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LETTERS for January 6 issue

January 6, 2011
Lahaina News
GIFT CARDS MEAN DOUBLE SALES TAX

It finally got to Maui and Lahaina BIG time. I have never seen so many gift cards offered in almost every Lahaina store as this year. Every store is selling cards for every other store, playing on the sentiment that a gift of cash is “tacky.”

Well, I, for one, find nothing tacky about it, and sales tax is only paid once. Those cards are a windfall for the state. First you buy the gift card and pay sales tax. Then the recipient is not only stuck with the store the card is for, but pays sales tax again when he or she goes shopping with the gift. Cash has no sales tax and is accepted in any store. Plus, you might want to use your gift (money) for two or more purposes.

The beneficiary is the state. The victim? The consumer.

Next time you want to show your appreciation, but don’t know the person you want to give something well enough to make a personalized gift, consider cash. Whenever you buy a $100 gift card, it costs you actually $104.17, and the one you give it to has to pay sales tax anyway, whether he/she pays with cash or a gift card. There should be a law against that double taxation. It may be legal, but it is certainly not morally right for the state to double tax something that is meant as something positive, especially at Christmas time.

Unfortunately, you can use your credit card to buy gift cards, and then you have the credit card bill — probably with high interest, since not many people pay all their credit card bills in full each month — on top of everything else.

So, finally, a $100 card may cost you about $150 before everything is said and done. So we have a second beneficiary: credit card companies.

Think about it the next time. Maybe it is worth it to do a little research on the person you want to buy something, or stay with cash.

I am sure it is as much — if not more — appreciated when you get paper instead of plastic, and the state can’t do a quick rip off.

(I am guilty as charged myself, but I will change it next year... I hope!)

JOHN BLAHUTA, Lahaina



THE ROOTS OF HAWAII'S UKULELE

I have always enjoyed reading “Up Front Lahaina,” as you have the courage to make a statement on viewpoints!

In answer to your question about the ukulele, that is a good one!

The original “Hawaiian” uke is from Portugal, brought over by the Portuguese immigrants in 1879. It was called Braguinha, or “little fiddle.” It goes back to the year 1,000 B.C., where it was manufactured by Portuguese craftsmen on the island of Madeira.

The name “ukulele?” There are two stories of how this instrument got its name.

“Uku” means fleas, and “lele” means jumping. The very rapid movement of the fingers of Jaoa Fernandes strumming over the strings looked like jumping fleas to the Hawaiians when he arrived to Hawaii with three other craftsmen who started building ukuleles.

The Hawaiian word for “little fiddle” is pila (little fiddle) li‘i li‘i (small). Thus, the correct name is pila li‘i li‘i. This is the title of master artist/teacher Henry Kaleialoha Allen’s complete text and learning book for this unique instrument! It is a one-of-a-kind book with all Hawaiian songs in it!

FYI: The Spanish vaqueros, or cowboys, brought over the Spanish guitar.

The only true Hawaiian stringed instrument is the kika kila or, the Hawaiian steel guitar, invented by Hawaiian Joseph Kekuku at Kamehameha Schools in 1876.

SHERRON NOHEA ALLEN, West Maui



BEST WISHES IN 2011

The Equality Hawaii ‘ohana wishes all our donors, volunteers and allies a happy holiday and new year. Thanks to you, it has been a historic year, not only in Hawaii but across the nation.

Thanks to you, we have made unprecedented advances toward achieving our vision for a Hawaii where all people are treated equally. There is much work still to be done, but the 2011 horizon shines as a bright beacon of hope... a hope you created.

Please accept our best wishes for this holiday season and an eager anticipation for a joyous 2011!

THE BOARDS OF EQUALITY HAWAII, EQUALITY HAWAII FOUNDATION, EQUALITY HAWAII ACTION FUND



MAHALO FOR SUPPORTING HAWAII'S LIBRARIES

As we begin a new year, the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS) and the Friends of the Library of Hawaii (FLH) would like to thank the hundreds of donors who contributed to the success of our joint statewide “Keep Your

Library Open!” (KYLO) and “Keep the Doors Open!” fund-raising campaigns.

“Earlier this year, the Hawaii State Public Library System was facing budget cuts equivalent to two furlough days a month for all our employees,” said State Librarian Richard Burns.

“Through the combined efforts of HSPLS, the Friends of the Library of Hawaii and widespread public support, we were fortunate enough to have the nearly $3 million restored to our Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 operating budget during this past legislative session. With the restoration of these funds to our budget, we have been able to eliminate all furlough days for FY 2011 and have begun to recruit to fill more than 40 of

our vacant positions. It is now time to sincerely thank all our donors and to bring these campaigns to a close. Both HSPLS and the Friends will end our fundraising campaigns on December 31.”

The “Keep Your Library Open!” funds that HSPLS received totaled more than $178,000, and the Friends received more than $127,000 in donations to their “Keep the Doors Open!” campaign. Donations to HSPLS were deposited into

each library’s trust account as directed by the donors.

With spending restrictions still in place, these donated funds will now be used in many beneficial ways, such as increasing library collections, enhancing technological support and improving operations and facilities for the public.

While we are no longer facing immediate furloughs for our staff due to the previous budget cuts, we are still struggling to keep up with the rising operational costs (i.e. utilities, postage, delivery, etc.) for our system.

Even though these campaigns are drawing to a close, we still need and welcome any donations to support your public libraries. Tax-deductible donations may still be made to the Friends of the Library of Hawaii at 690 Pohukaina St., Honolulu, HI 96813, or online via www.friendsofthelibraryofhawaii.org.

The success of these campaigns and the outpouring of support offered to our public libraries during this very challenging time has humbled and inspired us all. Mahalo nui loa and best wishes to all for 2011!

HAWAII STATE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM, FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY OF HAWAII



NOT MUCH TO CELEBRATE WITH OBAMA'S TAX DEAL

We enter 2011 with a few more dollars in our paychecks. For about 98 percent of Americans, the extension of Bush tax cuts and the new payroll tax holiday will make it easier for us to afford a gallon, rather than a quart, of milk for our families each month, and to fill our tanks almost as high as we did with lower gas prices last year.

On the other side of the Great Divide, the richest 2 percent of Americans will get vast windfalls from the deal Obama made with the GOP — ample enough to refurnish second and third homes or get those boats they’ve always needed.

But studies show us that they won’t. They’ll sock that money away for the kids’ inheritance. We’ll get no stimulative boost to the economy, but it sure will help some dynasties from dying.

To give the rest of us some lunch money, House and Senate Republicans insisted this Christmas season on stuffing huge lumps of gold into the elite’s stockings. That’s what happened when they extended tax cuts for the highest-income Americans and lowered the estate tax, which only gets levied on the wealthiest of the wealthy.

The rich keep getting richer... and richer. But there is some stimulus in this deal, and it’s better than no deal at all. And hey... didn’t we all get a boost from the “payroll tax holiday?” We didn’t have that before! A holiday after Christmas for a whole year! Hallelujah, Auld Lang Syne, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Let’s hold the confetti for a minute and take a closer look. Just because the deal was better than no deal, that doesn’t mean it was a good one, even given this difficult political climate.

In addition to non-stimulative and expensive tax cuts and estate tax favors for the wealthy, this package has another poison pill in it. In the 2009 Recovery Act, the Making Work Pay provision gave those of us making less than $95,000 annually ($190,000 for couples) a refundable tax credit. Income above that level didn’t see a tax credit. It was progressive. Those most likely to use the money, stimulating the economy, received the money.

The new tax deal replaces this Making Work Pay credit with the Payroll Tax Holiday.

According to the Center on Economic Policy Research and the Tax Policy Center, a little more than half of tax-filers will indeed get a bigger paycheck due to a tax holiday than they would have under the Making Work Pay credit. However, about 42 percent of taxpayers will actually pay more taxes in 2011 than they would have if the Making Work Pay Credit had been extended.

So, the less you earn, the more you need, the less you get under this tax deal.

Further, critics of this aspect of the tax deal worry that this payroll tax holiday could become permanent. Congress has been more than squeamish in the past to reinstate taxes after temporary cuts — the incoming Congress even more so. But either way, this shift signifies political willingness to start altering the way we pay for Social Security in way that has never been politically possible before.

As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) cautioned in a floor debate in December leading up to the vote, “You’re talking about the beginning of the end for Social Security.” Couple this with a deficit-hysteric incoming Congress, and it’s hard not to fear for the long-term well-being of America’s imperiled middle- and low-income families.

Entering the New Year, I am feeling less financially secure. There’s not much to celebrate with Obama’s tax deal, which accomplished far less than what is necessary or possible.

KAREN DOLAN, Institute for Policy Studies
 
 

 

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