Debt is one of things that people often do not want to think or talk about because it can be or feel overwhelming. We live in a time where many of us have amassed debt, some more than others, on credit cards, equipment or vehicles, homes, businesses, college educations, etc., with fewer savings than generations past to pay this debt off. If our individual debt were to become due and payable today, many would likely be unable to cover it.
Hence, the sense of burden viewed, like taxes, as chains that weigh us down. However, we have repayment plans. So, while we know a large debt looms, we focus on keeping up with the much smaller monthly amounts, chipping away little by little to manage it and bring it down. For large numbers of us, it is part of our way of life.
Should we fall short and be unable to manage our debt for whatever reason, we suffer the consequences. Credit cards are canceled, equipment and/or vehicles are repossessed, homes go into foreclosure, businesses are shut down, etc. We, as individuals or business owners, do not have the luxury of letting it ride without penalty, passing it on to someone else or printing more money.
But, our government officials do. They are not personally liable for the skyrocketing debt that continues to soar through their actions or inactions. The debt gets passed on to you, me, our children, our children's children, and many generations to come.
If your individual level of debt already feels high, think about all of the debt you now have that you personally did not commit to. The debt that state and federal elected officials have produced is estimated to be roughly $287,000 (based on state and federal debt and unfunded liabilities) for every person in Hawaii. Add that to the debt you agreed to and how much is it? How long will it take you to pay off this combined amount? Do you expect a sudden economic wave of recovery to quickly wash it away? It is fair that a baby born today now owes $287,000? I think most would agree the answer is no.
This is one reason that addressing debt is so important. However, there is another - our national and state debt is ultimately a factor in every decision that gets made. Want better infrastructure? How do we spend more in this area and still keep up with the debt? Want to keep more of our county's share of the transient accommodations tax here in Maui County? How will the state continue to balance its budget when the unfunded liabilities (debt) continue to rise? These are just two examples that showcase the connection between our debt and decision-making.
We all know the economy works in cycles and things will get better, but we have dug a deep hole and it is time to stop digging deeper and start pulling ourselves out.
If government refuses to spend less so that it can apply savings toward bringing down our debt, there is only one remedy left and that is to raise taxes.
So, if discussing debt makes you feel uncomfortable, please work on it. We need to talk openly with our elected officials about our debt concerns and work together to bring it down. That is why the Maui Chamber of Commerce has and continues to make government debt a top priority. We recognize that our county, state and national debt affects all decisions and our quality of life. Join us in asking all running for office to making reducing debt a top priority.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.