“Dat’s why hard.”

This was one of my grandpa’s favorite lines when recounting his days growing up on the plantations in Lahaina. It was usually followed by tales of 11-hour workdays while making a little over 15 cents per week.

I have come to realize that in the 90 years since grandpa lived this life, we really haven’t come that far. Hawaii today still sees the everyday person working extraordinarily hard while making relatively little.

In a recent publication released by the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit organization focusing upon tax policy here in the United States, the relative value of the dollar was assessed for each state.

You may be surprised to learn that Hawaii was No. 1.

Hawaii’s high cost of living means many residents work as hard as their plantation-era ancestors.

Courtesy of Alexander & Baldwin

Oh, to clarify, we were No. 1 where the dollar holds the least value in the nation.

Whereas your money will go further in states such as Mississippi ($116.01), Alabama ($115.21), and Arkansas ($114.42), here in Hawaii, $100 is valued only at $84.18.

What does that mean? How does this affect us in our everyday lives?

It means that the cost of living is high, and our money doesn’t go very far.

Hawaii today still sees the everyday person working extraordinarily hard while making relatively little.

When we look at associated costs – rent, mortgage, food, etc. – we see there is indeed a gap between how much we earn and what it costs to live here.

Let’s look at some simple math.

For a single person to pay for all necessary living expenses on Maui, it costs roughly $31,137 per year. However, the average salary (per capita) for someone working full time here on island is approximately $31,612. Do you see the issue here? This leaves a person, living and working on the island of Maui with merely $474 of disposable income.

We deserve more.

Now is the time to look at progressive legislative action on such issues as basic income and affordable housing, and improved economic opportunities such as technology, agriculture and alternative energy.

Now is the time for us to come together, in unity, to demand more of our political system and those in office.

Now is the time to put an end to the “plantation daze” that we have been living in, so that we can one day say to our grandchildren: “Dat’s how we did ’um.”

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.

About the Author