Wow, what an exciting election. The presidential race was called early, the City and County of Honolulu had 19 precincts without enough paper ballots, which held up voting on Oahu and delayed information on local races, and there were some surprising results.
Mahalo to all who ran, stuck their necks out, shared their views and gave the people of Hawaii more choices. We applaud you.
Sadly, while the number of registered voters went up to 706,000 this year, up from 691,000 in the 2008 presidential election, only 437,000 people voted (compared to 456,000 in 2008). This means that only 62 percent of registered voters actually voted, down from 66 percent four years ago. Despite the efforts of many organizations to "turn out the vote," we lost ground and need to repair this.
With the election now over, it is time to get back to the task at hand - improving our economic health, bringing down our debt and fixing broken systems because challenges are mounting.
* National unemployment (based on the national average) was 5.8 percent, according to Northern Indiana Data Plus.
* The national debt was at $10,699,804,864,612 as of Dec. 31, 2008, according to PresidentialDebt.org.
* Real median household income was $51,726, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 Census report.
* The personal savings rate was 5.4 percent for the year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
* Foreclosure starts were 0.88 percent for the year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
* The poverty rate was 12.5 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
* People receiving food stamps was 32 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
* National unemployment is 8.1 percent, based on the year-to-date average through October, according to Northern Indiana Data Plus.
* The national debt stood at $16,239,903,510,894, as of Wednesday, equating to $51,600 per citizen or $141,632 per taxpayer, according to USDebtClock.org.
* Real median household income is $50,054, according to the U.S. Census Bureau report of September 2012 for 2011.
* The personal savings rate was 3.9 percent for the first quarter of 2012, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
* Foreclosure starts were 0.99 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
* The poverty rate was 15.1 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
* The number of people receiving food stamps is 46 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Our national debt has skyrocketed, raised by more than $5.5 trillion in four years (compared to the $4.7 trillion increase during President George W. Bush's eight-year term). This while our personal incomes and savings have declined, costs are rising, homes are still being lost, and more are in poverty and receiving assistance than before.
On a state level, the state's unfunded government employee health and pension benefits liability is estimated to be roughly $21 billion and growing, more than $25,000 for every man, woman, and child in Hawaii. The county's share of this debt is said to be approximately $400 million, with $90 million set aside to help pay this down.
We cannot lose sight of these big issues and kick the can further down the road. We are unfairly saddling our children with unfathomable debt. Worse, we are doing so at a time when there are insufficient job opportunities. With many unemployed or underemployed, fewer are contributing toward paying down our escalating debt and the job market is tough.
A January 2012 Georgetown University study reports that unemployment for students with new bachelor's degrees is 8.9 percent; 22.9 percent for job seekers with a recent high school diploma; and 31.5 percent for recent high school dropouts.
More jobs are clearly needed and small businesses create jobs. Therefore, we must work together with elected officials on policy and programs that strengthen the economy so that businesses can thrive.
When they do, jobs are generated, incomes grow, more tax revenue is produced and debt can be brought down. This has to be a top priority in 2013.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.