Danny De Gracia: The Legislature Needs To Cool It On New Taxes And Regulations - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Hawaii lawmakers are acting like the state has money to tax and room to breathe, but we’re all just gasping for air.

This year’s legislative session has launched with lawmakers who seemingly have something to prove ideologically.

So far, we have seen bills proposing carbon offsets for Hawaii air travel, micromanagement of coffee production, more restrictions on short-term rentals and the possibility of wealth asset taxes, just to name a few.

Now I’m sure if this were some high school honor society club for future aspiring government leaders, our legislators would all get first place blue ribbons for being ideal liberals. Please, give them all a round of golf claps because they’re writing lofty bills trying to implement everything that the ivory tower textbooks say we’re supposed to do.

There’s only one problem. This is the real world we’re living in, and our Legislature is acting like Hawaii is big enough, wealthy enough or economically diversified enough to be so picky and bossy in its regulatory approach to the marketplace.

Hawaii is a tiny archipelago isolated in the middle of the world’s largest ocean. We host tourists, grow some agricultural products and have, as our state’s chief export, an exodus of young, smart, talented people to the mainland.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t exactly see Hawaii as one of the nation’s top economic producers. You don’t buy Boeing 777s from Hawaii, you fly here in one. Bishop Street consists of some notable financial institutions, but it is not by any stretch a Wall Street, and money always sleeps in Honolulu. We’ve got a great public university, but, come on, do you see them inventing the majority of market-moving, disruptive technologies that are driving this century? I don’t think so.

A “rich” person living in a Hawaii Kai gated area with their cramped 2,000-square-foot house, two $80,000 European luxury cars in the garage and a precocious child who goes to a snobby, overpriced private school is what we like to call in my hometown of San Antonio “middle class.”

Legislators have introduced bills on everything from carbon offsets to micromanaging coffee production, but they need to do less virtue signaling and more to help people outside the halls of power. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

This state, in truth, consists mostly of people who are barely making by, barely saving any money and who only think they’re rich but are, with regards to things of actual value, very poor.

And it is from this already overworked, overburdened, overtaxed population that we want to erect a California or Massachusetts-style bureaucracy.

We want to regulate more, tax more, ban more and demand more from everything and everyone – except, God forbid, our own government. You guys and gals writing all the bills at the Legislature act like this state has money to tax and room to breathe, but let me tell you something, we’re all gasping for air here.

Just why does everyone in Hawaii want to run for office? It is because everyone here knows that Hawaii is a palace economy, where the only businesses, nonprofits or labor organizations that actually accomplish anything of note are the ones that get tax subsidies, preferential exemptions or contracts from the state or counties.

“Success” in Hawaii is the exception, not the rule, and the real rule governing this place seems to quietly be that “competition is a sin.”

And this is why when I look at measures like Senate Bill 925, which establishes a wealth tax for “the most wealthy,” I worry about the direction Hawaii is going because we all know “the most wealthy” never pay taxes to begin with, despite all of the taxes that already exist.

They don’t pay taxes because they do activities that have the blessings of government to exempt them from taxes.

Instead, laws that give the government power to take a clipboard and assess from A to Z the worth of purportedly “rich” individuals end up being used as future precedent to do the same thing to poor people.

You let the government tax “rich” people and that will eventually be walked back to where it falls on everyone one day, under the excuse of “we need the money to pay for such-and-such project” or “everyone just needs to pay their fair share to protect (fill in the blank).”

On Friday, my car broke down on the freeway and a local Hawaiian tow truck driver came to assist me. Without me even prompting him, he began to think out loud while working on my car about how everything was more expensive, more inconvenient and more confusing than ever. He also said he felt betrayed by our elected leadership. I couldn’t argue with him.

Our legislators need to back off and come down from the clouds with their policy mindset. They may think themselves to be mini-members of U.S. Congress, passing important laws, upholding lofty ideals, making ideological history with their black felt tip signature pens. But in reality, they’re just a gaggle of underpaid, overhyped minor elected officials in the same boat as the rest of us.

Hawaii needs to relax on the regulations, relax on the bans, relax on the virtue signaling and just let people live their lives in peace here. If we want to really increase equity and give people prosperity, we need to stop punishing success, stop thwarting personal ownership and stop acting like we know what’s best to do with someone else’s hard-earned money.

That’s not being a conservative Republican to say these things. That’s called being an American – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is what living here is supposed to be all about.

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Latest Comments (0)

Much like Dave Chappell's comedy, the truth is sometimes raw, but it's still the truth and sometimes you just have to laugh because what else can you do? Great article. And as a side bar, people are happy here because of the simple things in life and the natural beauty of the land, government simply exploits this to their advantage and puts little into preserving it. It shouldn't be all about wealth and "things." Mainlanders and foreigners strive to find the simple life that many of us still enjoy here, but the reality of having and maintaining basic needs today are becoming less a reality and our elected official are directly responsible for continuing to perpetuate a big city government spending on a small town budget.

wailani1961 · 1 month ago

Oh my, alot of truth here. In my 49 years of living here I have seen Hawaii go from a happy, loving place to a stressful existence. We need to manage things here, and help our own citizens go forward. 100% bans on things like tourism, a person renting a room in their own house, in which they live, for however short they choose to, closing down the Superferry retroactively because someone "forgot" to require a certain test, etc., is not helpful, but is taking money from locals, destroying our economy. Just a few angry people getting the ear of a council member has caused a de facto closure of all tour companies. It is now a crime to let any visitor see any beach along the entire coastline from Makapuu through the entire north shore. Despite the fact that 90% of these areas are problem free. We need leaders who have positive ideas, managed answers, and talk to us. Not people who create nothing, but validate their jobs by finding things wrong with anyone creating anything here. Why is there suddenly $1,000,000 to tear down a beloved hike (Haiku Stairs) but only contempt for a non- profit who has stepped up with a management plan to alleviate all neighborhood issues? Hope

Greg · 1 month ago

"But in reality, they’re just a gaggle of underpaid, overhyped minor elected officials in the same boat as the rest of us."Well said!Unfortunately, we voters are the folks that keep putting that same gaggle in place.

BigMomona · 1 month ago

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