November 22, 2002
Senator Sam Slom
Hawaii State Senate
State Capitol Room 221
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Re: Sea Change or Short Change?
I have mixed feelings about the speech you delivered on November 21, 2002 before the Moiliili Resident Managers Association. Although you are an entertaining and affable speaker, you gave me the impression of being a vindictive person because of your prolonged gloating over the disgrace of the "twenty-sixth senator" - I understand you were referring to the leader of the United Public Workers who was convicted of 100 federal felony counts for following in the footsteps of other corrupt leaders. You implied that Democratic legislators were guilty of his crimes because they had "gathered around" or associated with him. You characterized your fellow politicians as corrupt criminals, but you said that you were "squeaky clean" and would "never be indicted."
I also received a poor impression of you because you characterized Hawaii's public servants over the past 42 years as being "guilty of malfeasance, theft, mumbling and stumbling," as if there had not been a single honest and industrious public servant in all that time. You did mention two glowing exceptions: yourself, and an auditor whose reports or recommendations everyone ignored.
And I was dismayed by the contemptuous attitude you displayed towards people who are presently worried about the "sea change" Republicans have in store for them now that a Republican governor has been elected. Their worries are caused by the anti-labor, pro-business rhetoric promising a Republican orchestrated "sea change" after the Republican governor-elect takes office. You said worried workers "just want to vote and don't want to work." Throughout your speech you reflected the typical attitude of other pro-business politicians and many members of the Chamber of Commerce - I was a member - that labor is naturally lazy and under all circumstances is the enemy. You complained three times about labor benefits, which are, as far as you are concerned, all cost and no gain. Instead of wanting to serve the whole people, your party has apparently divided the people of Hawaii into only two parts, Labor and Business, in order to serve the latter over the former.
I thought your attitude towards labor was particularly ironic given the workers whom you were addressing: resident managers are usually members of the lower middle class and are not the anti-labor type of businessman your speech was tailored for. Of course due to the authoritarian aspect of their real estate work, resident managers naturally identify with landlords and authoritarian personalities instead of the maintenance and janitorial men and women they supervise, hence your speech no doubt made a positive impression, but the intelligent ones are not apt to cut their own throats. After your speech, I got wind that the Republican "sea change" you extolled during your speech is a matter of great concern to a few resident managers who fear the Republican plan might have a negative impact on resident managers. "Out-sourcing" and "turning employees into "independent contractors to cut down benefit costs" was mentioned.
That reminded me of a speech given before the Chamber of Commerce by a leading consultant representing the out-sourcing business. He described in vivid terms the horrors of having employees on the payroll, and said employment agencies would be glad to provide the same services at a lesser cost by taking employees onto their own payrolls, cutting pay and benefits. He mentioned other strategies such as replacing full-time employees with part-time employees to reduce payroll-related costs, and turning employees into independent contractors. Thus the out-sourcing consultant profits by helping business owners cut workers' throats while employers wash their hands of humane, personal relationships with their employees.
You mentioned the high cost of insurance to independent contractors. And you referred to an upcoming Republican "reform of the insurance commissioner's office." The insurance cost you quoted was not that of a resident manager but rather of an independent professional such as a doctor grossing many times a resident manager's income. In any event, I wondered how resident managers or other employees could be classified as independent contractors inasmuch as they are using their employer's equipment, work on their employer's premises, and have no other clients. I understand that the "independent contractor" misclassification is quite popular all over the country. Perhaps your party might consider reforming the local Labor Department office.
You specifically mentioned the "exorbitant" cost of health insurance to "small" businesses, a classification within which you apparently have included the independent contractors - or why would you raise the issue? Then you ridiculed the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act for being held up as an example to the nation, and complained that health insurance legislation should require employees to share a large percentage of the cost. Now that the health-care business in collusion with Wall Street and politicians have managed to gouge so much money out of the public and defraud the public too, the high cost is blamed entirely on the poor family's high demand for services. And now it appears you would have the employee pay what he cannot afford to pay or else be uninsured. As the Act stands - please correct me if I am wrong - the employee may be charged no more than 1.5% of his pay, up to half of the premium - the employer must cover the balance. But what about the employee's family insurance, which is very expensive? In effect, you would have millions of people join the ranks of the millions who have no insurance at all. Of course the privileged "small" business persons you represent would continue to have the best care; and I do not think that includes, for example, resident managers - they would not even have Mao's barefoot doctors if "small" business has its way.
On the other hand, I do believe there is some truth in your gossip about politicians. I simply got the first impression that you are a vindictive and mean-minded politician - everyone I know speaks very highly of you. In any event, you say things will change for the better. Is there really going to be a sea change for the better in Hawaii, Senator Slom? Or are the sands just shifting around on the same old beach again?
David Arthur Walters