Tom Yamachika: The Giant Sucking Sound Of Lost Jobs - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Tom Yamachika

Tom Yamachika is the president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii.

You may remember back in the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign, independent businessman and candidate Ross Perot argued, on live TV: “We have got to stop sending jobs overseas. It’s pretty simple: If … you can move your factory south of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor … there will be a giant sucking sound going south.”

We are going to have a similar problem, and soon.

In 2016, Pacific Business News observed: “Over six years, from 2010 to 2016, we lost 30,000 more people than moved here from other states. And the flight rate has been increasing … 2016’s outmigration rate was 10 times higher than 2010’s.”

On June 1, University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization’s Executive Director Carl Bonham told lawmakers that we’re going to lose another 30,000 people in just two years. A more pessimistic scenario assumes we are going to lose that 30,000 people in one year.


Hawaii continues to lose residents to the mainland for job opportunities, yet lawmakers do little about it. Flickr: ackook

Why is this happening?

“Because tourism is such a dominant piece of the economy, many other state economies and county economies will recover, much more rapidly, and the job opportunities will simply not exist here that will exist in the rest of the country,” he said.

“Think about at the end of this year and into January when our extended unemployment benefits have expired; if you don’t have family ties in Hawaii, and you were working in tourism here and your unemployment benefits run out, there’s absolutely nothing to keep you here.”

‘Shared Sacrifice’

So how are our lawmakers reacting to this?

Our public worker unions seem to have zero sympathy for the plight of our taxpayers. HSTA’s Corey Rosenlee argued last month in Civil Beat that demands for “shared sacrifice” because of budget shortfalls should be rejected.

UPW’s Dayton Nakanelua wrote that his union “must vigorously and respectfully oppose however, any plan to reduce public employee pay at any level, amount or through furlough.”

HGEA’s Randy Perreira wrote a similar letter opposing a furlough (or pay cut) affecting his union members.

So, where is the money for public workers going to come from?

We could borrow it, but we’d eventually have to pay any loan back with interest.

We could turn over rocks hoping to uncover moneys that various departments have squirreled away — but that will last only so long.

Could we get lots of money through “revenue enhancement,” otherwise known as raising taxes?

If we try that, we can certainly expect the giant sucking sound to get louder and deeper.

We need to make it easier to do business.

In addition, the taxpayers who are left might not be able to pony up increased taxes because they simply aren’t able to afford it in addition to rent, utilities, and other costs of doing business.

If anything, we need to make it easier to do business. If we in the private sector are allowed to do business and with fewer nonessential restraints, we don’t mind sharing some of the profits with government.

We also need to think seriously about cutting costs. Just as there are obscure special funds we are currently finding, there are obscure programs and services that no longer can be justified. These need to get out of the way so the tax dollars the government does get can be more efficiently utilized.

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John Pritchett: Here We Go Again

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About the Author

Tom Yamachika

Tom Yamachika is the president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii.

Latest Comments (0)

I agree with all of what you have said, except that in my experience people with jobs have been leaving because of the cost of living, the regressive tax structure, the insane "public utility" costs, not to mention the cost of cronyism.  Did I mention the lack of opportunity?  The poor to non-existent public services?  but, yes, bloated government is a huge piece of the puzzle.

eswope · 2 years ago

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS ASAP!--HB 1462 could be passed THIS YEAR, when the legislature reconvenes June 22--IF the Senate puts it on the calendar by June 16. HB 1462 would end needless third party admin costs from what state taxpayers currently pay for state and county active and retired employees' health insurance--aka the Employer-Union Trust Fund (EUTF)--and could save up to half a BILLION dollars annually, when our state government is facing a $2+ billion budget deficit. But Senate leadership needs to know this. HB 1462 currently proposes to study self-funding EUTF, but could be amended to start self-funding asap, as Hawaii used to do and most other states already do. Self-funding Medicaid could approx double annual savings, and could be done WITHOUT legislation.  

Slammer · 2 years ago

Government employees serve at the pleasure of the people.  The people decide that level of employment and the taxation that funds it.  The unions' mission is to maximize the pay and benefits of government employees while minimizing their responsibility and effort.  FDR said it was a dangerous idea to grant government employee unions the privileges of striking and collective bargaining (he called these "militant tactics") - a huge conflict of interest by the few against the many.  Yet we did not listen and now we have the government employee leviathan. 

Sally · 2 years ago

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