Tell me a bedtime story about how Gov. David Ige saved Hawaii.

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In the harrowing tale of Hawaii’s greatest crisis, Hawaii Gov. David Ige and the public sector unions are the heroes of their own story.

But stories are just stories, myths made to give the perception of order where none existed and tall tales meant to give continuity where only chaos reigned. In the long-running story of stately hubris, a ruler rules best when contriving moralistic epics of how their actions were part of a grand plan that history waited for only them to fulfill.

May be an image of 5 people, people standing and text that says 'TRUMP STIMULUS BILLS WE GOING HAVE FURLOUGHS BIDEN STIMULUS BILLS WE ALL "G" NOW! made with memaucsas'
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Such is the case with the whopping $6 billion COVID-19 stimuli headed to Hawaii as a part of the Democratic-led American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that President Joe Biden freshly minted into law on Thursday. Gov. Ige now tells Hawaii government workers that furloughs and reductions-in-force are now off the table, after spending almost a year brooding over public teachers and state workers like the Biblical Abraham wrestling with Isaac’s sacrifice. The local Hawaii public unions act as though they brokered this blessing from above, and that if not for their unity and brotherhood and all that other good stuff, we wouldn’t have had a $6 billion ram caught in the thicket for us.

In reality, Gov. Ige never needed to threaten furloughs or RIFs. The previous 2020 state legislature meticulously went to great efforts to ensure that the state would be fully funded through fiscal year 2021 without the use of either tactic. At the federal level, both the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and the $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 passed by the divided Congress and signed by former President Donald Trump made overwhelming concessions to state and local governments to keep the lights on in the midst of the pandemic.

When CARES Act funding was first released to Hawaii in mid-2020, Ige hesitated to spend these monies, purportedly wanting more “clarification” from Washington. This not only bottlenecked much-needed funds that could have been spent on immediate COVID-19 relief, it made it seem like Hawaii was cash poor when we were flush with means to fund government and help individuals alike.

Ige, taking cues from projections that the pandemic would eat into future tax revenues, went even further by threatening furloughs in late 2020. Saving his worst announcement for the best possible time – the holidays – the governor sent public workers into a tizzy and may have even impacted local consumer behavior by sowing fear that most public teachers and public employees would probably be taking a pay cut in 2021.

And what did the public unions offer in response? Useless assurances to members that they would “fight” to stop it, but Ige thought so highly of their efforts that he was prepared to use his emergency powers to bypass collective bargaining requirements just to be the decider-in-chief.

Now we know that the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on local businesses and private workers, and that tourism has been depressed as a result of strict travel regulations. Even now, we know that people are struggling to pay their rent, mortgage, medical, food, and other bills. This is a travesty that still has yet to be rectified and a crisis that no one yet has definite answers for.

But there never should have been any doubt that public employees in Hawaii wouldn’t have been funded by some kind of federal bailout, even if the Democrats and their coalitions had failed to throw Senate Republicans and President Trump from office. By Ige, acting as though Hawaii was alone and on her own, it not only demonstrates a failure of understanding the role of a state and the federal government, but it embarrassingly reveals a failure of imagination and planning by the governor.

Ige was prepared to pawn shop his public employees for a fiscal crisis that never actually manifested, except in the threat scenarios of his own mind. The local public unions, who have been on a losing streak lately of running high maintenance, pricey candidates in Hawaii elections that no one likes, have no sway over Ige, have diminishing credibility among private voters, and have questionable powers in continuing to protect their members in the post-Janus v. AFSCME world.

To hear them now both claim credit for shutting down furloughs and RIFs and getting Hawaii $6 billion in stimulus is like taking a victory lap in someone else’s track meet that they didn’t even compete in. The heavy lifting was done by Congress and the President, who had given and would continue to have given Hawaii a bailout or stimulus injection no matter who was in office anyway.

Ige, and the public unions, the stolen valor champions that they are, thrive on offering solutions to problems they themselves have created. Hawaii’s government is going to be okay – no thanks to them – but in this bedtime story, this is a crisis averted (but one that should have never happened in the first place).

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