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Samoa News Editorial: "A Basic Bargain"

U.S. President Barack Obama's speech this week in Osawatomie, Kansas, is being touted as the most important speech of his presidency, according to many US news media agencies and blogs. Essentially, while laying out the basis of what could be his platform for his 2012 re-election campaign, the speech spoke out against the issues of income inequality and the obligation of both government and the private sector to make "sure that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success" - the basis of the American dream.

In his speech, Obama said, "For most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren't - and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up."

He stated, "It's not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It's not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society's problems. It's a view that says in America, we are greater together - when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share."

He notes that "this isn't just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement."

Amen.

I absolutely agree. And I think American Samoa is faced with the same defining issue, it permeates our community across the cultural divide.

And, it can be said for American Samoa in the next general election for leadership in the territory, gubernatorial and legislature (Fono), that at stake is whether American Samoa will be a community where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, participate in church and family fa'alavelaves, own a home, and secure their retirement.

Right now, I don't hear anything from any declared candidates about what they are going to do about this economic disaster we are living with on island. Telling us it's global and everyone is in the same boat is difficult to swallow when we're hearing, via the government that everything is okay.

That's why:

Local government workers are about to get pay increments in January 2012. The top guy in the territory on matters of government finances, Treasurer Magalei Logovi'i said he isn't sure how much that's going to be - but don't worry, it's going to be done.

For those looking for jobs, the government is also lifting its hiring freeze in January 2012. I don't know if that's across the board, or just for a chosen few, but if you can vote and can't find a job, apply - it's certainly worth the try.

As for the LBJ and ASPA fee hikes - sorry it's necessary, because the local government is doing fine if it doesn't have to pay all its basic ‘living expenses', such as power, water and medical; and by the way that's why they need those tax revenue bills passed.

Everything is not okay.

For those of us in the private sector, our pay checks are barely supporting our discretionary expenses, because the pay remains the same, while costs are skyrocketing, and the fa'alavelaves keep coming - both church and family - culturally, how can we say no?

And, private companies are not giving out bonuses or raises or increments, or new jobs because their sales are down - they can't afford it. If they over-run, it's called bankruptcy, if the government over-runs, it's called a ‘budget deficit', let's ask the public for more money.

So what am I saying?

I take up President Barack Obama's call - "We are greater together - when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share," no matter what family or political party you support or what ethnic group.

I take up Ngaire Ho Ching's call at the 2011 Business Awards ceremony last Saturday - We need good government stewardship of our money and of our resources. Remember the public, who pay taxes, are in a sense shareholders of the American Samoa government (not just the voters).

And, I take up Gov. Togiola Tulafono's call at the same business awards ceremony - for a partnership of cooperation between private sector and government.

However, unlike the governor, I do not see this partnership of "constituency and customer" - instead, the partnership should be for government and private sector to make sure that everyone in our territory gets a fair shot at success.

It's a basic bargain. It calls for investing in us, the public, the community, American Samoa.