Flag Day. Wednesday evening, June 14, is the sunset sail. Lahaina Yacht Club proudly supplies the pupus for the sunset sail.

Please contact Suzanne Ayers, president of the U.S. Navy League, at 661-8232 for details as soon as possible to register. Make your plans as soon as possible, as seating is extremely limited.