Council Resolution Against Citizens United Passes

A resolution by the County Council urging Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and money is not speech passed the County Council today, but only after a lot of complaining by county councilors. Several councilors expressed reservations or outright opposition to the bill before it finally passed, 6-3.

Resolution 266-15 stemmed from Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which gutted protections against excessive corporate spending in elections. The resolution got overwhelming support from residents who testified on it.

“The vast majority of the American population is completely angry and completely alienated…. We will believe corporations are people when corporations are in prisons,” said one. Another noted that in the early days of the United States corporations “weren’t for profit. They were for a single project and they were terminated when the project was done,” and that the constitution had never mentioned them, much less granted them the status of legal human beings, as Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions had.

State Senator Russell Ruderman, testifying for himself, urged the passage of the resolution. “The whole political system has become Obscene in terms of the cost of competing,” he noted. “They might as well put it on ESPN and call it a sport.”
“Giving corporations the same rights as citizens is the biggest single threat to our democracy,” testified Justin Avery. “…All of the hard work that was done in this county to build a healthy, vibrant democracy was shot down by a 5-4 court decision in the Washington, DC.”

But the testimony didn’t convince some council members.
“I will be voting no, not because I’m voting for crooked government…,”maintained Hilo Councilor Aaron Chung. “What I find wrong about this amendment is that it vilifies corporations…the main problem is that we have this wealth gap…. We see it even on this island, where the rich sometimes try to use their muscle. “ But at another point in his speech, he identified a different problem: “The problem isn’t the corporations, it’s the Super PACs” (enormously wealthy political action committees—which, one supporter of the amendment pointed out afterward, had been allowed to grow so huge and wealthy because of the Citizens United decision).

Councilor Daniel Paleka,   (Western Puna), said he was “taken aback” by Citizens United, but he identified another problem as more important: voter apathy caused by long election cycles: “If you look at American Politics from outside of America, many friends of mine from outside the states say the election period is just too damn long.”

Greggor Ilagan (Eastern Puna) echoed Chung’s comments, noting that the title of the bill singled out corporations as a culprit: “I will be voting no as well, but if you change that title, I will support it whole-heartedly.”

Dennis Onishi (South Hilo, Kea’au) and Chair Dru Kanuha (Portions of North and South Kona) also expressed some reservations about the bill, but still voted for it, as did Maile David (South Kona-Ka’u-Volcano), Valerie Poindexter, Margaret Wille (Kohala) and sponsor Karen Eoff (North Kona). A companion resolution, 267-15, which urges the Hawaii State Association of Cunties to also enact a resolution supporting the constitutional amendment, passed by a 7-2 margin after Ilagan switched sides.

Commentary: “Safe and Accurate” Food Bill Isn’t What it Seems

Editor’s Note:  Rep. Mark Takai has sent this letter out to constituents on his e-mail list.  We pass it on to you.  –AM

Aloha Friend,

This week, the House will consider H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.  Under the guise of consumer protection, this bill would do nothing more than limit the ability of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require labeling of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) products.  While it includes vague language regarding voluntary labeling, it would also nullify current state laws that regulate GMO foods.  I simply cannot support this bill. 

The people of our nation deserve to have consumer clarity, and be able to make their own decisions on the type of food they buy.   In order to meet this goal, I have joined with Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-04) to cosponsor legislation that will return transparency to the food labeling process.  Along with many of my democratic colleagues, I support H.R. 913, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act.  This legislation would enhance GMO labeling by creating a national standard to label food products developed by the FDA.

To date, our nation does not have a uniform system in place that allows consumers to make educated decisions. For nearly 15 years, we have had voluntary labeling; however, standards often differ and lead to variances in the definition of natural and GMO products. Clearly, this process must be improved. 

 Enacting legislation like H.R. 913 would harmonize U.S. policy with the 64 other countries that require the labeling of GMO foods, including countries possessing some of our largest agricultural markets.  This would make it easier for producers, processors, and packagers to comply with labeling requirements, and in turn help export our products around the world.

 If you have any questions regarding my stance on GMOs please feel free to contact my office  here .

Mahalo,

Mark Takai

Beware Phone Scammers from “Department of Water Supply”

If you get a phone call from someone who says you owe money on your water bill ad demands payment by phone, hang up, whether you actually owe money or not.  It’s a scam.
Both the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply (DWS) and the Hawaii Police Department have issued a press releases warning the public of the scam. The DWS says it’s received reports from residents who have experienced such calls from someone claiming to be from the DWS.

“The individuals call Water Supply customers and threaten to shut off water service because of a past due water bill,” says the water department’s release. “The DWS would like to inform the public that these calls are fraudulent and an attempt to receive payment over the phone.”

Anyone who receives such a call should report it tothe Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311. Members of the community may also call the DWS Office at 961-8050 to file an additional report.

Hawaii Named “Worst State to Make a Living” but “Best Place to Retire”

 

A financial Web site called money-rates.com has named Hawaii the worst state in the Union to make a living.

To establish those ratings, the site looked at five factors: average wages, state tax rates, the cost of living, the unemployment rate, and the incidence of workplace accidents and work-related health problems.  The three “best places to make a living,” according to the survey, were Texas, Washington and Wyoming, all of which have no state income tax at all.

In determining Hawaii’s low status, the site said, “Cost of living is the main issue. Hawaii has the highest cost of living of any state. One of the biggest reasons why cost of living is so great in the state is higher than average housing expenses. According to Zillow, the median home value of a house in Hawaii is $537,300, which could price some buyers out of the market. Additionally,  salaries in the state do not compensate for its high cost of living – the average wage in Hawaii is about typical for the rest of the nation. Hawaii has one of the highest income tax rates of any state. Adjusted for taxes and the cost of living, workers in Hawaii get the equivalent value of just 55 cents for every dollar they make.”

The bad news about Hawaii was picked up by nationwide sites such as such as USA Today as well as some local news sources in Hawaii. But those sites missed the other side of the coin:  money-rates.com, in another analysis, has rated Hawaii as the nation’s  best place to retire.  In that survey, it took into account not just state income tax rates, but other tax forms such as property tax.

“As you might expect, Hawaii scored well for its climate, but that was not its greatest strength,” noted the site. “The category in which Hawaii ranked No. 1 out of all 50 states was life expectancy for people at age 65 today. There is just something about the place that agrees with people. One caution is that Hawaii has the highest cost of living of all 50 states, but it does somewhat offset that by having the lowest property taxes as a percentage of property value.”

Factors included in  “Best Place to Retire” analysis included the number of seniors in the state’s population (“just for how many of their peers seniors can expect to find in different states, but also how well each state is attracting older residents”), the state’s economic climate (“taxes, cost of living and unemployment”), the state’s rates of violent and property crimes, the weather, and senior life expectancy rates.

Money-rates.com is a financial Web site aimed primarily at investors; its aim, according to its masthead, is to “find you the best bank rates.”

 

Shoe Made from Fishing Debris Kicks Off “Parley for the Ocean” Talks

recycled-fish-net-ocean-trash-sneakers-adidas-4The UN-affiliated environmental organization Parley for the Ocean has teamed up with Adidas Shoe to create a prototype running shoe that it claims is made from recycled plastic ocean debris. The shoe, made from materials collected off the coast of West Africa by a Sea Shepherd expedition to shadow illegal trawling activity there, features a surface made from blue plastic monofilament used in fishing lines and netting worldwide. It made its public debut at the New York kickoff party for the UN-sponsored Parley for the Ocean talks, which bring together public and private sector participants in an effort to turn around the rapid decline of the world’s oceans.

“2048 seems to be the overall accepted deadline [according to scientists] for the collapse of all commercial fisheries, and already by 2025 all the coral reef ecosystems in the world will be gone. Leading environmentalists already see the end of most sea life happening in 6–16 years,” notes the Parley for the Oceans Web site. “Diminishment of biodiversity in our ocean is the single greatest threat to the survival of humanity. With diminishment of species in our oceans comes diminishment of the quality of life for humanity. What are the causes of this continuing mass extinction and imminent threat to our collective survival?”

The site notes several major factors in the oceans’ decline, including commercial overfishing, climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution with plastic and chemicals. Plastics have become a major problem; they make up a large part of the Texas-sized “garbage patch” of floating debris that has formed in the Pacific between California and Hawaii, for instance, and local groups annually haul tons of it from remote Kamilo beach on the Big Island, where it has actually begun to form plastic sand.

“Artists, musicians, actors, directors, fashion designers, journalists, architects, product inventors, and scientists have the tools to mold the reality we live in and to develop alternative business models and ecologically sensible products to give us earthlings an alternative choice, an everyday option to change something,” it notes. “To succeed, we need to find ways to synchronize the economic system of mankind with the ecosystem of nature. And make environmental protection fiscally lucrative for pacesetting major companies. Parley has been created to accelerate a process of change that is already in progress.”

The new shoe, whose innovative design even got spread in the avante-garde art site thisiscollosalcom, is just one small example of what can be don toward that “synchronization.” A company called GStar RAW, in collaboration with musician Pharrell Williams, already produces a line of “denim” clothing made from fibers extracted from marine debris. Parley for the Ocean founder Cyrill Gutsch told the Web site takepart.com, “Realistically we will retrieve around 10,000 tons of plastic this year from shorelines and by retrieving discarded fishing nets, which we do in collaboration with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.”

Takepart.com also reported that Parley, working Sea Shepherd, has “already started collecting plastic in China, Australia, Hawaii, and the East and West Coasts of the United States. Collection will begin soon in Brazil, Mexico, the Maldives, Greece, France, and the United Kingdom.”

Ige Signs Renewable Energy Bills

Governor David Ige has signed  four energy bills,  including one that could make Hawaii the first state in the Union to require utilities to generate 100 percent of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources. That bill, HB623, will phase in the use of renewable electricity sources until 100 percent of electrical utilities’ power output is generated from such sources by the end of 2045. Other bills would require the University of Hawaii to use renewable energy, would make it easier for consumers to purchase solar-generated power from sites away from their homes, and would create the post of state administrator to promote hydrogen-based energy technologies. The bills now become law.
“As the most oil dependent state in the nation, Hawai’i spends roughly $5 billion a year on foreign oil to meet its energy needs. Making the transition to renewable, indigenous resources for power generation will allow us to keep more of that money at home, thereby improving our economy, environment and energy security,” Ige said.
“Setting a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard will help drive investment in Hawai’i’s growing clean energy sector,” Luis Salaveria, Hawai’i’s director of the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, who noted “Our commitment to clean energy has already attracted entrepreneurs and businesses from around the world.”
“Renewable energy projects are already producing cheaper power than new fossil fuel projects in Hawai’i, and it’s only going to get cheaper as renewable technology advances, unlike fossil fuels which will only grow more expensive as they become more difficult to extract from a shrinking supply,” said Representative Chris Lee, Chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee. “The faster we move toward renewable energy, the faster we can stop exporting billions from our local economy to import expensive fossil fuels.”
Ige also signed bill SB1050, which will set up a framework to allow renters, condominium owners, and others to purchase electricity generated at an off-site energy facility, such as a large-scale solar farm. The new law will also provide relief to homeowners and businesses located on highly saturated circuits that cannot accommodate additional photovoltaic installations.
“As of March 2015, there are about 56,000 PV/Solar systems on rooftops. These folks are saving tremendously on their electricity bills. That’s great, but what about the 44 percent of Hawai’i residents who don’t own their homes? And those without roof space? SB1050 allows people to form a hui, find a piece of land, and purchase or lease however many PV panels they want and then get a credit on their electricity bill for the energy they produce. We spend $3-5 billion annually buying fossil fuels; this is an awesome concept that will keep some of the money here to help our economy,” commented Senator Mike Gabbard, who chaired the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy when bill SB1050 was created.

Forbes: Honolulu is Nation’s “Most Overpriced City.”

Forbes Magazine has confirmed what most of us already suspected:  Honolulu is the most “overpriced” city in the U.S.

Forbes rated the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas–i.e., the cities and their suburbs–with populations of over 600,000, on four criteria: median family income,  the Housing Opportunity Index for the fourth quarter of 2014–in other words, how much a home might cost, on average during that period; the percentage of available housing that was affordable to a family with median income, and the cost above the national average of groceries, utilities, transportation, health care and  “miscellaneous” goods and services. Honolulu’s stats:

Median Family Income:$82,600

Q4 2014 median sales price:$509,000

Housing affordable at median family income: 35.3%

Cost Above National Average:

Groceries:55.3%; Utilities:77.8%; Transportation: 26.7%; Health:15.7%; Misc.: 22.5%

The top four overpriced urban areas, after Honolulu, were mostly in the Northeastern U.S.:  the Bridgeford/Stanford/Norwalk metropolitan complex in Southern Connecticut;  Boston, MA; New York, NY and Cambridge, MA.  San Francisco and Oakland took the No. 6 and No. 7 spots.

Capital Improvements Budget Is Out

  The state legislature’s proposed annual budget is out, with its annual gift to the construction industry: the Capital Improvement Projects  (CIP) funding.  The biggest CIP allocations on this island are a $61 airport firefighters’ training facility at Kona Airport, $55 million in continued funding for the Judiciary Complex in Kona, and $8.5 million for a “multi-purpose workforce development processing facility.” Other big island projects include: 

·         $1.2 million for the plans and design of a new hospital in Kona

·         $2.35 million for the design and construction of a Kamuela post-harvest facility and vacuum cooling plant

·         $330,000 for improvements to the research campus in the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park

·         $30.212 for the construction of a new combined support maintenance shop complex for Hawaii Army National Guard at the Keaukaha military reservation

·         $1.675 million for Youth Challenge Academy renovations and improvements at Keaukaha military reservation

·         $2 million for the design of Building A phase 1 renovations at Hilo Intermediate School

·         $1 million for the construction of bleachers at Honokaa High School

·         $230,000 for the construction of drainage improvements and a raised covered walkway at Mountain View Elementary School

·         $450,000 for a new baseball batting cage at Waiakea High School

·         $1.58 million for the design of a new classroom building at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School

·         $300,000 for parking improvements at Kealakehe Elementary School

·         $1 million for the design and construction for Pu’u Wa’awa’a structure improvements and dam compliance

·         $400,000 for the plans and design for improvements at the North Kawaihae small boat harbor

·         $600,000 for the land acquisition and design for a community center in Waiakea Uka

·         $200,000 for building renovations and improvements at the Paauilo slaughterhouse plant

·         $3.5 million for airfield improvements at Hilo International Airport

·         $1.425 million for physical modifications to improve navigational safety and operational efficiencies at Hilo Harbor

·         $3.6 million for Kohala Mountain Road drainage improvements by mile post 10.60

·         $8 million for the rehabilitation of Ninole Bridge along Mamalahoa Highway (route 11)

·         $15 million for repair and maintenance of feeder roads and alternate routes for Highway 130

·         $660,000 for land acquisition to extend the Daniel K. Inouye Highway from the Hilo terminus to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway

·         $1.5 million for the construction of portable trailers at Hawaii Community College

·         $350,000 to renovate the tennis court at Honokaa High and Intermediate School

·         $2.46 million lump sum for renovations at Hilo High School

·         $1.23 million lump sum for renovations at Konawaena Middle School

·         $780,000 lump sum for renovations at Kohala High

·         $4.99 million for photovoltaic projects for East Hawaii HHSC region

·         $3.492 million total for renovations at Kona Community Hospital

·         $750,000 for an 80 bed intake unit at Hawaii Community Correctional Center to address overcrowding

Protests Planned for International Trade Talks at Waikoloa

A series of  protest and educational  events are  being planned to coincide with talks scheduled to take place at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott on the  Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new trade agreement that would further lower trade barriers between at least twelve countries around the Pacific Rim. The talks, scheduled to take place March 9 through 15, will involve trade and industry representatives to work out details  preceding a ministerial-level meeting in April. At least 12 countries –The U.S., Japan, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada–have been participating in the talks, though South Korea and additional Latin American countries have made noises about joining.  The Obama Administration, at its official Web site on the talks, calls the TPP the “cornerstone” of its trade policy and maintains that in addition to attempting to open  more markets to U.S.-made products, the administration is negotiating for “robust environment standards and commitments from member countries”  and “strong and enforceable labor standards” in all the signatory nations.  But opponents claim that the treaty will lead to the export of millions of American jobs, strengthen pharmaceutical monopolies, encourage the privatization of lands and resources used by indigenous peoples, and erode national sovereignty in favor of corporate power.

Protest groups plan to place peaceful pickets around the resort throughout the week, culminating in a peaceful protest rally n Saturday, March 14, from 11. a.m. to 1 p.m.  They  have also  scheduled events with “educational speakers” at the Hilo Women’s Club on Wednesday, March 11, at 6 p.m.,  and at the West Hawaii Civic Center Council Chambers in Kono on Friday, March 13, at 6 p.m.   Among those speaking will be a representative from Global Access to Medicine;  The Third World Network, and  Unite Here, Local 5; as well as Palekapu Dedman of the Pele Defense Fund and Dr. Jane Kelsey from the University University of Auckland, New Zealand.

For more information about the proposed treaty, visit the Obama Administration’s TTP Web site.   For a good independent overview of the issues involved, see this article in Salon.  For more information about the protests, contact or visit:

Malu ‘Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action
P.O. Box 489 Ola’a (Kurtistown) Hawai’i 96760
Phone 808-966-7622
Email ja@malu-aina.org www.malu-aina.org

https://www.facebook.com/stoptpphawaiiisland

 

 

–Alan McNarie

Scrapped Incinerator, Now What?

(From our print edition)

,by Alan McNarie

Late last month, Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration withdrew its Request for Proposals for a garbage-to-energy plant. Department of Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd told the Chronicle that Kenoi didn’t intend to revisit his decision during his term in office. But the question remains: what to do with all that garbage?
In killing the incinerator, the administration cited the decreasing cost of oil, which has dropped from over $100 per barrel to less than $50 in recent months. It also noted the uncertainty about the future of the Hawaii Electric Light Company, which may be bought out by a Florida corporation named NextEra Energy. The administration did not cite the heavy grassroots opposition that had gathered against the proposal, spawning Web sites, Facebook pages and at least two online petitions that had gathered over 2,000 signatures. Opponents criticized the project’s estimated $100 million price tag and its proposed location on Hawaiian Homelands in Keaukaha. They also argued that the county simply didn’t produce enough garbage for the plant to operate economically.
“Since the County does not produce enough garbage to meet its quota, it will be required to pay off the incinerator company for the garbage it cannot produce—to [the] tune of millions of dollars per year!” contended one petition, in part.
According to Councilmember Margaret Wille, that drain could have been compounded by the county’s contract with Waste Management, Inc., which requires the county to pay for a minimum tonnage of garbage tipped per day at West Hawaii’s Pu`uanahulu Landfill, whether it generates that much trash or not. The incinerator, Wille told the Chronicle, would have made “two things that we’re on the hook for forever.”
The incinerator announcement came in the wake of headlines, only days before, that the county had cancelled $100,000 contract with the nonprofit Recycle Hawaii to conduct recycling education. County officials denied allegations that the cancellation was a retaliation against incinerator opponents; the administration claimed it simply had other uses for the money. Leithead-Todd told the Chronicle that her department had experienced some “expenditures that were not in our budget,” for instance, including the need to haul green waste from certain areas of the island to Hilo in order to avoid contaminating coffee-growing regions with an invasive beetle, and the need to evacuate, then re-occupy, Pahoa’s transfer station/recycling center because of nearby lava. While the county hoped to recoup some of its volcano-related expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said, “I can’t count on getting that money from FEMA this year.”
Buklarewicz said the county had renewed Recycle Hawaii’s contract to run the County’s recycling centers for another year.
With the incinerator dead and the county’s Hilo landfill years overdue to close—although the County also hopes the federal Environmental Protection Agency will grant permission to extend the landfill’s life yet again by steepening the slopes allowed for the landfill’s sides—it still appears that some sort of recycling/waste diversion program will be vital to the county’s future. Both Buklarewicz and Wille are pushing for an educational component in that program. Buklarewicz hopes to renegotiate a contract, possibly with an emphasis on zero-waste school programs similar to one already underway at Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy in Waimea, where garbage from the cafeteria, for example, is turned into compost for gardening. Wille has written a resolution urging the Mayor to issue a new request for proposals for one or more recycling education contracts. As of the deadline for this article, that resolution was scheduled to receive its first hearing on February 17.
“In my opinion, the zero waste programs that fail are the ones that don’t have a strong education component,” Wille believes.
She’s also introducing a “whole package” of waste reduction bills at the Council on March 3. Within reasonable transition periods, she hopes to get all plastic foam and green waste diverted from the landfill to recycled uses. Other bills would require contractors to provide recycling services and give the Director of Environmental Management more leeway to divert waste from the Hilo Landfill to the Kona side—something now allowed only in emergencies, but which Wille believes should be possible in other circumstances, such as to avoid penalty fees.
“I don’t want to be paying penalties where if we brought another seven tons over there, there wouldn’t be penalties,” she contends.
Leithead-Todd is also working on new diversion measures, including a “multi-year contract to do composting,” which may include using a portable tub grinder that could be moved around to various locations to grind up the mulch and compost in place, instead of trucking it to a composting center. The county will also be establishing another geen waste mulching facility in May at the Waimea Transfer station. It will pay for these new green waste services, in part, with a new $21.25 per ton tipping fee that will begin on March 1 for green waste from commercial operators at the Hilo and Pu‘uanahulu landfills which will be the only places that accept commercial loads of greenwaste, though residents can continue to drop off non-commercial greenwaste for free at Hilo, Pu‘uanahulu, Kealakehe, Ke’ei, Puak?, P?hoa and Kea‘au. The county currently pays more than $1.6 million a year to recycle green waste—organic matter such as cut grass and tree branches—into mulch.
Another huge component of the county’s waste stream is consumer packaging: all those brightly colored, advertising-covered boxes, cartons, cans, bottles, bags and wrappers that fill retail shelves and cross fast-food counters.
Bularewicz notes that over the years, county diversion programs have been pulling a greater and greater variety of materials from that waste stream. But he also acknowledges that most of that material now goes to China for reprocessing—burning fuel and aborting potential U.S. jobs. Wille talks about providing “incentives” and “disincentives” such as tax breaks and fees to make companies take responsibility for the costs of their packaging. Some big companies, such as Wal-Mart, are already taking back their cardboard shipping boxes—but not consumer packaging. Others, such as McDonalds, are switching from plastic packaging to biodegradable paper—McDonalds has even started using 100 percent recycled paper napkins. But many local drive-ins are still passing out plastic foam. Hawai’i’s HI-5 program and bag ban have made significant inroads in the waste stream—but persuading mainstream companies to convert to bulk bins, such as local natural food stores use, and reusable containers like the glass bottles that local soda companies once distributed seems a more distant goal.
But perhaps a goal worth pursuing. Getting garbage out of the waste stream could be easier if less garbage was coming in.

New Study: Nationwide, the Recovery was Only for the Rich. But in Hawaii, Less So….

Hawaii has a reputation as a  posh place where movie stars and Internet moguls  have their multimillion-dollar hideaways.  But according to a new study by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, the gap between the rich and the poor here is one of the narrowest in the country.

The study, released under the title of  ‘The Increasingly Unequal States of America,  the study does a state-by-state analysis of the generally increasing gap between the United States’ least prosperous and most prosperous citizens. It noted, for instance, that the largest  Not surprisingly, it found that over the last three decades, income for the very wealthy has risen much faster over-all for the very wealthy than for the country as a whole. “Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent took home well over half (53.9 percent) of the total increase in U.S. income. Over this period, the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent. Simultaneously, the average income of the top 1 percent grew over 10 times as much—by 200.5 percent,” it notes.

But the state-by-state breakdown yields some surprises, especially where Hawaii is concerned. Nationwide, for instance, it takes $385,000 in annual earnings to be among the nation’s top one percent in income.  But to be a member of the top one percent in Hawaii, you only need to earn  $279,000  Only seven other states–mostly in the South– have lower bars for joining the One Percent Club.   But the news gets even better when you compare the average annual  per capita income with the per capita  income of the state’s One Percenters.  Expressed as a “ratio of income inequality,” Hawaii’s is the narrowest gap in the country, at 14.6 to one–in other words, a One Percenter here earns about 14.6 times as much as the average guy on the street.  That may sound bad, until you compare it to Connecticut, to which many executives and brokers drive home after a long day on Wall Street: the average One Percenter there  makes 51 times as much money as the average Joe–the biggest gap in the country. New York is only slightly less unequal, at 48.4.

Of course, it could be that many of  Hawaii’s billionaires are “snow birds” with their official residences in states with lower tax rates.

On the downside, the average wage-earner in Hawaii is seeing his or her income growing at a glacial rate. Since 2009, when the economic recovery officially began after the Great Recession, personal income in Hawaii has grown by only 3.5 percent. But that growth has been shared pretty much across the board, though it’s growing slightly faster for the elite: the poorest one percent of Hawaii wage-earners saw their income grow by an average of 3.4 percent, while One Percenters’ income grew by 4.2 percent.

The slow personal income growth of Hawaii’s 99 percent is is still better than that of the  nation’s as a whole. Nationwide, the study concluded,”income growth has been lopsided since the recovery began, with the top 1 percent capturing an alarming share of economic growth. Over this period, the average income of the bottom 99 percent in the United States actually fell (by 0.4 percent). In contrast, the average income of the top 1 percent climbed 36.8 percent. In sum, only the top 1 percent gained as the economy recovered.”

–Alan McNarie