Sunday, August 17, 2008

Musings: Economic Meltdown

Thick clouds put a damper on the full moon’s brilliance but couldn’t completely dim its glow, which persisted through the night until finally succumbing to the higher forces of dawn.

Rain, and Sunday morning laziness, made for a greatly abbreviated walk and Koko, who is not plagued by the torments of an over-active mind, immediately returned to bed and snuggled into the still-warm covers. I, meanwhile, made a cup of tea, revised a short story I’m writing and briefly scanned The Garden Island on-line.

That’s where I read that Hawaiian Homes has dropped, for now, its plans to develop a resort at Wailua and is instead pursuing a 700-unit residential project on the mauka side of the highway.

It seems the agency got revenue bonds that will cover the residential infrastructure costs, eliminating the need to build a resort to generate the money. And that’s a good thing, since the visitor industry is weakening and tourism so often works directly against the long-term interests of many Hawaiians, if you factor in the role it plays in promoting the real estate development that is pricing them out of their homeland.

Hawaiian Homes is supposed to be providing the housing to keep them on the land, which sounds good in concept but has generally failed in practice. Aside from the fact that it’s failed to deliver homes to many eligible beneficiaries — some 18,000 remain on the waiting list — and a lot of the homes it did turn out were unbelievably shoddily, there’s a huge inequity built into the system.

Although homesteaders must pay mortgages to cover construction of their homes and lease payments for the land they are built on, they — unlike any other homeowner in Hawaii — can’t turn around and sell their property and reap the benefits of the equity they’ve created. Nor can they even pass the house on to their kids unless the keiki have the right blood quantum, which used to be 50 percent but was reduced to 25 percent a few years back.

So even though everyone else can, and is, buying up land in Hawaii, Hawaiians in the homestead program only get to pay to use it for a while — they’ll never own it. How nuts is that?

Meanwhile, it seems the real estate market has screeched to a halt on Kauai. As I drive around the island, and walk on my own road, I see the same real estate signs that have been out there for months and months, the photos of the smiling — and invariably haole — agents fading in the sun, the signs themselves sinking slowly into the soil.

I don’t suppose anyone keeps statistics on such things, but I wonder how many of those real estate agents who flocked here when the getting was so good have already left Kauai, to be followed by the other opportunists.

As my friend Eddie, a Hawaiian born and raised on the North Shore observed: “I watch them wash in, and I watch them wash out.”

I’m also wondering how many other people, and businesses, will become casualties of the economic downturn that has prompted high level county and tourism officials to begin holding regular meetings to discuss the dismal state of affairs, although their hand wringing — they haven’t come up with any measures for dealing with the problem — has not been reported in the local newspaper.

I stopped by my favorite Lihue restaurant, Pho Kauai, a really great and reasonably priced Vietnamese eatery, to pick up some dinner the other night. It was about 5:30 p.m., and the place was deserted. The owner told me it was starting to get scary, as customers had been almost non-existent for the past three days.

“Eating out has become a luxury,” he said. “So many of the hotel workers tell me they’ve had their hours cut way back. They’re barely making it. I don’t what’s going to happen, but it worries me, because I’ve got a mortgage to pay.”

As I drove though Kapaa yesterday, with its many little shops and restaurants, I wondered how many of their proprietors are also worried, and how many of them will default on their mortgages because business has died and they can’t sell their homes and what sort of ripple effect that will have on the overall economy.

In the midst of this, we’re preparing to elect a new mayor and council, prompting one friend to observe that when we’re considering candidates we need to look beyond their views on growth and dogs on the path and the Superferry. What we need now, he said, are people with the vision and intelligence to guide Kauai through an economic meltdown.

And when you look at it from that perspective, the field narrows considerably.

48 comments:

Katy Rose said...

We've come to understand the concept of "disaster capitalism," in which regressive privatization schemes are pushed through in the aftermath of crises. Perhaps we should be thinking in terms of "disaster collectivism"-and ways to institute viable and sustainable economic solutions based on the common good in the wake of crises.

Anonymous said...

joann yukimura stands out in the crowd. she's a solid package. her only liability is that local's(not all of'em)can't stand her.
boom or bust we gotta stand up and stand together. like dylan said,'it's hard rain gonna fall'.

Andy Parx said...

t’s scarier still for renters who are paying inflated rents based on the mortgages of speculators who “bought high” and whose hours have been cut or sales to tourists are 25-30% off.

Many are not contemplating how having their income cut from 100,000 a year to 75,000 and not being able to afford to end their kids to fancy colleges and taking vacations, they’re worried about their income dropping from 30 to 20,000 and having to choose between rent and food.

They’re the “suckers” of this system where we always jump and salute when a developer talks about “job creation” because the jobs are not only degrading and low paying but they are the first thing to go when the owner decides cuts are needed.

Larry said...

These are islands. There is no alternative economic model yet aside from exploitation in one form or another (i.e., let someone mine the guano, sew grass hats for tourists, let them shoot the place up for military exercises, or give up land for military bases).

Really, if not tourism, what? The developers are also exploiters. They build, sell, count their money, send their kids to Yale, leave for Lake Tahoe.

It's not a simple problem. Which is not to say "let's give up", but some first class thinking may be needed sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

"Although homesteaders must pay mortgages to cover construction of their homes and lease payments for the land they are built on, they — unlike any other homeowner in Hawaii — can’t turn around and sell their property and reap the benefits of the equity they’ve created."

"So even though everyone else can, and is, buying up land in Hawaii, Hawaiians in the homestead program only get to pay to use it for a while — they’ll never own it. How nuts is that?"


It's not so crazy, Joan. If they could then sell their homes at their fair market value, then you'd have all sorts of non-Hawaiians buying them up and the properties would forever leave Hawaiian hands. It's similar to the County-sponsored affordable housing developements where the resale of the property is restricted so that it remains affordable and doesn't just become the original buyer's cash windfall. It's abought affordable housing; not real estate speculation.

MauiBrad said...

Joan reported, "What we need now, he said, are people with the vision and intelligence to guide Kauai through an economic meltdown."

Agreed, there are at least 5 issues here more important than HSF now, but it's a good one to tell where a candidate really stands.

I agree with 'anonymous' here that JoAnn Yukimura "stands out in the crowd" as the only Mayoral candidate who even has the potential to facilitate the solving of these problems. I also think Scott Mijares is unique among the County Council candidates in being able to facilitate changes and original solutions to these developing economic problems that the County will be dealing with.

And both of them are good on the litmus test.

Aloha, Brad

Katy Rose said...

Remember that Mijares supports "streamlining" government. He's a Republican. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, but do we really need someone who supports more privatization of the public wealth, regardless of where he stands on the Superferry?

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps we should be thinking in terms of 'disaster collectivism' and ways to institute viable and sustainable economic solutions based on the common good in the wake of crises."

I don't know 'bout that. government, no matter whose or what party's always screws things up and cost more. When there's self-interest involved, then we have that necessary scape goat and an obligated fixer.

Anonymous said...

You would almost think that the defining attribute of an economy isn't the continual cycle of economic expansion and recession. Every peak, over-enthusiastic speculators bubble at the belief that this time it's a new economy and recessions are a thing of the past. And every slow-down, overly glum (or gleeful, as the case may be) hand-wringers predict the Big One.

Aaron Stene said...

Joan, I don't know if you are correct to assert that DHHL homesteaders can't sell their land.

I saw a real estate ad here on the Big Island. The ad was selling a house on DHHL land over in Hilo.

In the fine print it did say you had to meet DHHL requirements to purchase the property. But nonetheless, your assertion is not totally accurate.

On that note, it seems you are talking out both sides of your mouth. You've criticized haoles for cashing in and running up home prices. But on the flip side
you are complaining that DHHL homesteaders are not able to do
the same thing. Talk about a double standard here.

Joan said...

Yes, they can sell their houses — to qualified beneficiaries with 50% blood quantum — but not the land, which is leased from DHHL.

You can view it as a double standard if you wish. I was merely pointing out that for many Hawaiians — the original inhabitants of these islands — this is yet another example of how they compete on an unequal playing field.

Aaron Stene said...

Joan,I've lived here my entire life
(almost 33 years).But I'm full blooded haole.I find it bit a bit tiresome that people like you try to express how the Hawaiians have been shafted over the years.

But crying over the past isn't going to get us anywhere.Heck I'm willing to bet that you haven't lived here your entire life.

In my opinion, there is too much spin going on from both liberals
and conservatives in this state.
Which will lead this state nowhere.

Back on topic, it is indeed a double standard when you rail against rich haole developers cashing in but DHHL homesteaders
cannot.

Katy Rose said...

I'm sorry, Aaron, but consideration of the impact of settlers upon Native lands is not unique to Hawai'i. Anyone born in the US of European descent needs to think about it.

It doesn't make us bad people that we were born white any more than anyone is "bad" for being born. But just as we inherit the benefits of good historical events, we inherit the legacy of the bad ones. One of the bad ones, to say the least, has been an explicitly genocidal policy toward Native people.

It's comfoting to say the past is the past and forget about all our responsibilities to restore justice, but we are all affected today by the deeds of the past. That is why we see such racial disparity in income and health statistics. That's not "cultural" or genetic - it's the result of brutal historical reality.

Clearly we have not done enough to set these things right. And whether we like it or not, those of us who have benefitted the most from the ongoing genocide of Native peoples bear the greatest responsibility. At the very least, we owe it to society not to get defensive when these questions are raised.

Anonymous said...

Katy said, "That is why we see such racial disparity in income and health statistics. That's not "cultural" or genetic - it's the result of brutal [?] historical reality."

Oh, Katy that is so much crap. You started out OK, but when you hit on their victimhood you make them out to be imbeciles who can't take care of themselves and need handouts to survive. What are they all autistic? What an insult to Native Hawaiians everywhere!

It IS totally a cultural issue. Immersing oneself in a Stone Age mentality can’t help but result in being out of sync with reality. The health issues have nothing to do with their victimhood. It’s a matter of caring enough about oneself to not pig out on fast food and starches. You are what you eat!

And I know the use of genocide is technically a correct usage, but it connotates mass murder off as opposed to obliterating a social groups. Overly dramatic, if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

> Overly dramatic, if you ask me. <

Then I won't ask you.

Instead I'll ask the Sioux, the Navajo, the Nez-Perce, the Apache, the Owens Valley Paiute, the Chumash, the Serrano, the Mi-Wok.

And I'll ask the Hawaiians.

I'll ask a hundred native nations who have had, and are having today, their lands exploited and taken from them. Whose disease and mortality rates are off the top of the chart, and whose poverty is below the bottom.

Meanwhile, you can turn away. Don't look, don't listen. Your mind is made up. Any further involvement in the issue will be a complete waste of your time.

Anonymous said...

And for the eyeball rollers and head shakers who are even now sighing that it wasn't genocide, get your ass on an airplane and go ask the 90-year-olds who are the great-grandchildren of the children who survived the Navajo Long Walk and Wounded Knee and the Owens Valley March and a hundred similar atrocities.

Hear their stories and see their tears and read the reports of the soldiers in the field, and tell them it wasn't genocide. Read the state governors' signatures on the scalp bounties and tell them it wasn't genocide. Study the records of Native mortality from 1849 to 1900, then look them in the eye and tell them it wasn't genocide!

Aaron Stene said...

I guess for me it really irritates me when people bring up the issue of Hawaiians bring victimized.

For starters, it will be almost impossible to turn back the clock.
Secondly, Hawaii's future is deeply in peril if it continues to politically fragment into competing groups.

I look at it this way, I am not a fan of groups like conservative Grassroot Institute of Hawaii's plans for the future of Hawaii nor I'm a fan of liberal groups like the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation.

There needs to be a middle ground found...or Hawaii will not be the Hawaii I remember.

Anonymous said...

> There needs to be a middle ground found...or Hawaii will not be the Hawaii I remember. <

That's what's at stake? You having "the Hawaii you remember?"

How about the Hawaiians having the Hawaii they remember?

Katy Rose said...

I'm not sure I understand the way the word "victim" has become so fetishized by those arguing against a reparative approach to historical injustice.

It appears that we're all supposed to recoil from the word -as if acknowledging that a person or people were the victims of a crime is akin to negating their abilities to recover from it.

The fact is that regardless of the word one chooses to describe the status of people who have suffered under deliberately unjust policies, the peoples themselves have been resisting those injustices for hundreds of years.

It is a testament to the spirit and courage of people who have been enslaved, displaced and subjected to policies of extermination that we have witnessed ongoing struggles for survival and justice. I would hardly call such activity the work of passive "victims" (if that is the sense in which the word is often tossed around.)

Further, restoring self-determination to a people who have had it snatched away has nothing to do with turning back any clocks.

Anonymous said...

The Akaka Bill is as close to self-determination Hawaiians will ever get. This isn't Britian-Hong Kong, with the Chinese looming. this is USA-Hawaii...a state, not a "protectorate"..and nobody is looming.

Assuming there is even a glimmer of real hope that Hawaii will become a soverign nation is delusional.

Besides, there arn't that many Hawaiians in the world, anyway, let alone here, compared to Chinese in Hong Kong.

Katy Rose said...

Gee- I wonder why...

Anonymous said...

I don't believe we have any responsibility to correct anything done by our great-great ancestors. I would not vote for it nor support it in any way.

In this country, everyone has the freedom to pursue happiness. Not necessarily attain it. And it says nothing about everyone being equal, except under God...not under any socio-economic political system.

Anonymous said...

"Why" doesn't matter. All that matters is "IS" (or "ARE").

Katy Rose said...

Do you similarly divest yourself of the legacy of the positive historical events which contribute to your well-being today?

I'm thinking of the formation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, environmental protections, worker's rights standards, social security, and so forth.

I mean, how can you claim one without the other?

Anonymous said...

Of course not! I take whatever benefits come my way historically and jetison the rest. History is what it is: the story of conflict, winners and losers. There is no "equality" holy grail out there.

Anonymous said...

I'm not responsible for either the benefits nor liabilities that have come my way historically. I play the hand I was dealt and work to personally improve my situation.

I do not attempt to play other people's hands.

Anonymous said...

The fact is that regardless of the word one chooses to describe the status of people who have suffered under deliberately unjust policies, the peoples themselves have been resisting those injustices for hundreds of years.

It is a testament to the spirit and courage of people who have been enslaved, displaced and subjected to policies of extermination that we have witnessed ongoing struggles for survival and justice. I would hardly call such activity the work of passive "victims" (if that is the sense in which the word is often tossed around.) <


Bingo.


> Do you similarly divest yourself of the legacy of the positive historical events which contribute to your well-being today?

I'm thinking of the formation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, environmental protections, worker's rights standards, social security, and so forth.

I mean, how can you claim one without the other? <


And another bingo.

But to me the following quote needs to be on billboards and TV ads and in print, because it hits dead center the debate on native rights:

"Restoring self-determination to a people who have had it snatched away has nothing to do with turning back any clocks."

Anonymous said...

OK, so let's all give back everything we ever took from anyone else in the past.

Drivel.

Move on.

Anonymous said...

I personally think anon 9:25 hit the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

Ethnic groups whose contact with America was forced as opposed to voluntary have fared poorly. My ancestors ate sh-t when they came to this country, but they did so willingly and not at the point of a gun or in shackles. That alone made a huge difference in their outlook and the perspective that they passed on to future generations.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with these haole dreams of Hawaii sovereignty is that while most contemporary Hawaiians do value traditional music, language, arts and sea faring skills, most are also wedded to the citizenship rights, social equality, and material culture that are part of modern society. The fact is, most of the state's indigenous people value their culture and are American nationalists. Drawn to aspects of traditional culture, they simultaneously embrace the rights and protections enjoyed under the federal and state constitutions.

Andy Parx said...

Really? Someone said “Do you similarly divest yourself of the legacy of the positive historical events which contribute to your well-being today?”

I'm thinking of the formation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, environmental protections, worker's rights standards, social security, and so forth.”

I mean, how can you claim one without the other?

The “legacy of the positive historical events which contribute to your well-being today?” Are you serious?

That’s a oxymoron. The current state of the protections “the legacy (of) the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, environmental protections, worker's rights standards, social security, and so forth” claim to ensure are nonexistent- if they ever existed. You Amerikans bought sold and shredded them.

Andy Parx said...

Oops
The quote from the previous email went all the way through
"I mean, how can you claim one without the other?"

Katy Rose said...

Yeah,Andy, they're in shabby condition,no doubt...but do you see the point I'm making? I don't understand how a person can be proud of Thomas Jefferson's accomplishments in some weird abstract way or prod of the constitution and Fourth of July or what have you but then claim no connection to slavery and genocide. In other words-you get the whole ball of wax, whether you like it or not.

Anonymous said...

Too bad, Andy. They like shopping at Walmart too much to want to overthrow anything. they don't share your radicalism.

Anonymous said...

I claim no connection to any of it. Being born in the USA to upper middle class parents, I just "fell into the stream of time and culture and socio-economic realities". It's neither my fault nor my problem nor my angst that I happen to be in a nicer part of the river than others.

Anonymous said...

Who's proud of Thomas Jefferson or the Constitution? I didn't train Jefferson or write that document, so what’s to be “proud” of? One can only be proud of or embarrassed by one's own actions...not those of others. Like the mother in court today who apologized for her murdering son's actions. Why is she apologizing? Did she teach him to carry a gun and blow away innocent bystanders? Was it her drug habit and inattention to raising her children the cause of the murder? Do all her kids murder people?

Anonymous said...

“It is a testament to the spirit and courage of people who have been enslaved, displaced and subjected to policies of extermination that we have witnessed ongoing struggles for survival and justice. I would hardly call such activity the work of passive "victims" (if that is the sense in which the word is often tossed around.)”

Ya! Like the genocide of the victim Marquesans! What goes around comes around. Besides it’s all past the statue of limitations. Sorry too late.

It’s funny how you bleeding hearts love to link the Hawaiians with the American Indians. No comparison there other than Stone Age civilization runs head on into a significantly more advanced one and looses. But all of them would be healthier if they didn’t stay to rot in unemployment and alcoholism on their reservations. The ones who’ve left and got jobs or went to school have by in large done quite well. But these PCBH’s (Politically Correct Bleeding Hearts) think we should keep them all on their reservations and preserve them in situ so that their long dead cultures survive as in a fish tank.

“I mean, how can you claim one without the other?”

Easy! I mean like, what are YOU doing for native Americans & Hawaiians, Andy...Katy? You’re just patronizing them and helping them to wallow in their own self-pity rather than taking advantage of all the things our modern culture has to offer and improving their lives, their health, and their self-respect. The sovereignty element is the losers and washouts of the Hawaiian community, not the self respecting ones who have made something of themselves. There are so many opportunities today that no one has to suffer for long unless they want to.

Anonymous said...

> There are so many opportunities today that no one has to suffer for long unless they want to. <

Good Lord.

No wonder we've had 8 years of Bush.

Anonymous said...

If you want to help the poor the best thing you can do is create jobs for them. Start and grow efficient businesses. A handful of entrepreneurs does more good for the poor than a hundred thousand anarchist and labor demonstrators smashing Starbucks windows at a g-8 conference, that's for sure.

Joan said...

My sentiments exactly, 11:38 p..m.

As for the last comment, oh yeah, let's grow our way out of this mess. Haven't you noticed that delusion is just digging us deeper.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, people don't need jobs, 7:00 AM. That just makes everything worse. What are you thinking?

Joan said...

My point was not about jobs per se but the false belief in the good of endless growth that drives capitalist systems.

And anyway, social justice work isn't just about giving people more money so they can have as much stuff as their oppressors. It's about acknowledging the injustices and changing the systems that continue to perpetuate them.

Anonymous said...

Super! Then we can do away with all those entitlement programs for the poor and disavantaged. Cool! I vote for putting that money into the roads and other infrastructure that we do not now have money for. Then we can name the improvements in recognition of said injustices and oppression. OK by me!

Anonymous said...

Justice and equality for all is just as much a pipe dream as any occupying the brains of opium den residents.

Anonymous said...

My point was not about jobs per se but the false belief in the good of endless growth that drives capitalist systems.

Jobs without growth...good trick.

Y'know, communist economies rely on constant growth, too.

What's an economic animal to do? Hunt and gather? Grow yer own?

Anonymous said...

gosh, these people just don't get it do they?

Anonymous said...

no sense in arguing with you, anymore.