Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, April 14, 1999

No more taxes,
ya big lug nuts

STATE Senate President Norman Mizuguchi's "outta the box" idea to give the public school system the power of taxation is zany all right, but it goes against my personal choice of turning the entire government over to state auditor Marion Higa.

I've always felt the best form of government is a benevolent monarchy, especially if the monarch is someone like Higa, who knows how to balance a checkbook.

Higa will be honored next week by the Hawaii Chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors for her work in uncovering millions and millions of dollars in waste in various government departments during the past several years. The auditors love Higa because she's cool and their profession suddenly gets to bask in some of her residual coolness. Let's face it, auditors, as a group, aren't generally considered party monsters. But since Higa started whupping government okole, the auditors have taken to wearing dark sunglasses and saying things like, "What's the bottom line, Kline?" and calling each other "numbers dudes."

But I seem to be the only one who wants Higa to take over state government (and Bishop Estate, the gas companies and public unions, for that matter), so we are left with the usual passel of politicians to attempt to come up with new ideas for saving the state.

Unfortunately, politicians are raised on the government teat and so are genetically incapable of conceiving any unique or ground-breaking ideas. It's not really their fault. You couldn't ask one of those automobile assembly robots programmed to do nothing but install lug nuts to suddenly invent a new method of propulsion. The robot has not been programmed for such creativity. Its entire world since inception has been lug nuts. Lug nuts are the way, the truth and the light.

IN the hard-wired brains of many Hawaii Democratic politicians, taxes are lug nuts. Taxes are the way, the truth and the light. Taxes are everything and everything is taxes. Taxes are to be lowered, raised, shifted, renamed, gussied up, camouflaged, fondled, groomed, and, most of all, considered the answer to any problem.

So it was not surprising that Mizuguchi thinks his "out of the box" idea to give the school board the power of taxation is revolutionary. He simply cannot understand that to those who have not received the "tax-is-God deep brain implantation" the idea not only is NOT revolutionary, it is a transparent sleight-of-hand ruse designed mainly to shield the Legislature from fiscal accountability. If the public education system is the state's main budget item and the Legislature doesn't want to deal with it, then why have a Legislature?

More important, substituting one group of tax-collecting elected officials for another is simply shifting chairs on the Titanic. The problem is lack of leadership and planning, not the physical act of levying, collecting and spending taxes.

Instead allowing senators to marvel at the glittery mysterious object Mizuguchi has levitated "out of the box" -- whatever that means -- maybe legislators should take a road trip to other states and see what they are doing to spur economic growth.

Or, better yet, after Higa is done whooping it up with those wild and crazy internal auditors, why not hire her to find truly unique ways the state can attract new business and investment. That would really make the numbers dudes rock.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to or

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