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GRIH and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser share an opposition to a public subsidy.

by Cody Hensarling

One of the most frustrating aspects of living in Hawaii is the stranglehold that the Honolulu Star-Advertiser has on the market for news. Thankfully, there are a number of worthy alternatives to our new colossus of print, including Hawaii Reporter, the Hawaii Free Press, and Honolulu Civil Beat. It’s fortunate that we have these alternatives, because the editorial board of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is usually not found to be taking freedom-loving positions in their editorials. Saturday’s leading editorial would appear to be an exception.

In this editorial, entitled “Resist appeals to prop up Oahu slaughterhouse”, the Star-Advertiser takes a very intriguing position on public subsidies. As the Star-Advertiser has decided to retreat behind a “pay wall”, I will quote the print edition extensively. The controversy comes from a recent decision by the supermarkets Foodland and Times to stop selling freshly-killed pork from the last remaining Oahu slaughterhouse. Foodland and Times have made the decision in deference to animal rights activists who have objected to the squalid conditions pigs are transported in to the slaughterhouse from the mainland. The slaughterhouse has already seen better days, as “due to the loss of milk production on Oahu, few cattle are slaughtered at the facility.” In a predictable decision, the state took action to prop up the slaughterhouse.  “The state has loaned the cooperative $600,000 two years ago”.

However, it appears that reason has recently begun to set in, as “the Legislature rightly rejected a bill this year that proposed spending $1.6 million to buy the slaughterhouse for $600,000 and install a solar electricity system for $1 million to reduce operating costs.” Also, the Star-Advertiser notes that the loss of this cooperative will not mean the end of slaughterhouses in Hawaii, as “privately owned slaughterhouses continue to operate in Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii counties.” Finally, the editorial concludes by calling for no further taxpayer money to be given to the Oahu slaughterhouse cooperative.

Amazingly enough, we at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii agree with the position of the Star-Advertiser. (Wow.  That felt weird to write…) As we see it, while the Hawaii Livestock Cooperative operates the slaughterhouse, the state retains ownership, which makes the burden of action fall to the state. The state has two options if they want to avoid saddling the already burdened taxpayers of Hawaii with more obligations. First, the state can sell the slaughterhouse to a private cooperative. Second, the state can admit the sunk cost and shut the slaughterhouse down. Essentially, the state can sell it or shut it down.

The federal government’s subsidies and partial ownership of the auto industry has already shown the perils and unintended consequences of unsustainable and economically impractical subsidies on the part of the state. Governor Abercrombie would be wise to listen to those who call for decisive action to be taken to rid the state’s taxpayers of this albatross. Besides, it’s clear that there is a broad consensus on this issue when the Star-Advertiser and the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii agree on an issue of policy. Governor Abercrombie, the time to act is now.