[ OUR OPINION ]
ANY doubt existing after the November election that Hawaii's political landscape has changed disappeared with Saturday's special congressional election. No longer can unswerving allegiance to the heretofore powerful public-employee unions assure Democrats victory at the polls. That could mean a larger Republican presence only if the GOP puts forth appealing candidates. Otherwise, a new breed of Democrat will answer the public's call.
Case’s victory reflects
changing isle politics
THE ISSUEEd Case has won the special election to represent rural Oahu and the neighbor islands in the U.S. House.
Before the election, Ed Case was seen as potentially winning the 2nd Congressional District seat because of a split of like-minded voters between former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga and state Senate Majority Leader Colleen Hanabusa, who shared liberal, union and ethnic support. As it turned out, Case won more votes than Matsunaga and Hanabusa combined.
The two Republicans among the five major candidates -- state Rep. Barbara Marumoto and former Rep. Bob McDermott -- garnered less than 12 percent of the vote. Still celebrating Governor Lingle's election and unable to field a charismatic House candidate, Republicans paid little attention to the special election.
Case's strong showing in the September gubernatorial primary election and his victories in the two free-for-alls created by the death and posthumous election of Rep. Patsy Mink reflected a nationwide trend toward moderation. A post-November-election Gallup Poll showed that 39 percent of Americans believe Democrats are too liberal, and 54 percent of Democrats think their party needs to moderate its liberal image.
Case earned organized labor's opposition because of his support for civil-service reform in the state House, while other Democrats obediently killed the legislation. Case declined to continue as House majority leader in the following session because of his discomfort with his colleagues' lack of fortitude. Union members either stayed away from the polls Saturday or ignored their unions' endorsements of Matsunaga and Hanabusa.
"The old status-quo Democrat cannot prevail anymore in the larger political races because that candidate cannot represent the mainstream of Hawaii today," Case told the Star-Bulletin after his election to the two-year term. "There is absolutely no accident that the two biggest races in Hawaii this year, the governor's race and the 2nd Congressional race, were won by moderates -- anti-status-quo, change-oriented candidates. One was a Republican and one was a Democrat."
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The new Congress convened today with President Bush's economic stimulus proposal first on the agenda but far from gaining prompt acceptance. Although Republicans control Capitol Hill, a tax package that provides breaks for the wealthy must include fair treatment of the middle class and convincing evidence that it will provide the necessary stimulus for it to gain public favor.
Tax stimulus should
benefit middle class
THE ISSUEPresident Bush is asking Congress to adopt various tax breaks to boost the economy.
An elimination of taxes on corporate dividends was known to be the centerpiece of the proposal even before Bush announced it today, and it drew immediate fire from Democratic leaders. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota called it "the wrong idea at the wrong time for the wrong people."
Democratic Rep. Ed Case, Hawaii's newest member of Congress, says he will agree to Republican-proposed tax cuts if he becomes convinced they will "regenerate our economy and maintain and enhance revenues and not substantially drive the federal budget into further deficit." That is a tall order, and the Bush proposal should undergo severe scrutiny on that basis.
Supporters of reducing or eliminating the tax on dividends complain that dividends now are taxed twice, once as corporate profits and then as income to shareholders. R. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, suggests that eliminating the tax on dividends to shareholders could lift stock prices by 20 percent. Other economists doubt that it would significantly spur economic growth or reduce the nation's unemployment rate.
The tax plan is expected to face less resistance in the House than in the Senate, where Republicans lack enough votes to override a filibuster. Republican senators will not give Bush a blank check. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says a dividend tax cut would have to be accompanied by measures that help middle-income taxpayers. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., adds, "I think it's very important that we give low-income Americans a break."
A central question is whether an economy that continues to grow needs much of a stimulus. The economy grew by 2.8 percent last year, although only 1 percent in the final quarter, while the jobless rate remained at about 6 percent. If a war with Iraq is avoided or brought to a quick conclusion, many economists expect a 4 percent rate in annual growth in the second half of this year.
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