Federal dollars in Hawaii: cost of Iraq war; Inouye/Stevens

One of the points I have heard raised by those who fear Hawaii's independence is how much federal funding the islands receive as a state, much more than we pay in taxes. Aside from the fact that a large portion of these funds are through the military, the actual local benefits of which are mixed at best, there are two items today that I would like to highlight for pondering in this context.

First, MoveOn has released a series of reports on the cost of the Iraq war by Congressional district. Total cost to taxpayers in Hawaii's two districts: $1.47 billion. The reports break this down in terms of what it could have paid for in each district in health care, Head Start, teachers, scholarships, renewable energy, affordable housing, or public safety officers.

Next, this Advertiser piece on Inouye sticking by his tight senatorial buddy Stevens as he is being investigated for corruption. (Related editorial in the Star-Bulletin.)

Interesting quote from Inouye:
We had the unbelievable chore of trying to convince our colleagues that we were part of the United States and worthy to be called Americans.

The article says:
...their partnership for Alaska and Hawai'i has been unshakable, helping to insulate the states from losing out on federal money when political control of the Senate changes. Their seniority on the Senate Appropriations Committee, particularly its defense subcommittee, gives them an ability to steer federal money back home and the internal power necessary to get other senators to go along.

This also brings to mind a recent post on Talking Points Memo blog (one of my daily visits). "Here's an interesting graphical representation of where the federal earmarks go, courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation. The image shows earmarked federal dollars on a per capita basis by state."

As you can see, one fact stands out pretty clearly: Alaska bags a lot of earmarks. The runner up states tend to be smallish states. And that's a clear effect of the disproportionate weight small states get in the senate. But, still, Alaska gets almost four times more in federal earmark dollars than the next runner up, Hawaii.

Another interesting way to look at this is, look at the top three states: Alaska, Hawaii, and West Virginia. All smallish states but each also have senators that have been in office, respectively from 1968 (Stevens), 1963 (Inouye) and 1959 (Byrd).

Hawaii as a small state will always get a disproportionate amount of federal funds per capita, but the fact that it is #2 behind Alaska is very likely due in large part to the influence—through seniority and teamwork—of these two senators.

And in the Advertiser article, Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, notes that Alaska and Hawai'i may be at a disadvantage over time by relying too much on Stevens and Inouye to deliver. "I think that they, by being geographically dislocated from the Mainland, unfortunately sometimes they are forgotten or less thought about," and says, "Someday, Senator Inouye isn't going to be in office, and neither is Senator Stevens."

Posted: Sun - August 19, 2007 at 10:34 AM    
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Published On: Aug 19, 2007 03:46 PM
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