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‘The more-government stuff doesn’t work’
By Grassroot Institute @ 7:03 PM :: 1448 Views :: Hawaii State Government

‘The more-government stuff doesn’t work,’ Kent says on Rick Hamada show

from Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, February 8, 2023

Hawaii isn’t doing so well.

That was the prognosis on Jan. 31 of “Dr. Joe Kent” during his first-ever visit to “The Rick Hamada Program” on NewsRadio 830 KHVH, which reaches thousands of Hawaii listeners every weekday morning and is currently celebrating its 29th year.

Kent, executive vice president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, was invited by Hamada to answer the question: “What is the prognosis [for] the state of Hawaii?

Kent, jokingly called “Dr. Kent” by Hamada, said Hawaii’s main problem is that “everything has grown too big and the government spends too much,” which in turn has led to a Hawaii’s high cost of living and the continuous exodus of Hawaii residents to the mainland. 

“Everyone knows someone — a family or a friend, a relative — that has moved to the mainland somewhere, or maybe they’re considering moving,” Kent said. “And of course, it’s because the cost of living is too high.”

As an example of how dire the situation is, Kent mentioned the case of a friend: “We were at dinner [just the other day] and he confessed to me that he’s now homeless. And I was so shocked. I mean, this is a plumber and he’s still working. … He couldn’t afford his rent anymore, and so that is the consequence of this.”

Kent said his friend “might move to the mainland just like everyone else — which might be the answer for him, actually. But isn’t it sad? That speaks to the brain drain too, and the economic death spiral that we are risking ourselves of going into.”

Hamada said his own daughter chose to attend college on the mainland — and stay there — “because in our thoughtful conversations, she had a realization that ‘[Hawaii] ain’t for me, not for what I want to do, and not for what I want to achieve.’ So she is forging her life in the state of Washington.”

Kent said he did not have a “one-bullet solution” for this web of problems, but he could “answer it with a direction, which is: Let’s try less-government solutions because the more-government stuff doesn’t work.”

TRANSCRIPT

1-31-23 Joe Kent on The Rick Hamada Program, NewsRadio 830 AM KHVH

Rick Hamada: I have to tell you, I’ve been looking forward to the conversation with Joe Kent of the Grassroot Institute. And Joe, I want to thank you very, very, very, very, very, very much for taking the time to come in today. Good morning.

Joe Kent: It’s so nice to be here with you and your listeners. And I’m so glad to be on the show. It’s my first time here, so thank you. 

Hamada: I know, I know. It seems so weird that it’s been this length of time.

Kent: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right. We’ve been kind of watching from across the pond or something. We’re here now, so great.

Hamada: That’s the important thing, the important thing.

I go all the way back with late great Dick Rowland

Kent: Oh, yes, yes.

Hamada: … with the inception of then Sen. Sam Slom. And he was a facilitator, we would do events [at the] Hale Koa [Hotel] years ago, years and years ago, and to see the exponential growth under Dr. Akina and where we are now, I view Grassroot Institute as an absolute essential organization fueled by men and women that have a mad passion and love for this state.

Kent: Well, passion is right. I mean, I started out as a school teacher, actually, and I just became really passionate as a school teacher about economics and how the world works and how can we make things better. And I met Dick Rowland, and he said, “Well, you should work at the Grassroot Institute.” So I said, “Yes, sir.” I quit my job and here I am today.

And Dick Rowland started Grassroot as a way to try to advocate for more limited government. So individual liberty, economic freedom, accountable government. We were basically a taxpayer watchdog. And so someone’s got to be watching how they’re spending the money, watching what they’re doing, and advocating for solutions that don’t always involve growing the government.

Hamada: I love the way that we kind of just started, just casually and all of that. I would like our listeners to get to know you a little bit better.

Kent: Oh sure.

Hamada: If that’s OK. Let’s start briefly. Let’s start at the beginning. Born where?

Kent: Oh, wow. I was born in Des Moines, Iowa. But I grew up as a child in Minnesota — southern Minnesota on the plains of Mankato, which was Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Little House on the Prairie,” little hundred-person town there. So small town. My dad was a minister and transferred to Hawaii when I was in middle school on the Big Island. And so, then I went to Hilo High School and UH [University of Hawaii], and back to Minnesota for school, became a teacher and taught there and here.

And like I said, I love teaching. I love working with kids and everything. And trying to — if you can explain something to a kindergartner, then you can explain something to a lawmaker. [laughs] So I’m still trying to do that today too.

Hamada: I love the parallel and the commonality. The most important question in the state of Minnesota: Which lake of the 10,000?

Kent: [laughs] Yeah. That’s right.

Hamada: I have a great family that was in Eagan, Minnesota, for years and years and connections to Carleton College. And Minnesota’s a phenomenal location. I grew up in Chicago and Indiana.

Kent: Oh. OK.

Hamada: So I’m Midwestern born and bred, but been out in Hawaii now for about 35-36 years, around in that area. Clearly, I came out to Hawaii when I was 4. So just wanted to establish that. That’s it.

Kent: I see.

Hamada: The passion that you exhibited, by the way, your YouTube.

Kent: Oh.

Hamada: Looking good, brother.

Kent: Oh wow. Oh, thank you. I didn’t know anyone was watching.

Hamada: Oh. Yeah. I love seeing them.

Kent: So my YouTube channel is called “Hawaii Matters,” and we talk about all kinds of matters in Hawaii. I try to explain why is the cost of living so high? Why is milk so expensive? Why are groceries so expensive? Why does it cost so much to get a house? Or why does it take so long to build a house? And so on and so forth. And I try to explain it in about five minutes, so that a kindergartner can understand.

Hamada: I know. Well, that’s going to be perfect for me then. It’s going to be very helpful. I know that we have a break coming up in a few moments. I think I’d like to start here with just a very simple assessment, and that is referring to you as Dr. Kent.

Kent: [laughs] I’m not a doctor.

Hamada: But I play one on the radio.

Kent: Yes, that’s right.

Hamada: Now, Dr. Kent, what is the prognosis with the state of Hawaii?

Kent: Well, it’s everything has grown too big and the government spends too much. 

And the problem with that is we now have a government that’s growing too big for the size of its population, and a dwindling population at that. 

People are leaving Hawaii. They’ve been leaving since 2016 and, you know, just last year, 15,000 people fled to the mainland.

Everyone knows someone — a family or a friend, a relative — that has moved to the mainland somewhere, or maybe they’re considering moving. And of course, it’s because the cost of living is too high. 

Now, why is the cost of living too high? Well, of course, we’ve got the strictest land-use regulations in the nation that make housing so expensive. That makes everything else expensive, like groceries and housing. 

And we also have this crazy shipping law called the Jones Act that also makes our life more expensive. 

We’ve got the highest energy bills in the nation, etc. etc.

So, at the end of the day, we’ve just got really high costs. And on top of that, we’ve got taxes that are pushing people into the red. We’ve got the second highest tax rate for individual income tax. 

And so, we’ve got high taxes on top of a high cost of living, and that makes it just very difficult for most people to get by. 

So, that’s the diagnosis. 

Now, what’s the solution? And the solution is to think about ways to lower the cost of living without spending more, without making government bigger. 

There are a lot of well-meaning solutions out there that try to, “OK, we’re going to give free money to people, so that they can afford Hawaii.” 

Well, the problem is that it takes from their pocket on the back end, and a lot of times, these well intentions lead to ill effects. 

So, we want to think about simple solutions to get back to a more affordable, livable and prosperous Hawaii.

Hamada: We’re going to take a short break. It’s already 8:17, but Joe, share with us the best way to connect and learn more about the Grassroot Institute.

Kent: Sure. You can join us at grassrootinstitute.org. We’ve got 35,000 people on our emailing list, and you can get that too at www.grassrootinstitute.org.

Hamada: We’re going to take a look at what is taking place today here in our state. And Joe Kent is going to help us navigate through. So stick around, be with us, and as I mentioned earlier today, if you’d like to give us a call, 521-8383. Don’t hesitate. 

At the conclusion of the program today, we will be sure to edit, post to our podcast page, the conversation with Joe Kent of the Grassroot Institute. I’m Rick Hamada with you, and more to come in just, literally, a few moments. Take 17.

__________

Hamada: Everybody, welcome back. It is NewsRadio 830 KHVH, “The Rick Hamada Program,” featuring Joe Kent of the Grassroot Institute here on KHVH Radio. 

I’m going to try and navigate in a couple of different ways. We went through the recent campaigns, many topics, many priorities that were cited on both sides. 

The program, what I perceive to be top of mind, you alluded to it earlier, and that is cost of living. And we have, we’ve seen, during the summer, we achieved some of the highest inflation rates that we have ever seen nationally, and here at home. It tends to be a bit of a dip and on the wane, but tell that to families that are trying to survive and …

Kent: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, whenever you have high inflation, there’s winners and losers. And the winners are the government coffers, which sort of automatically go up because as prices go up, so do the tax collections, and so the government gets huge windfalls.

And the losers — or the people that lose out — are the struggling families in Hawaii, who are already paying the highest cost of living in the nation and now have to pay more. And so inflation is a big deal.

Hamada: I’d like to focus on two areas, and they’re actually not even part of the calculation of CPI [consumer price index], but they’re so important to it: food, energy. 

We have the highest prices for a dozen eggs in the country — just as one example — and we’re also maintaining the most expensive price for a gallon of gas. 

Joe, why is it that our food prices are so so so dramatically higher than on the mainland? And then we’ll tackle energy and gas afterwards.

Kent: Well, there’s a lot of reasons. Of course, everything has to be shipped here. We all know that, and that tacks on a cost, but you also have the highest land costs in the nation. You know, real estate. 

And so if you have a grocery store, that has to be higher, the rent for the grocery store is higher, then that’s going to get passed on to the food, of course. But you also have high taxes as well.

I mean, we think of our general excise tax as a tiny little 4% tax, but actually, the tax works differently than a sales tax on the mainland. The general excise tax is taxed at every step of the production process — so from the baker to the seller to the consumer — and that rolls up into the base price of the product. 

So actually, the price of the food that you’re paying, you see the tax thing on your receipt at the grocery store, but actually part of that tax is baked into the product, and so that little 4% tax might grow to 6 or 7 or 8% tax by the time it gets to the consumer.

So we’ve got a lot of hurdles for consumers to jump through to try to get their groceries in an affordable way.

Hamada: And let’s talk about fuel for a moment. The incredibly high cost of fuel that we’ve always lived with, just recently dipping on average under $5 per gallon. But I pump premium gas. I paid $5.49 a gallon yesterday. The differentiation between us and the mainland.

Kent: Yeah, that’s a big problem, but it’s exacerbated, like I said before, by the Jones Act. I mean, shipping the fuel here isn’t easy, but you put the Jones Act on top of that and ships have to do loop de loops and try to do backbends around that law just to get here, and that adds a cost. 

And also for energy, we’ve got, you know, an initiative in the state to move to renewable energy, and that means we’re shutting down our coal plants at a time when oil is spiking. And, you know, that’s why our energy prices are going up across the state.

We just saw a 7% hike at HECO [Hawaiian Electric Co.] and we’ve just closed the last coal plant. 

Now, of course, that’s well-intentioned. Of course, we want, you know, clean energy is the goal that any lawmakers have, and that is well-intentioned, but what is the cost of that? 

The cost is the pocketbooks of every family in Hawaii who’s trying to, again, afford to live here. 

So there’s a cost to all of these great intentions, but, you know, there’s also the road to hell too [laughs].

Hamada: Well, there’s also the navigation therein with people in positions of power and authority. We could even look at H-Power [Honolulu Program of Waste Energy Recovery], the vision that was implemented, the expense that was consolidated into that and then, oh, by the way, ban plastics, which is one of the petroleum-based fuel products obviously with H-Power. 

Or you take a look at the Big Island with alternative fuels, and individuals that are trying to be innovative. Yet we run into regulatory hurdles, with the UHERO report recently in the last quarter of last year citing that upwards of 20% of our real estate cost is found in government regulation.

And it’s maddening, because on one side we’re being told, “This is our No. 1 priority, we’re going to do everything we can,” and then on the other hand, that hand is behind the back, being weighed down with all of the revenue and the cash that is being collected.

Kent: That’s right. That UHERO report was really interesting. It basically said that we have the highest regulatory burdens for housing in the nation and, coincidentally or not, we have the highest housing costs in the nation. So you think those two things might go together. 

Now, of course, the response from lawmakers hasn’t been to cut regulations, it’s actually, you know, add more regulations. And it’s just so difficult to cut. 

You know, those little words “cut” is very difficult, whether you’re talking about taxation or red tape, but that’s really the direction we need to go.

Hamada: Yeah. It’s interesting when the word “cut” is used, it’s just, for instance, when there’s a debate about Medicare, and it exponentially has risen, and then when there’s to try and reduce the overall expense, it’s immediately called, “Well, you’re going to slash and you’re going to cut …”

Kent: Yes, that’s true. They call it a slash.

Hamada: It’s like, come on, people.

Kent: Yeah, well, Medicare is interesting. That is a very difficult one to cut, but just look at the state’s unfunded liabilities. I mean, we’ve got pension costs, we’ve got health-benefit costs, Medicare, we’ve got debt, and when push comes to shove on all of those things, the easiest thing to cut is actually Medicare. 

And so that is what other states are toying with. Instead of cutting pensions, instead of cutting other kinds of benefits, Medicare is actually sort of on the table.

So I’m not saying that we should cut that, but I’m saying that the consequence of having so much debt is that it makes it difficult to justify paying for all of it. 

You can’t pay for everything. Otherwise, like, we’re going to have the situation that we have in Hawaii with people leaving, and then now the rest of us have to pay for it.

Hamada: We’re talking with, it’s 8:28 in the morning already, talking with Joe Kent of the Grassroot Institute. Before we take the break and we’ll get into more specifics with the Legislature and Gov. Green’s State of the State and a bit more.

Bbut when we talk about our community and we talk about our state, the mass exiting began … in my recent memory, was also in the late 1990s when we had an outmigration of folks that were leaving Hawaii at the time. I actually did a count on the air of people that were leaving.

It was so high, it compelled a local moving company to be a sponsor of the segment of the count of the number of people leaving our state. M. Dyer & Sons. You may remember them. 

Kent: Wow. Wow.

Hamada: They’re no longer with us, but anyhow, I’m almost 30 years in this chair, I’m talking about the same issues three decades ago, and they’re still top of mind. Do we get into homelessness, affordable housing, crime, things of that nature? 

So Joe Kent, why is it that we can identify what our problems are, but we can’t seem to rectify them?

Kent: Well, we need to start. I mean, we reached out to the people who were leaving Hawaii. We went on Facebook and targeted ads to the mainland of people who had Hawaii ties. And we asked them, “Why did you leave?” And they told us, of course, the cost of living is too high. 

I mean, they’ve done surveys about this, but, I mean, one person, Ashlynn Sakaria, told us, “In Hawaii, we could never think of owning a home, but here in Arizona we actually have a chance to be able to buy a home. As hard as it was to leave Hawaii, we had to do better for our daughter.”

And a lot of people said that. They wanted to leave Hawaii so they could build up their life, and a lot of people had a dream of coming back to Hawaii. 

And so we need to, like … I have a 2-year-old daughter. I think about her every time I work on these policies because I think, “Is she just going to move away too, just like everyone else? Can I make Hawaii somehow a better place for her to actually be able to afford to live and grow a family?” And then I can have grandkids here. [laughs]

Hamada: Yeah, I have a 19-year-old daughter. She’s a sophomore. She purposefully chose a school on the mainland because in our thoughtful conversations, she has a realization that “It ain’t for me, not for what I want to do, and not for what I want to achieve.” 

And she left, not just for school; she is forging her life in the state of Washington, because she understood at her age what the reality was of trying to make a go of it here at home.

Kent: That’s right. And there was a period in Hawaii when they actually built housing, and during that period, housing prices actually went down. But today there’s barely any housing being built. 

And, I mean, the state says that we need, what, 50,000 housing units and we’ve built a couple thousand, I think. I mean, so we’re barely getting there. 

And you might think that we’ve built too much too. And, of course, on Oahu it sort of looks that way in certain areas. But if you actually look statewide at all of the islands and ask how much housing have we built, it’s only about on less than 5% of the land. 

So 95% of the land is open space and that’s protected that way, or preserved or restricted that way, through government regulations. Half of that open space is used for conservation and half of that is used for agriculture. 

But agriculture has gone belly up in the islands. Many of the fields are fallow now and those are lands that could be used more productively. 

So let’s say we increase that 5% to 6% for example; that would lead to a 20% increase in the supply of housing and it would bring down prices and make it more affordable to live. 

I mean, on some of these islands, there’s no place to rent, there’s no place to buy. I mean, you’d be lucky if you get a couch to sleep on and so … 

I mean, I was just talking to my friend the other day. We were at dinner and he confessed to me that he’s now homeless. And I was so shocked. I mean, this is a plumber and he’s still working. This is a working homeless, right? There are many different types of homeless out there, and this is someone who’s working from his car. 

He couldn’t afford his rent anymore and so that is the consequence of this. You know, I would anticipate that he might move to the mainland just like everyone else — which might be the answer for him, actually. But isn’t it sad? We have  … you know, that speaks to the brain drain too, and the economic death spiral that we are risking ourselves of going into. 

So, yeah, this is a web of problems. I don’t know if I can answer it with one bullet solution, but I can answer it with a direction, which is: Let’s try less-government solutions because the more-government stuff doesn’t work.

Hamada: Before we take that, I’ve got to do this, but I just want to establish: Grassroot Institute, a nonpartisan organization, yes?

Kent: That’s right. We’re a nonpartisan independent. We work with any party, any person that wants to learn this stuff, we’re happy to explain it and work with them.

Hamada: Well, I’m a nonpartisan radio talk show host also.

Kent: Great. [laughter]

Hamada: We sing out of the same hymnbook. Once again, if folks would like to connect with you in Grassroot, what’s the best way?

Kent: www.grassrootinstitute.org.

Hamada: Joe Kent joining us and we’re going to take a short break. When we come back, we’re going to cover a lot of additional ground with Joe Kent.

_________

Hamada: Of course, with Grassroot Institute, we have a limited amount of time with a myriad of topicality that we have for you, but I’d like to get your take with the arrival of Dr. Josh Green into the governor’s seat after eight years as lieutenant governor, and with an exacerbated healthcare shortage and many other things that we’re being made apprised of, Joe, what is your take? Healthcare in Hawaii, what would you say?

Kent: Well, healthcare is in bad shape right now. We’ve got 700 doctors short. I mean, we’re short a thousand nurses. You know, they had to waive Hawaii’s regulations during the pandemic just so that doctors and nurses could come to the state. And so now, those folks have left and we’re out to sea. 

So our healthcare services are struggling a lot right now. And that’s for a lot of different reasons. 

I mean, we already have really heavy-handed regulations on healthcare, like certificate-of-need laws. We’ve got high tax laws and we’ve got licensure rules that prevent, you know, folks who are licensed on the mainland to come here, and so we need to address those things.

If we just sort of cut through some of that stuff, it would be much more easy to survive here as a healthcare practice. And the takeaway is that, you know, you’re not helping an industry, you’re helping people, because people use that industry. I mean, residents in Hawaii need good healthcare. 

My dad said, “Hey, Joe, you work at Grassroot Institute.” He was like, “Can you study why it’s so hard to get a doctor in Hawaii?” And that’s what I’m doing. 

So we just released a report, just yesterday, about the doctor shortage and how to snip red tape, and how cutting some, excuse me, snipping taxes could really help doctors, because, I mean, in Hawaii, we’re only one of only two states that taxes medical services broadly. It’s us and New Mexico that are doing this. 

The rest of the nation realizes that doing that is actually hurting, you know, the healthcare services for your people. And we already have our medical services struggling so much. Then you put the tax on top of that and it pushes them into the red. 

So that’s why so many clinics across the state are going out of business. And so, you know, our study says just by snipping that tax, it would make it much easier for these services to survive.

Hamada: Some of the other aspects that just come to mind is not only the regulatory, but it’s a business. Being a physician with your practice, you are a businessman as well, and they’re subjected to the same challenges. If we get into permitting, this could …

Kent: Yeah, that’s true.

Hamada: … be a 10-hour show, but also when it comes to staffing, when it comes to workers’ comp rates, and all of this just compiles. Then reimbursement from private insurance and Medicare, Medicaid can prove to be a big detriment to physicians at large.

Kent: That’s true. I mean Hawaii has one of the lowest reimbursement rates of the nation. And that makes it so that it’s very difficult to recoup costs for Medicare and Medicaid. So already, physicians are at a huge disadvantage in terms of trying to recoup their costs. Then you put the tax on top of that. And let’s not forget that you’re not allowed to pass that on. 

So, you know, in a grocery store, in a restaurant, they pass the general excise tax on to their customers, but docs can’t do that, because of the Medicare rules. And so that makes it, you know, a crime to do that. 

And so, it’s funny, because the state tax office said for a while, “Yes, you can do that,” but the docs said, “Well, the feds are saying that you can’t.”

And so, the doctors trust, want to follow the feds, not the state guys. So now it looks like the state has changed their wording on their website to match the feds. But basically, the takeaway is the docs pay a lot more taxes than, you know, other types of businesses because of that weird quirk. And so, what we’re saying is: Just snip that

I mean, we’re talking about a $2.6 billion surplus right now that the state has. This is more money than we’ve ever had in the history of the state. 

That’s a structural surplus. This is a term that the state is using to basically say, “We’re going to have too much money forever.” 

And so that $2.6 billion is going to grow in the next four years to $10 billion dollars. That’s too much money.

Hamada: That’s ridiculous.

Kent: That’s way, way too much money.

Hamada: At what point did the state of Hawaii become a for-profit agency?

Kent: Exactly.

Hamada: And then comment for us, if you would — and I know that time is limited — but it has to do about the infusion of the pandemic. [U.S.] Sen. Brian Schatz making great proclamations of billions of dollars that was brought here. 

What is your take on the utilization of those federal monies infused into the state of Hawaii for the intended purpose, which was, in my mind, which, of course, was expansion of medical facilities and services, and also to assist businesses and families that were directly impacted by the pandemic?

Kent: Well, that pandemic aid is somewhat of a mystery. I mean, there are billions of dollars that flowed into Hawaii, and sometimes it’s really difficult to track where that money went. 

I mean, a billion went to the state just for basically in its general fund and for its, you know, dealing with various things unrelated to health issues. 

And then there were hundreds of millions that went to the counties and many that went to businesses. 

But we saw, during the pandemic that the counties and lawmakers were trying to sort of blow the cash because they had to spend it. And so we saw things like a little credit card for restaurants and these little gimmicks, I guess you’d call it. And sure, that did, you know, keep things afloat for a while.

And on the other hand, we did sort of have this deal: Lawmaker says, “We’re shutting you down during the pandemic through the lockdowns, but at the same time, we’re going to, you know, give you money through stimulus funds and benefits and things like that.” 

So it was a little bit of a deal, but now we’re past that and we still have … Well, some of that caused inflation, by the way, and that made it back into the general fund. And that’s why we have these booming surpluses. 

But like I said, the surpluses are structural. They’re going to be here for a long time. Why does the state need so much money in its coffers? We need to give that back to the people.

Hamada: I believe it is a constitutional directive with budget surplus.

Kent: That’s true. That’s true.

Hamada: It must be returned. It is 8:51 in the morning already. If you blink twice, Joe, our time will be over, so I want to thank you again for being with us. We’ll take a very short break. When we come back, we’re going to talk a little bit about Gov. Green and his State of the State. 

Joe, in a matter of moments, a matter of minutes, what should we know about the State of the State?

Kent: Ah, well, there was a lot of style and substance there. I want to talk about the substance. Basically, there was a lot to like, and we were looking at his Green Affordability tax or plan. Basically it’s the Green Affordable Plan or something. I don’t know what he’s calling it. The GAP plan, I guess. And basically, what that’s going to do is bring $300 million of tax reductions. 

This is the biggest tax reduction proposal in the state’s recent history. So I have to give credit where credit is due. He’s trying to reduce taxes. 

Now, it’s always in the form of a credit or an exemption or a deduction or a rebate or a refund. I always say, “What about tax cut?”

You know, this very simple idea. But, with a tax cut, the benefit is that the taxpayer keeps the money. But with a tax credit or a refund, while the taxpayer gives it to the government, they keep it in a dusty old coffer somewhere for a year, and then the taxpayer requests it back later. 

And so that’s why sometimes tax cuts are better, even exemptions, and Gov. Green campaigned on a grocery exemption for the general excise tax and for, you know, medical drugs and things like that. 

But we think that a grocery exemption and for medical supplies and for medical services would be a good step. 

But anyways, this tax plan is pretty good. Not great. You know, it could be better. But it’s pretty good. 

And, you know, [Gov.] Green also talked about housing and trying to cut through red tape there, and of course, he did the homelessness proclamation, where he signed it there on the spot and lifted regulations that are getting in the way of providing homeless shelters. 

So that’s all good, except that I’m a little uncomfortable with the proclamation part. That reminds me too much of the unilateral “one-man, unlimited rule” of the pandemic era. 

And so we should really get away from that style of leadership and get back to permanent solutions, because we don’t want to have a release valve on some of these key issues where lawmakers say, “Oh, the problem’s fine for now. We can just issue endless emergency orders to deal with it.” 

I mean, we need to fix the problem at its core. There’s too many regulations getting in the way of providing, even housing for the homeless, that we have to do these proclamations. We should make permanent fixes.

Hamada: One aspect of it — literally, just a few moments — and that has to do about the homeless issue that we’ve been confronting. 

I remember starting in local radio here and ʻAʻala Park was overfilled and all of this, so this is nothing new. 

But there’s a disparate element to this story and that is the documented millions and millions of dollars that are dedicated to the homeless.

I understand that there should be empathy, sympathy and assistance for those in dire need. However, we have, according to point-in-time counts, roughly 5,000 chronic homeless. 

However, we have an expenditure that goes into the millions of dollars where people that are struggling may be deciding, “Can I live here any longer?” Financially, [they] are still being taxed and confronting high expense and cost with no further subsidy with the exception of certain income levels that have a finite amount of assistance for rent relief and more.

I don’t want to get too far off the pace. What has been your sense of that disparity?

Kent: Well, homelessness is a symptom of a problem. You can almost gauge how well an economy and a society is doing by how many homeless are on the streets. We’ve got a lot of homeless on our streets. 

Yes, we need to address those problems, but it’s a symptom of bigger, macro widespread issues, like the cost of living generally for everyone. And we need to keep our eye on the ball. 

Try to reduce the government regulations and policies that make things worse and try to make things better in Hawaii.

Hamada: Two words before we go: bail reform. OK, we’ll leave it like that. Thank you, Joe, so very much …

Kent: Thank you.

Hamada: … for being part the program. Once again, remind us how to connect with you.

Kent: Grassrootinstitute.org, and you can get on our mailing list. There’s 35,000 people there reading our stuff and I hope you can read it too.

Hamada: Absolutely, so we’ll see each other soon, I hope.

Kent: Yeah, I hope so.

Hamada: Thank you so much, Joe.

Kent: Thank you.

Hamada: And thank you, folks, for being a part of the program today. Thank you so so very much.

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