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By Dane Stein. May 2, 2012 - 6:49 am
Former Hawaii Congressman Ed Case recently gave an interview to The Kalamalama, saying “There is no election more important to the country, besides that of the President, than that of a United States Senator.”
This year Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, will retire, having held his seat for 22 years, offering politicians a once-in-a-generation opportunity as the Hawaii primary elections approach this August.
Poised to fill Akaka’s Democratic seat are Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, a Democrat who holds a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Case, who practices law for Bays, Lung, Rose, and Holma in Honolulu. The two Democrats will face each other in the August primary and in November the winner will take on Republican Linda Lingle, the former governor and hands-down favorite to win the August primary for her party’s nomination.
Case, who has taught at HPU, sat down with Kalamalama to talk about what his priorities would be if he were elected, what he thinks it would mean for Hawaii, and for students at HPU.
He outlined issues such as partisan gridlock, tax reform, Social Security, energy, and the environment.
“The single largest challenge we have in our country is to change the governance in Washington… I think Washington is broken, and I’m not alone,” he said of the partisan paralysis on so many important issues in Congress.
“I think it’s fair to say that the rest of the country outside Washington looks inside of it and says ‘What the heck is going on?” he said.
A Rasmussen Report this year found that 68% of Americans think Congress is doing a poor job, as the economy has limped along, the health care crisis worsens and social services face more cuts.
“These divisions have to be overcome if we’re going to solve any challenge whatsoever,” said Case. “Some of that can be fixed through some of the laws and the rules.”
With our economy in fragile condition, he said that this has to ultimately come from the private sector, where jobs are really created. “Government provides the right atmosphere for the private sector to create jobs.”
Much of that atmosphere comes in the form of tax policy, which Case said has not been reformed in a generation. “Growing our economy takes fair levels of taxes and fair levels of regulation, otherwise people don’t run businesses.” For many, he said, our tax code is simply not getting the job done in terms of facilitating economic growth.
Solutions to this problem would come with reform, and with easing the trade policy between states like Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region. To this end, Case said we have to look toward potential partners such as China and toward supporting education in order to facilitate a mutually beneficial relationship.
“Throughout my career I’ve tried to work towards consensus and cooperation. I’ve tried to find the best ideas and make the solutions that I think will work. I’ve tried to actually acknowledge challenges instead of sweeping them under the rug.”
High on the lists of many citizens’ priorities is reforming the U.S. health care system. “The costs of health care itself is escalating rapidly, far higher than the rate of inflation,” Case said.
According to the World Health Organization, the United States spends more of gross domestic product than any other country on our healthcare. Bringing healthcare costs down certainly seems to be important, along with Social Security costs. In an interview with Maui News, Case suggested eventually raising the age of retirement to help ease costs, as the life expectancy of Americans increases.
To add to the docket of pressing national issues is the rising cost of fossil fuels, and implementing alternatives to this system. “I believe in peak oil,” Case said, expressing support for new energy policy requiring increasing investment in cleaner energy. Some of that investment could come in the form of federal support for educational programs, such as those here at HPU.
Increasing the amount of federal support to HPU will have direct benefits if international students come here to study, which would help Hawaii’s economy as well. Case said that the presence of international students at HPU and other universities is so significant that he considers education “an export industry.”
As Senator Akaka closes out his final term, voters must decide for themselves who they think will be the best fit for his replacement, so that Hawaii and the nation as a whole have a sustainable future with the support of a cooperative Congress.
For help registering to vote: http://hawaii.gov/elections/voters/registration.htm