The Hawaii Exodus – A Great Strength and Opportunity

Aloha Sands

By: T. Jeffersonian

We were voyagers!  The Disney character Moana acknowledged this at the end of song We Know the Way.   The song itself exclaims, “When it is time to find home, we know the way”.  Recently the Honolulu Civil Beat described an exodus of Hawaiians for the mainland.  The Beat contributed the likely culprit for the exodus as the increasing difficulty in owning a home and making a life here in Hawaii.  More young local Hawaiians people are drawn to the allure of somewhere else because of this difficulty. Is it really the difficulty that is causing young Hawaiians to move away or is it their expanded global awareness and their desire to embrace the cultural and possibly even their biological inclinations to explore?  The cause of the exodus is probably due to a little bit of both – too expensive to live here and a biologically driven desire to explore.

Though they might not be as renown as Hawaiians for being explorers and voyagers, Palauan, Chamorros, Samoans, and Fijians to name but a few other islanders, all routinely leave their island homes for jobs overseas.  Typically, these other Pacific Islanders will work for several years overseas, earn a small fortune, and then return home.   After their returns home, they stay home for a few years, and then go back overseas, earn more, and return home again.  Overseas jobs pay very well because they are challenging, difficult, and dangerous.  When the islanders return, their money lasts for a long time because the costs of living on their islands is affordable.  This is not so in Hawaii.  Here cost of living is high!

During each of the past three years, more than 3,000 Hawaiians have left Hawaii for the United States mainland.   It is possible that Covid 19 caused shutdowns to the Hawaiian economy will increase the annual number leaving.  10,000 people leaving over three years is less than one percent of the entire Hawaiian population.  This is not a big number but political leaders are growing more concerned with why young Hawaiians are leaving and with how to remove those conditions that are causing them to leave.  Even though our state economy may come back, the memory of what the state’s economy was like during Covid 19 will not be soon forgotten.  If given a choice whether to go through another pandemic on Hawaii, many more of the people might likely chose to leave.

The Hawaiian people and their culture are our state’s greatest strength and perhaps also its greatest opportunity as well.  Political leaders should harness young Hawaiian desires to explore and voyage as one possible means to make the state wealthier and even more globally renown.  Being globally renown can encourage investment and attract new businesses.  Political leaders should remove some of the taxes which would enable returning Hawaiians to keep more of their mainland and overseas earned incomes.  Reducing taxes would mean bringing in other sources of replacement revenue like lotteries, casinos, aquaculture, marijuana, medical care, transportation, and renewable energy.  We cannot lose what we have taken decades to build.  The tourism and federal government sources of income must be fully restored after the pandemic.  We need them. 

The other sources of income mentioned must be built and grown around the legacies with the intention of the new revenues exceeding the legacies.  The pandemic has painfully revealed that the Hawaiians economy must be diversified and intensified far away from the vulnerabilities caused by our reliance on tourism and federal government business.  Our political leaders must privatize and deregulate our economy to attract more businesses so that we can diversify without additional government expense.  Hawaii is currently $1.4 billion short in revenue.  Elon Musk is worth $195 billion.  Bill Gates is worth $132 billion.  How much would each of these billionaire entrepreneurs contribute to Hawaii’s economy (and operating revenue) if they could more easily make Hawaii a main hub or the main hub in one of their business ventures?  Unfortunately, Forbes ranks Hawaii the worst of the 50 states in terms of being friendly to businesses!  The barriers to businesses here must be removed.

The companies that send other islanders abroad to work usually reside on those islands.  This is not the case in Hawaii.  Hawaiians desiring to work overseas or in the mainland use foreign and mainland based contracting companies or they pay out of their pockets, planning never to return permanently to Hawaii.  Lowering the General Excise Tax and lowering the individual income tax would enable Hawaiians to start and operate overseas contracting companies here.  The ships that explored the world were built on our islands.  There were no taxes preventing us from building those ships historically.  If we lower and remove the taxes, we can build the companies that enable Hawaiians to truly explore the world again, not because we are forced to leave because we cannot afford to live here but because we were born to explore.

Saint Louis, Missouri has the famous Gateway Arch which recognizes the city’s importance to westward expansion and exploration.  Many Hawaiians and other Americans will correctly say that the Arch also signifies the westward conquest of Native American peoples.  That is sadly too the case.  Hawaiians would be wrong however to suggest that Kamehameha was Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King.  If you would like to debate it, I suggest we do so at Nuʻuanu Pali where Kamehamehaʻs warriors forced Maui Chief Kalanikupule’s men to their deaths off of the cliff.  Roughly 400 warriors died at that site.  Reciting a prayer of respect for your enemy after a battle, does not undo the atrocity.  Hawaii becoming a new Gateway to West has nothing to do with conquest.  A new Gateway to the West has everything to do with sharing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and being a beacon to other Island peoples through our culture, our technology, our drive, and our character.  Critically ill islanders in Samoa, the Marshall Islands, and other locations come to Hawaii for care. 

Expand this care and expand the number of Hawaiian first responders that we can offer other islands.  Caring for the critically ill is a cause higher than self.  A cause higher than self is the challenge pulling some of our young Hawaiians away. They search for an opportunity to matter, to make a difference, and to be remembered.  We should encourage and educate them in every possible way to succeed in their desires and voyages to help others globally.  Our political leaders should reduce their taxes so they can keep more of the incomes that they make when they return home.  We should reduce the General Excise Tax so Hawaiian “ships” (companies) can be operate from here to take our strength out into the world again.  I will leave you with Moana’s lyrics: 

“And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me

It’s like the tide

Always falling and rising

I will carry you here in my heart, you’ll remind me

That come what may

I know the way”