09 May 2014

Mayor From Okinawa to Bring Surprising Message to Washington


Imagine if China were stationing large numbers of troops in the United States. Imagine that most of them were based in a small rural county in Mississippi. Imagine -- this shouldn't be hard -- that their presence was problematic, that nations they threatened in Latin America resented the United States' hospitality, and that the communities around the bases resented the noise and pollution and drinking and raping of local girls.

Now imagine a proposal by the Chinese government, with support from the federal government in Washington, to build another big new base in that same corner of Mississippi. Imagine the governor of Mississippi supported the base, but just before his reelection pretended to oppose it, and after being reelected went back to supporting it. Imagine that the mayor of the town where the base would be built made opposition to it the entire focus of his reelection campaign and won, with exit polls showing that voters overwhelmingly agreed with him. And imagine that the mayor meant it.

Where would your sympathies lie? Would you want anyone in China to hear what that mayor had to say?

Sometimes in the United States we forget that there are heavily armed employees of our government permanently stationed in most nations on earth. Sometimes when we remember, we imagine that the other nations must appreciate it. We turn away from the public uproar in the Philippines as the U.S. military tries to return troops to those islands from which they were driven by public pressure. We avoid knowing what anti-U.S. terrorists say motivates them, as if by merely knowing what they say we would be approving of their violence. We manage not to know of the heroic nonviolent struggle underway on Jeju Island, South Korea, as residents try to stop the construction of a new base for the U.S. Navy. We live on oblivious to the massive nonviolent resistance of the people of Vicenza, Italy, who for years voted and demonstrated and lobbied and protested a huge new U.S. Army base that has gone right ahead regardless.

Mayor Susumu Inamine of Nago City, Okinawa, (population 61,000) is headed to the United States, where he may have to do a bit of afflicting the comfortable as he tries to comfort the afflicted back home. Okinawa Prefecture has hosted major U.S. military bases for 68 years. Over 73% of the U.S. troop presence in Japan is concentrated in Okinawa, which makes up a mere 0.6% of the Japanese land area. As a result of public protest, one base is being closed -- the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The U.S. government wants a new Marine base in Nago City. The people of Nago City do not.

Inamine was first elected as mayor of Nago City in January 2010 promising to block the new base. He was reelected this past January 19th still promising to block the base. The Japanese government had worked hard to defeat him, but exit polls showed 68% of voters opposing the base, and 27% in favor of it. In February U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy visited Okinawa, where she met with the Governor but declined to meet with the mayor.

That's all right. The Mayor can meet with the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon, and the Congress. He'll be in Washington, D.C. in mid-May, where he hopes to appeal directly to the U.S. government and the U.S. public. He...(spoke) at an open, public event at Busboys and Poets restaurant at 14th and V Streets at 6:00 p.m. on May 20th.

A great summary of the situation in Okinawa can be found in this statement: "International Scholars, Peace Advocates and Artists Condemn Agreement To Build New U.S. Marine Base in Okinawa." An excerpt:

"Not unlike the 20th century U.S. Civil Rights struggle, Okinawans have non-violently pressed for the end to their military colonization. They tried to stop live-fire military drills that threatened their lives by entering the exercise zone in protest; they formed human chains around military bases to express their opposition; and about a hundred thousand people, one tenth of the population have turned out periodically for massive demonstrations. Octogenarians initiated the campaign to prevent the construction of the Henoko base with a sit-in that has been continuing for years. The prefectural assembly passed resolutions to oppose the Henoko base plan. In January 2013, leaders of all the 41 municipalities of Okinawa signed the petition to the government to remove the newly deployed MV-22 Osprey from Futenma base and to give up the plan to build a replacement base in Okinawa."

Here's an organization working to support the will of the public of Okinawa on this issue.

And here's a video worth watching:

Governor’s press release on GAO Report: Puerto Rican Statehood would bring fiscal & economic blow to the Island

Statehood would dramatically weaken Island’s economy, federal budget

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study on the effects of Puerto Rican statehood on U.S. federal spending and revenues. The non-partisan report concludes that if Puerto Rico were to become the 51st state, it would cause the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, and would make it difficult for the Commonwealth to balance its budget. In addition, GAO concluded that the imposition of additional federal taxes in Puerto Rico would burden the Island’s residents, as well as harm the economy of both the U.S. and Puerto Rico. 

“The GAO’s findings are very concerning for Puerto Rico, our economy and jobs. The enormous tax burden that Puerto Ricans would be forced to shoulder as a state would be incredibly damaging to our economy, our businesses and the workers on the Island,” said Governor Alejandro García-Padilla. “This report also clearly states that statehood will make it very difficult for the Commonwealth to move its economy forward. Ultimately, statehood is a losing proposition for both Puerto Rico and the U.S. My administration is hard at work continuing our plans to grow the economy, create jobs, reduce crime, and keep our fiscal house in order.”

The report notes that: “according to tax policy experts at the [U.S.] Department of Treasury and the Joint Committee on Taxation, changes in federal income tax requirements under Puerto Rico statehood are likely to motivate some corporations with substantial amounts of income derived from intangibles (and therefore mobile) assets to relocate from Puerto Rico to a lower tax foreign location.” The GAO further states that the possible relocation of these corporations could result in federal revenue gains in the range of negative 0.1 billion to 4.3 billion, which hardly offsets the $5.2 billion in new federal spending under statehood.

While the report finds that Puerto Rican statehood would lead to increased federal funding, the broader implications are that the middle class will be eliminated by the increased tax burden and the loss of manufacturing jobs. And the economy of Puerto Rico will be increasingly dependent on federal transfers.

The GAO report published today comes at a time when Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi have introduced parallel bills in the House and Senate that call for a “yes or no” vote on making Puerto Rico the 51st state, despite the fact that a majority of Puerto Ricans have never voted in favor of statehood. On November 2012, 1.9 million Puerto Ricans voted on the Island’s status, with only 834,191 (44.4 percent) voting for statehood. The Governor has said he supports a fair and inclusive referendum following the guidelines of President Obama’s $2.5 million proposal, which was signed into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.