Wednesday, April 11, 2007

CHAMBER OF SPECIAL INTERESTS

I usually support the Chamber of Commerce (CoC) because they promote the notion of free enterprise. Free enterprise, however, is not a philosophy of what’s good for business, but rather what’s good for the freedom of our people to do business. CoC President David Robinson's support for the ASG $20 million loan runs contradictory to free enterprise and does a great disservice to the Chamber’s members and its supporters.

Here in Hawaii , the Honolulu CoC supported an increase in Oahu ’s General Excise Tax to help guarantee federal funding for a city and county rail system. CoC’s are not natural allies of tax advocates, but behind its support this time were the usual justifications: increase in construction jobs, increase employment in supporting industries, and the promised benefits of a rail system. It seemed that the Honolulu CoC was more concerned with what its members stood to gain than with the heavier burden being levied upon Hawaiian families.

No one is against an expansion of the construction industry or the planned improvements in our infrastructure, but have we not paid enough taxes and lent the ASG enough loans? Are not US taxpayers already sending millions in federal grants?

What we are against is our leaders’ failure or outright refusal to account for and prioritize local and federal monies before attempting to reach deeper into our pockets and for some of us, our retirement accounts. Do we need to list the numerous atrocities of reckless spending perpetrated by this administration and the Fono?

Meanwhile, the ASG says that members will benefit from the possibility of gaining more interest for their money because of the loan. While that may true, all loans carry the risk of non-repayment, and that’s a risk members should never be forced to take.

The risk of non-repayment is something none of our politicians or the loan’s beneficiaries will have to carry. Yet, the Fono has passed this legislation without having to lose a night's worth of sleep that they or their immediate families will be held financially responsible if the retirement fund goes bankrupt.

This is not free enterprise. Free enterprise is about enjoying the fruits of your labor on your own terms. ASG retirees have done their time and have earned the right to their former employer’s promise to a sound retirement in exchange for their service. Free enterprise is not about taking from Peter to pay Paul, whether Paul is the CoC, construction companies or some other special interest group.

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