Economic revival ‘unfinished’ — Obama

While Hawaii Democrats cheered President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, the state’s GOP issued a statement that said island Republicans were less than thrilled.

“President Obama tonight laid out a strong and compelling course for Hawaii and our country,” said Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono after the president’s hourlong speech Tuesday. “He was right to focus on the economy and jobs. Our economy is still trying to recover from a deep recession, and we should do everything we can to create sustainable economic growth.”

Meanwhile, Hawaii Republican Party Chairman David Chang said: “President Obama’s State of the Union address did not seriously address the most pressing issues Americans face: job creation and the economy. With a 7.9 percent unemployment rate, $16.5 trillion national debt, a negative growth rate the last three months of 2012 and over 1,300 days without a budget from the United States Senate, it is time to get our fiscal house in order. We must balance our budget, not through higher taxes but (by) reducing government spending and enacting meaningful reforms.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz praised Obama for his commitment to a “thriving clean-energy economy.”

That “ensures that we will get people back to work and continue to address climate change, the most urgent challenge of our generation,” he said.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who represents Neighbor Island and rural Oahu residents, said she supports the president’s move to end the war in Afghanistan.

“I have long called for an end (to) the war in Afghanistan and to bring our troops home as quickly and safely as possible,” she said. “It is crucial not only to end this protracted war, but that we refocus on more pressing threats to our national security.”

In his nationally televised speech, Obama called on lawmakers to delay automatic cuts to military and domestic programs and not to harm the country’s economy by allowing so-called sequestration to go into effect.

Gabbard said she agreed with the president.

“We cannot allow devastating sequestration cuts to take effect and eliminate jobs,” she said. “Hawaii is one of the top 10 states that would take the biggest hit as a percentage of our overall state economy, with more than $400 million annually lost in defense contractor revenue.”

She referred specifically to 133 apprentice and 30 temporary jobs that would be lost at the Pearl Harbor shipyard.

“These are hard-working, middle-class families who will lose good wages and health benefits,” she said. “We have a responsibility to control spending, but we cannot do that at the expense of education and health care for our keiki and kupuna.”

She pointed specifically to proposed cuts to Head Start and Title I grants, which would eliminate 112 jobs and leave 8,115 fewer students and children served. A projected 7.8 percent cut to Hawaii’s senior nutrition programs would decrease the number of home-delivered meals for those in need, she said.

Hirono also said it’s important to avoid sequestration, which she called the “indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts that are projected to cost Hawaii some 11,000 jobs.”

“Averting these cuts before March 1 is not just an economic necessity; it’s a matter of national security,” she said, adding that such cuts would impact the military’s readiness, including the strategically important Asia-Pacific region.

Gabbard applauded Obama’s pledge to increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles, double the use of renewable electricity generation and create a new energy security trust that would use oil and gas revenue from federal lands to finance clean energy research.

Chang responded that “the American dream isn’t achieved through more government, but (through a) vibrant free economy where people have the opportunity to succeed.”

“Ronald Regan and John F. Kennedy both knew that our free enterprise economy is the source of prosperity for all Americans, regardless of where we came from,” he said. “President Obama, unfortunately, believes free enterprise is the cause of our problems . . . Now is the time for real reforms and real solutions that put more money in our pockets and creates a better future for our keiki.”