It breaks my heart to see so many people struggling to find jobs, or working more than one job to support their families. Many people can't even afford to rent a home, and are instead living in their car, or camped out in a tent. It used to be that if you worked hard, you could succeed. This is the "American dream." But for far too many people, that just isn't true anymore; the dream has become a nightmare.
Economic downturns are particularly hard for those of us who live in Hawai`i. Rent, food, and gasoline prices are always so much higher than on the mainland. While Hawai`i's 6.4% jobless rate is better than the national average, economic growth here is sluggish; Hawai`i ranks 44th in the nation. The unemployment rate does not reflect those who are underemployed and those who are on the verge of losing their homes on a month-by-month basis. Indeed, jobs and opportunities seem to be drying up everywhere you turn.
All of this occurring is unacceptable and unnecessary because our beautiful island paradise has so much to offer. Our people have so much to offer. There is so much potential here for economic growth and opportunity, if only we would put our heads and our hands together and work as a team.
WELCOME OUR VISITORS
In Congress, I will fight to relax the onerous and overly burdensome visa requirements for visitors coming from countries such as China and India. The present policies are outdated and do not reflect the fact that China and India now have booming economies and a burgeoning middle class. These people have money in their pockets and are eager to see the world. Many of them want to visit Hawai`i, but because it's so hard for them to get tourist visas, they end up going elsewhere. The beaches of Bali, Thailand, and Vietnam are teeming with big-spending Chinese tourists. If we can get these visitors to come to Hawai`i instead, it will have an immediate and significant impact on Hawai`i's tourism industry.
HAWAI`I AS RENEWABLE ENERGY LEADER
I will work to ensure that Hawai`i becomes the destination of choice for green energy startups, including wind, solar, biomass and wave energy technology. As a Congressional representative, I will work to provide tax and other incentives for green and high technology businesses to locate here. Such industries would not only provide good jobs for our people, but will help us achieve greater energy self-sufficiency.
HAWAI`I'S NEW AGRICULTURE--ACHIEVING FOOD SELF-SUFFICIENCY
Far too much of the food we eat has "travelled" thousands of miles to get to our dinner table. That journey consumes expensive and limited energy, and of course negatively impacts the quality of the food. With Hawai`i's year-round growing season and fertile soil, we have a unique opportunity to become free from this dependency on imported food. Working toward and ultimately achieving food self-sufficiency is an exciting and achievable goal. A "renaissance in agriculture" built around a small farmer lifestyle of living more in harmony with the "aina would boost our local economy, improve the quality of what we eat and feed our children, allow Hawai`i to be food self-sufficient, and so much more.
To get this agricultural renaissance off the ground, it is critical that we support our local farmers. Hundreds of small family farms have sprung up all over Hawai`i, often on fallow, abandoned plantation land. These are truly hardworking people, and our community needs to support them, both through farmer-friendly policies and assistance, and through encouraging people to "buy local." More agricultural land should be made available, and protected from urban development. Farmers should have priority when it comes to access to water sources. Helping small farmers helps all of us, by reducing our dependence on food imports and moving us forward toward a truly sustainable future.