(expanded from op-ed printed in the Honolulu Advertiser – also published on the Hawaii Reporter)
The 2005 American Community Survey for California, recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, confirms Native Hawaiians’ ability to prosper without special government programs. The estimated 65,000 Native Hawaiian residents of California, with no Office of Hawaiian Affairs or Hawaiian Homes or other such race-based entitlements, enjoyed higher median household ($55,610) and family ($62,019) incomes, relative to the total California population ($53,629 and $61,476 respectively) despite having smaller median household and family sizes.
California is particularly appropriate for comparing earning power, because California has the greatest Native Hawaiian population outside of Hawaii; and it happens that the median age of Native Hawaiians residing in California (33.7 years) is almost identical to that of the general population of California (33.4 years).
The fact that Native Hawaiians are quite capable of making it on their own was suggested by Census 2000 which showed the then-60,000 Native Hawaiian residents of California enjoyed comparable relative median household and family incomes despite their 5 year younger median age.
California a fluke?
Some may argue that the Native Hawaiian statistics in other states represent an out-migration of well-to-do Native Hawaiians. The idea of large swaths of rich Native Hawaiians leaving paradise for the mainland seems counter intuitive, but for argument’s sake, let’s consider it.
If in fact all the rich Native Hawaiians are leaving the state of Hawaii, let’s say because of onerous taxes or the lack of fine avocados, the lower statistics of those Native Hawaiians who have stayed in Hawai’i are simply an artifact of the well-off moving away, and not due to any systemic bias against Native Hawaiians. Removing the rich from our calculations hasn’t made anyone poorer, but will obviously lower the group average.
It is much more likely that those Native Hawaiians who have chosen to leave the state did so for economic reasons, and their significant success outside of the state reflects poorly on the race-based programs only implemented in the Islands.
Oblivious to the respectable earnings of Native Hawaiians, some media in Hawaii have cited the 2005 ACS as showing “Poverty still grips Hawaiians” and “Census survey shows need for assistance to Hawaiians.” But the 2005 ACS sample survey for Hawaii shows Native Hawaiians in Hawaii, who average only 24.6 years of age, enjoy median family income of $56,449; and 55% of them occupy homes they own. Hispanics in Hawaii, in comparison, average 24.2 years of age, have a median family income of $54,803 and only 46.2% of them occupy homes they own. If anything, if one were looking for an ethnic group in Hawaii that was needy, the census data might suggest Hispanics. But nobody is anywhere near suggesting race-based programs for Hispanics in Hawaii – that “honor” is reserved for Native Hawaiians alone, and the census data has been carefully selected and misrepresented to fit that political point of view.
Could it be age?
The sample chosen in Hawaii for the ACS 2005 survey showed a 14 year difference in the median age for Native Hawaiians living there. Age makes a huge difference in earning power. For example, the Census 2000 data shows Hawaiians 35 to 44 years had over $9 thousand greater household income than Hawaiians ten years younger. This more than erases the difference reported of less than $6-8 thousand between Native Hawaiians and the total population of Hawaii.
The ulterior motive becomes apparent
Now with this backdrop of improved Native Hawaiian prosperity when treated equally, and a clearer understanding of the effects median age can have on income statistics, imagine how surprised we all are to learn of the shocking information discovered by the Honolulu Advertiser and Jim Dooley, “OHA push for Akaka bill topped $2M”. (Adv. 11/27/06.) Well over $2 million of taxpayer money spent to lobby for a bill to break apart the State of Hawaii and give away much, perhaps all, of the state and its governing power & jurisdiction to a brand new sovereign nation of, by and for Native Hawaiians!
The Akaka Bill got started when once well-intentioned race-based programs were challenged in Hawaii – programs that have existed for decades, and have apparently done a great disservice to the overall health, wealth and well-being of Native Hawaiians when compared to their counterparts in other states without such race-based entitlements. In addition to the millions for lobbying to break up the State with the Akaka Bill, the bloated (and very powerful) bureaucracies of OHA and HHCA have cost the State of Hawaii over $1 billion just since 1990. Federal entitlements for Native Hawaiians have added over $1 billion more.
By continuing to paint Native Hawaiians as a special victim class, through willful misrepresentation of the data, supporters of race-based entitlements preserve their rationale at the expense of truth.
There is no doubt that there are people in need in Hawaii – but these people are of all races and backgrounds. We neglect too many of those in need when we target our help only to a certain ethnicity, and do more damage than good to the ethnicity we target. Race is an illusion, compelling yet meaningless – and a closer look at the statistics used to promote that illusion shows us clearly that no Hawaiians, of any race or ethnicity, have a need for the Akaka Bill.