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A sensible tea party manifesto

May 17, 2014 - Harry Eagar
On days when I go downtown I usually stop at the coffee shop for a small English breakfast tea. This costs $2.25, and I drop a quarter in the tip jar. Wailuku Coffee Shop stamps my frequent drinker card and every 11th cup is free, so my net cost is about $2.30 cents a cup.

Now a useful way to think of the national budget is in "Solyndras." One Solyndra is not quite $500,000,000, so that, for example, the USNS Choctaw County, the naval version of the Superferry, costs about three-tenths of a Solyndra. Wailuku Coffee Shop cups of tea are a useful way to think of the county budget.

A letter to the editor this week claimed that union labor would soon bankrupt the county, so that the unions should be destroyed. Is this true?

Not only not true but ridiculously upside down. Yet it is not hard to find people who think county taxes are too high. I'm lookin' at you, Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White.

I recently paid my half-year property tax. Property tax is the largest source of county revenue, which needs to reach something over $600 million (about 1.1 Solyndras). We soak the hotels, but Council Member White, despite being a hotel manager, is not concerned about the high tax on hotels. He is worried about residential rates.

Really, Mike? I am paying $50 a month on a house the assessor thinks is worth around $500,000. For that I get police and fire protection 24/7, parks, a division to enforce zoning laws, the prosecutor, subsides for animal control and various other social services etc.

For $1.67 a day, less than I spend on tea.

Now there are other county services I pay for separately: The country's only opt-in opala collection ($2.08 a pickup for 2 pickups a week, which includes upkeep of an environmentally safe landfill); water ($15-$18 a month, or enough for around 4,000,000 cups of tea); and the vehicle and gasoline taxes, which keep the roads in (not very good) repair.

Vehicle taxes are around $250 per vehicle, and I haven't tried to calculate how much I pay in gas tax, but it isn't much.

So, trash, about 90 cups of tea; water, about 80 cups of tea; roads, maybe 1,000 cups of tea (I have 4 cars), and everything else, about 260 cups of tea. I hardly think that is an insupportable burden.

I have long wanted higher property taxes, if that will lead to a better life, for example by increasing funding for the Maui Invasive Species Committee. I was attacked by fire ants in Georgia when I was in junior high school and I still remember that and would pay a large amount not to have to worry about its happening again.

I get that many people on Maui struggle with housing costs and I see no reason to increase taxes on them. Mike White's low rates are appropriate for, say, the first $200,000 to $300,000 of real residential property. But taxes on more valuable homes should be higher. Much higher.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in a house worth more than $250,000 can afford it.


Article Comments



May-29-14 5:19 PM

Then they should have sued earlier. We also need to reduce the concept of "limited liability." Executives should be on the hook for their actions, including their personal assets. This would increase responsible business practices.


May-23-14 2:22 PM

The lawsuits came too late to prevent the total destruction of an entire county, and there was no attempt at remediation by the business.

It is not an isolated example, either. There are hundreds of places like it, not many as big, but a few even bigger.

For the most part, regulations have forestalled new ones.


May-23-14 1:46 PM

Destroyed your own argument. It wasn't regulation which ended the practice, but lawsuits, exactly as I advocate.

I imagine regulations would have simply limited the amount of pollution that they could have produced while protecting them from lawsuits.


May-22-14 11:28 PM

Don't try to make historical arguments, you are not very good at it. Look up the history of Ducktown, Tennessee, which predates by a hundred years the regulations are are talking about.


May-22-14 4:03 PM

That's because government regulations protect polluters from litigation. People always think that regulations are supposed to protect the environment. Their not. They are designed to protect the corporations who write them in the first place. It protects them from competition by smaller businesses who don't have the resources to comply with regulations, and it also protects them from lawsuits.

Think about what "limited liability" means. There would be no such thing in a free market. You pollute, you are liable, including your personal assets. Under our current system when billionaire CEO's make mistakes they can just wash their hands and walk away. If the company goes under, so what, they are not liable.


May-22-14 12:41 PM

' In the free market, that is not the case. When you're wrong you're gone'

But leave the public holding the bag. Think about why we have to have a Superfund. But often, there is no way to remediate the problem. The Grand Banks cod and the Monterey sardines are gone for good.


May-21-14 6:02 PM

Fair enough, but it is debatable whether or not the Louisiana Purchase was a good or bad thing. The Native Americans living in the area at the time might have a different view. Perhaps Mexico would be larger and the United States smaller, we may never know.

In any case, it is inevitable that even through random chance government programs might be successful once in a while. Whenever they are, this is taken as evidence that we should promote government interference in the economy, despite all the evidence against it, and the unintended consequences. It is confirmation bias at its worst.

The problem with government is that when they make mistakes the effects are felt by absolutely everyone, and they never have to pay the price. The are almost zero costs to being wrong when it comes to the government. In the free market, that is not the case. When you're wrong you're gone, unless of course you lobby the government for a bailout.


May-20-14 5:14 PM

'investment comes from the private sector.'

Not true. The two most sensationally successful investments in our history (Louisiana Purchase, Erie Canal) were both by government, and back when you imagine government was small. It never was small.

Tea partiers know nothing about the history of their own country.


May-20-14 3:46 PM

OneAikea I am desperately trying to make sense of what you are saying but I'm afraid that is impossible. All I see is gibberish and nonsense, your ideas and sentences do not flow or make any logical connections. You seriously need to go back to school and learn how to write a proper sentence.

Anyways, Harry investment comes from the private sector. The water department could be privatized and regulated rather than government operated.


May-19-14 2:07 AM

The water department needs about a Solyndra or more of capital investment.


May-18-14 5:25 PM

Yes, please elaborate OneAikea with your 3rd grade level of reading comprehension.


May-17-14 11:58 PM

Tell us how.


May-17-14 3:46 AM

"which needs to reach something over $600 million."

No it doesn't.


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