Hawaii woke this morning to a changed political landscape. Long a Democratic bastion, residents of the state will soon find themselves living under Republican control on the federal level.
The new landscape in Washington is already being called TrumpWorld, and no, it’s not a reality show.
Within the past year, and with a crowning victory Tuesday night, President-elect Donald Trump decisively trounced his Republican and Democratic adversaries. He will lead the administration of the United States, giving him oversight over hundreds of federal agencies, commissions and departments. The House of Representatives and the Senate will remain controlled by Republicans, but they are expected to begin deferring to Trump now that the voters have spoken.
What President-elect Trump will actually do once he assumes office is not known. Many commentators have noted that there is sometimes little apparent connection between what the real estate magnate says and what he actually does or has done.
But Trump swept into office with a specific set of policy proposals, and many of them could have far-ranging implications for Hawaii.
In his acceptance speech in the early hours of Wednesday morning in New York City, he stressed his intention to rebuild America’s decaying infrastructure and do more to take better care of the nation’s veterans.
“We’re going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” he said. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of people to work as we rebuild it.”
This could be welcome news for Hawaii, perennially plagued by potholes, crumbling curbs and overwhelmed sewage treatment systems. The state also needs more money to complete the Honolulu rail system under construction, and to continue the system to a sensible terminus at Ala Moana.
Some rural roads along the shore have suffered coastal erosion and need to be reinforced. Dozens of Hawaii’s bridges are in need of repair or replacement and Honolulu residents have long sought a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Ala Wai Canal, which would make it easier for tourism industry workers to commute to jobs in Waikiki.
In his published policy statements, Trump has also urged more aggressive reform of the Veterans Administration, an important priority for the 127,000 veterans living in Hawaii and the Pacific Basin. He has called for making it easier for veterans to get mental health care. A recent investigation by the Veterans Administration’s Office of Inspector General found that three Hawaii veterans committed suicide in 2014 and 2015, reflecting a need for improved suicide-prevention efforts.
Trump has repeatedly promised to fire VA officials responsible for providing bad medical care for veterans. Independent investigations in 2014 found that conditions for some of Hawaii’s veterans were among the worst in the nation at that time, with the longest wait times for medical care reported anywhere, although some local veterans say that conditions have improved since then.
“We will also finally take care of our great veterans who have been so loyal,” he said in his speech.
In an era of increased terrorism, border control was also at the center of Trump’s campaign. In speeches and in policy statements on his campaign website, Trump pledged to find ways to restrict immigration into the United States and to deport immigrants who enter or remain in the country illegally. Immigrants with criminal records will be liable for deportation, he has said, on “day one” of his presidency.
President-elect Trump has called for a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system to be implemented at all land, air and sea ports. That of course would be expensive to implement in Hawaii, a hub for international tourism, and could lead to delays in entry for vacationing visitors.
On the other hand, lower immigration levels could slow population growth in Hawaii, which could reduce the pressure on the state’s limited housing stock, something that has caused rents and home prices to spiral.
Trump has sworn to seek to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement of the administration of President Barack Obama, which Trump said has led to “runaway costs, greater rationing of care, higher premiums, less competition and fewer choices.”
Hawaii struggled to put in place a system that would meet the requirements of the ACA. Still, repeal of the Obama program might cause some people to lose their health insurance, perhaps for the foreseeable future.
Trump hopes to replace Obamacare with a series of health care reforms that he hopes will allow more insurance companies to operate nationally, across state lines. He believes that permitting more providers to operate will create more competition, which he believes will lead to lower prices for consumers.
The president-elect says he wants to make health care insurance more affordable by allowing consumers to deduct the cost of premiums they pay from federal taxes. He also wants to boost what he called “price transparency” by requiring health-care providers to specify the prices they will charge consumers, which would allow patients to shop around for less expensive care.
Trump says he would like to allow people to purchase pharmaceutical products from overseas suppliers who sell the same products abroad for less money than drug companies charge in the United States.
Trump has called for making child-care and dependent-care expenses similarly tax-deductible. That could be particularly helpful in Hawaii for working families who are squeezed between the high cost of housing, the high cost of day care and the state’s relatively low wages.
Trump has lambasted international trade agreements that he says have displaced American workers. He would withdraw from any plans to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That prospect may be attractive to voters in the Rust Belt, but in Hawaii, the hub of the Pacific, any new strain on international relations could endanger working relationships with countries who are close trade partners to the state.
Trump is something of a hawk on national defense, and proposes to increase the military budget, which could mean more resources for poorly maintained equipment. There are almost certainly some problem areas. Civil Beat’s recent report on the causes of the crash of helicopters that led to the deaths of 12 Marines highlighted equipment and training failures.
On the other hand, Trump has called for fewer foreign wars and a more isolationist and less interventionist foreign policy. That could result in fewer local soldiers and sailors deployed overseas, and fewer deaths among armed forces personnel stationed in Hawaii.
This election has certainly illustrated gaps in the nation’s cybersecurity, with reports of Russian and Chinese hacks of critical American software. Trump is calling for a new emphasis on detecting and eliminating cyber vulnerabilities, particularly as they threaten national security. This push could bring new information technology and data security jobs to the state’s military bases and support operations.