American Samoa: Prosperous Paradise, or Plantation Prison?
In speaking with a friend of mine who had spent the last month off island in Hawai’i and other places Stateside, I was welcoming him back.
I said "Welcome back to ... well, I'm not sure what to describe it as"... to which he replied with a smirk something that was rather negative.
He said, "Prison! The Rock!" and then kinda shook his head...
Now this gentleman is a forward-thinking individual. He is a successful business person that has done well for him and his family for many years, but he like myself is someone who is in the 30 to 45 year old age range who sees what is going on in American Samoa, and the direction things are heading, and is now so tired of how things have been, he is not interested in being a participant. I will personally be surprised if he is living here as his main base 12 months from now.
Why is that? Why would someone who has lived here for better than ten years, who has succeeded here, and even has family here want to leave and not come back?
Why would they view coming back here as prison?
(Now, to be fair, he was joking as he said this to me, but as we all know in order for a joke to be funny it has to be rooted in some truth.)
I'll tell you why. One of the biggest reasons is that he sees how ridiculous it is to be successful here and how many regulations, fees, taxes and laws are going to hinder his success, profitability, and ultimately his happiness while increasing his stress here.
He sees that at the rate things are going, this place is going to self-destruct. He sees the downward trend that we are in right now as evidenced by the current items in front of the Senate and Fono at this very moment.
The very subjects we have been discussing in previous columns.
The refusal of OMV and other government officials so far to simply do the right thing. The task force recruited to create new income streams for the government are instead pulling resources out of the very same pot they already have been for years.
The problem is the public "food pot" is not being refilled fast enough for those government agencies who are already trying to eat out of it, and they want to have more! The Aiga basket is not so full these days.
He sees the lack of integrity in the government, the folly of the bureaucratic red tape one must carve through in order to succeed.
He knows that rather than creating a freer marketplace that allows businesses like his to thrive, the market is becoming more restrictive and the profits while already diminishing are going to continue to diminish before sales are ever made to the public here who his businesses serve, higher tariffs and fees are being levied against his business.
So in short, if you're successful, the government wants to come in and take more money from your successful business.
If you are not successful, and a regular member of the public just trying to get by and take care of your family, the increase in cost to you to do so, which will invariably be passed on to the public by the business owner is now much higher than it was before. But as we discussed last week, so many families are losing income with more to lose income on the horizon.
Does this make any sense to anyone other than those who are attempting to create these policies and implement them?
If we're all in this together, and we are, when did it make sense if the public is going through lean times that the government also tightens up their belt a few notches and goes through lean times with us?
But no! Instead as this committee is rolling out recommendations to be voted on and put into law, we see that more government jobs are being created.
In Pre Civil War times in the United States, there were plantations whose the life blood were the crops grown and maintained there by a group of slaves.
These slaves had to work and do exactly what the master demanded, and if they did not severe punishments were legally passed on them.
Now not all slaves were abused, but regardless of that they were still slaves! They were ordered to do things they did not want to do. They were forced to live in ways they did not particularly want to live. These slaves did not have the ability to choose those things that would put them in their families on a good path in life. Everything they did required permission from the master of the plantation. Rather than working together through cooperation, the slaves who had been purchased by the master as property did what they did because they were forced to. Does that sound like a happy existence?
Do you know that living under an oppressive government that continues to pull more and more of your resources is not much different in practicality than outright slavery?
The title for this week's conversation is perhaps a bit extreme in some of your minds, but I want you all to understand the seriousness of what we're dealing with here as a society.
This truly is the case! We are heading for bondage and a form of slavery as a group of people and it does not have to be that way!
And the crazy thing is, if it does happen, then we have done it to ourselves. This ought not to be, especially when there are many other avenues to pursue that have a much more hopeful and helpful outcome.
Take for example one of our first community contributors to the conversation, Mr. Tom Drabble. In case you missed his editorial piece a few days ago in the Samoa News, it's definitely worth a read.
To summarize, he said that there exists currently two classes of people. Those who are in the government receiving much higher wages for their work, and those in the general public who receive a very low wage for their work. He even address the significant problems this creates.
I reached out to him and thanked him for taking time to address what he saw as a problem here, and to reference the third class of people that had been unmentioned in his article.
The third class is the entrepreneur and private business owner class of people much like my friend at the beginning of this article.
The future of this island is dependent on forward-thinking individuals who have a hope and desire to make positive change here through their businesses that will provide for them and their families while providing a valuable service to the community. When you kill that, Prosperity disappears.
If the government worked as hard to ensure the future of this class of individuals, the entrepreneur, the private business owner, not only will there be jobs available through these businesses for local people but the infrastructure that is sorely lacking could continue to be built even outside of the government structure.
Government can do a good job by having a vision for the future in creating Pathways and rules that Ensure Healthy Growth and reward for those who would help this island through goods, services and products available... even those created here!
Are they doing a good job? Will they do a good job of ensuring that business owners entrepreneurs and those that are benefited by what they create will be helped rather than hurt? Are we going to take our resources and ensure that we have a Prosperous Paradise as an island home, or do we prefer a Plantation Prison that none of us will thrive in nor enjoy?
The choice is up to us!
Stay tuned for the next Conversation where we will go into depth with some very actionable steps suggested by Mr. Tom Drabble, suggestions that no doubt will resonate with other business owners here who understand how to succeed and earn a profit rather than simply enact laws and take from those who exhibit initiative.