From a young age, I learned the importance of living aloha and grew to understand that true happiness can only be found in the service of others. I've held this close to my heart and have tried to apply these principles throughout my life, whether through my service in the Middle East with my fellow soldiers of the Hawai`i National Guard, working as an aide to Senator Akaka in Washington, DC, or representing the people of Hawai`i in the State Legislature or the Honolulu City Council. I know that my efforts have been far from perfect, but my motivation through all of these experiences has been to do whatever I can to be of service to others, and to make a positive impact.

Disapproval ratings in Congress have never been higher. People are frustrated with the same-old politics as usual. The problem in Washington is quite simple: too many of our leaders have forgotten why they’re there. They have put their own interests and those of huge corporations and rich special interests before the needs of our working families and regular people like us. They are out of touch with the realities that our families are facing to make ends meet and put food on the table, pay the electricity bill, and make sure our keiki have what they need. If we want to break through this gridlock and start getting things done for the people of Hawai`i, this culture of self-centeredness, greed, and corruption must change. This is why I’m offering to serve you in Congress.

Helping Hawai`i Businesses Create Jobs

I grew up in a family of small business entrepreneurs. When I was young, I worked in our family business, "Hawaiian Toffee Treasures." That experience gave me a basic understanding of the kind of commitment and effort it takes to be successful in a small business, including working long hours, making sacrifices, and dealing with the inherent uncertainties of getting a small business off the ground. Growing up in a small business family taught me the value of personal responsibility and the value of every single hard-earned dollar.

Too many politicians in Congress are more interested in handing out billions in tax breaks and subsidies to big corporations than in supporting small businesses—the true backbone and job creators of our economy—and helping them to launch the next generation of entrepreneurs.

If we want to get people back to work, then we need to support growth at the local level by making it easier for business owners and entrepreneurs to create jobs. Most small business owners already have the determination and commitment necessary to succeed; they just need a business-friendly climate and a helping hand.

Here are just a few examples of simple, common sense steps we can take to create good jobs:

  • Provide tax credits for businesses that hire workers who have been unemployed for more than six months.
  • Eliminate redundant and unnecessary bureaucracy and regulations that make it hard for entrepreneurs and small businesses to start and succeed.
  • End tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs overseas.
  • Reduce payroll taxes for small business owners.
  • Provide incentives to banks to provide loans to small business owners.

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Get our Economy Back on Track

It wasn’t so long ago that this country had a balanced budget and a zero deficit. That tells me that getting our economy back on track is not an impossible dream. All we need to do is stop the partisan bickering and take some necessary and decisive action.

It means injecting fairness and common sense into our federal budget. It means making sure that huge corporations and the ultra-wealthy are not getting a free ride and are paying their fair share. It means that we need to be fair, making sure no one gets special treatment or extra tax breaks, while our working families struggle to get by as they shoulder the burden of our budget crisis. It also means eliminating cronyism, and the rampant waste and abuse that is sapping our fiscal strength and eroding the peoples' trust in their government.

What it all comes down to is this: the next person we send to Congress must have the guts, the honesty, and the determination to serve the people, not special interests, and get the job done.

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Tourism, Renewable Energy, and Agriculture—Foundations for Hawai`i's Economy

It breaks my heart to see so many people struggling to find jobs, or working more than one job to support their families. Many people can't even afford to rent a home, and are instead living in their car, or camped out in a tent. It used to be that if you worked hard, you could succeed. This is the "American dream." But for far too many people, that just isn't true anymore; the dream has become a nightmare.

Economic downturns are particularly hard for those of us who live in Hawai`i. Rent, food, and gasoline prices are always so much higher than on the mainland. While Hawai`i's 6.4% jobless rate is better than the national average, economic growth here is sluggish; Hawai`i ranks 44th in the nation. The unemployment rate does not reflect those who are underemployed and those who are on the verge of losing their homes on a month-by-month basis. Indeed, jobs and opportunities seem to be drying up everywhere you turn.

All of this occurring is unacceptable and unnecessary because our beautiful island paradise has so much to offer. Our people have so much to offer. There is so much potential here for economic growth and opportunity, if only we would put our heads and our hands together and work as a team.

Welcome Our Visitors

In Congress, I will fight to relax the onerous and overly burdensome visa requirements for visitors coming from countries such as China and India. The present policies are outdated and do not reflect the fact that China and India now have booming economies and a burgeoning middle class. These people have money in their pockets and are eager to see the world. Many of them want to visit Hawai`i, but because it's so hard for them to get tourist visas, they end up going elsewhere. The beaches of Bali, Thailand, and Vietnam are teeming with big-spending Chinese tourists. If we can get these visitors to come to Hawai`i instead, it will have an immediate and significant impact on Hawai`i's tourism industry.

Hawai`i As Renewable Energy Leader

I will work to ensure that Hawai`i becomes the destination of choice for green energy startups, including wind, solar, biomass and wave energy technology. As a Congressional representative, I will work to provide tax and other incentives for green and high technology businesses to locate here. Such industries would not only provide good jobs for our people, but will help us achieve greater energy self-sufficiency.

Hawai`i's New Agriculture—Achieving Food Self-Sufficiency

Far too much of the food we eat has "travelled" thousands of miles to get to our dinner table. That journey consumes expensive and limited energy, and of course negatively impacts the quality of the food. With Hawai`i’s year-round growing season and fertile soil, we have a unique opportunity to become free from this dependency on imported food. Working toward and ultimately achieving food self-sufficiency is an exciting and achievable goal. A “renaissance in agriculture” built around a small farmer lifestyle of living more in harmony with the ‘aina would boost our local economy, improve the quality of what we eat and feed our children, allow Hawai`i to be food self-sufficient, and so much more.

To get this agricultural renaissance off the ground, it is critical that we support our local farmers. Hundreds of small family farms have sprung up all over Hawai`i, often on fallow, abandoned plantation land. These are truly hardworking people, and our community needs to support them, both through farmer-friendly policies and assistance, and through encouraging people to "buy local." More agricultural land should be made available, and protected from urban development. Farmers should have priority when it comes to access to water sources. Helping small farmers helps all of us, by reducing our dependence on food imports and moving us forward toward a truly sustainable future.

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Reform Banking

In the wake of the financial meltdown, with billions of taxpayer dollars spent to bail out Wall Street, millions of jobs lost and millions of homes foreclosed, much more needs to be done to prevent an even bigger economic disaster in the future. Here are some of the most important steps we need to take to protect our economy and get our nation’s finances back on track:

  • Break up the big banks - Banks that are “too big to fail” are simply too big. As long as individual banks hold such a huge portion of our economy, then we are bound to be faced with having to bail out the giant banks again. This will devastate our economy.
  • Restore the Glass Steagall Act - For decades, the Glass Steagall Act protected the public by separating risky investment banking and commercial banking. Had this common sense regulation not been repealed, we never would have faced the economic hardship that we do today. Without this healthy separation, greed leads bankers to leverage available funds for the highest profit potential - and often riskiest investments.
  • Ban naked credit defaults - Naked credit defaults are a form of excessive speculation that put our financial markets in a position of unnecessary and unhealthy risk. As a form of gambling, naked credit defaults have no place in our banking system.

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Protecting Medicare and Social Security

We need to protect Medicare and Social Security. We should always care for our kupuna and those who are unable to care for themselves; this is who we are. Many in Congress want to keep tax breaks for the wealthy and other "entitlements" and instead cut costs by sacrificing Medicare and Social Security in order to get our budget under control. Sacrificing Medicare and Social Security is not acceptable and I will stand up against such efforts.

Instead of taking away from those who are most in need and most deserving, we should end the billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies for huge corporations; stop bailing out big Wall Street banks; and eliminate the huge amounts of waste, abuse, and fraud from government.

As your representative in Washington, I will work to ensure that Social Security and Medicare continue to be fully funded and will oppose any efforts to reduce benefits.

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Repairing Our Aging Infrastructure

Unfortunately, Hawai`i's infrastructure is in desperate need of upgrading, including its antiquated water delivery and waste removal systems and roads. All levels of government should put taxpayer dollars to good use by repairing, replacing, and maintaining proper water and sewer lines. This course of action will have a multiple effect: it will increase the number of housing units available, improve the quality of life for residents, and energize the local construction industry. Hawai`i's trades and construction industry depend on steady residential and commercial property development. But development depends on adequate infrastructure, such as roads, water, and sewer systems to support and maintain it.

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Honoring Active and Veteran Members of the Military

There are more than 116,000 veterans in Hawai`i, and even though we span generations and different conflicts, we are all one family. The bond between veterans, and the camaraderie that exists among those who have worn the uniform and served, is something very special, different from anything I’ve ever known. Two veterans, who have never met, can look each other in the eye and know exactly what sacrifice the other has gone through, without even saying a word.

I honor the brave men and women who served and continue to serve in our military, and who risk their lives to protect the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans. As a captain in the Hawai`i National Guard who served two combat tours in the Middle East, I know firsthand the sacrifices our warriors make to protect and defend our great nation. It is my great honor and privilege to stand with and serve with such heroes.

As a nation, we owe a great debt to our veterans. It is an obligation and responsibility that I take very seriously. In between tours of duty, I worked as an aide to Senator Akaka in Washington D.C. One of my chief areas of responsibility was Veterans’ Affairs issues. I experienced firsthand how the decisions our leaders make in Washington have a direct impact on the lives of our veterans, their families and loved ones. I want all veterans to know that in me, they have a fellow veteran who will champion and advocate for them, and will never stop fighting for them and their families.

After leaving the battlefield, veterans continue to face unique challenges even after they come home. Unemployment, disabilities, health care, homelessness, and depression are among a few of the daunting obstacles confronting them.

Therefore, I support President Obama’s efforts to incentivize businesses to hire veterans, and his support of military families. I also support efforts to improve the GI Bill to allow veterans to develop skills that will help them in the workplace. And I will steadfastly oppose any efforts to cut funding for any programs designed to support service members, veterans, and their families.

Veterans Have Something Unique to Offer

Recognizing the value that veterans bring to our community is so very important. Veterans have had a unique experience; they have actually been ready to sacrifice their lives for our country. Veterans embody the value of selfless service and sacrifice. And no matter what their job was in the military, veterans bring with them the ability to work as a member of the team to accomplish the task at hand, the discipline to stay with a task until it's successfully completed, and the determination to persevere no matter how difficult the assignment. As elected officials, employers, and as a state and country, it is crucial that we uphold our end of the bargain and ensure that our veterans have all the tools and benefits they need to be successful now that they have returned to civilian life.

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Standing Up for LGBT Rights and Marriage Equality

I believe that equal treatment and opportunity are fundamental rights for all Americans. Discrimination on the basis of national origin, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, gender, or race undermines core American principles of respect and individual freedom. We have an obligation to fight against discrimination, whatever the form. I will continue to work with partners at the federal, state, and local level to ensure all individuals are treated equally under the law regardless of race, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

The government should not deny those in same-sex relationships the right to marry and enjoy the same benefits, rights, and responsibilities as opposite-sex married couples. Government and political leaders like myself should have no place in determining the most personal aspects of our lives. Government officials should not have the power to declare one relationship ‘morally’ superior to another. As long as the government administers marriages and its benefits, it must remain neutral and treat all Americans as equal.

Recent Actions for LGBT Rights and Marriage Equality

  • Co-sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
  • Co-sponsored the Restore Honor to Service Members Act
  • Co-sponsored the Respect for Marriage Act
  • Co-sponsored the Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act
  • Co-sponsored the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act
  • Co-sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act
  • Co-sponsored the Equality Act
  • Co-sponsored the Healthy Families Act
  • Co-sponsored the Equality for All Resolution
  • Signed the Marriage Equality Amicus Briefs
  • Advocated for LGBT Housing / Privacy Rights
  • Advocated to End Bullying and Harassment in Schools

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Lower Gas Prices by Stopping Oil Speculation

Skyrocketing gas prices are seriously suppressing our economic recovery. Since fuel is a basic necessity, middle and lower income families are hurt the most. Ironically, world fuel production has increased and demand has decreased, yet prices have gone up. Why? Wall Street oil speculators have artificially driven up gas prices by as much as 40%.

By the one simple act of ending oil speculation, oil and gas prices will be drastically reduced. This will help our economy on every single level. As long as oil and gas prices are high, our economic recovery will be anemic at best. Oil speculation and high gas prices will continue as long as members of Congress are more concerned about the interests of giant corporations and Wall Street Banks than they are about the interests of our country. In the meantime, the Justice Department should immediately begin the crackdown on oil speculators that the Obama administration has promised one year ago.

For more information on the matter see:

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Native Hawaiian Issues

The fact that our country overthrew the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 is a great injustice
and something that weighs heavily on my heart. As I consider this unjust act, I think of my two years
working with Senator Akaka, watching him work tirelessly trying to get the Akaka Bill passed into
law. Now, that Senator Akaka is retiring, I look to making the passage of this legislation to recognize
Hawaiians as an indigenous people one of my top priorities. This is Senator Akaka’s legacy and
something that’s got to be done for the Hawaiian people.

I realize that not everyone supports the Akaka Bill, but at its core, it’s about giving Hawaiians some form of self-determination and protecting all the important programs and services for Hawaiians, which are constantly under attack in the courts. Having said that, I want to be clear that my door is always open. I’m willing to sit down and listen to your concerns and/or suggestions about this issue and all issues that affect you and your ohana.

I believe the U.S. government through an act of Congress should more formally recognize the special
legal/political status of Native Hawaiians. Pending re-organization of a Native Hawaiian Governing
Entity, through the process commenced by Act 195 (2011) or a Native Hawaiian-driven process, I would
immediately work with the delegation to pass a bill or administrative regulation acknowledging this status,
without the government building components that would be difficult to pass at this time.

Senator Akaka's Legacy

In 2006, I served as volunteer coordinator for Senator Akaka’s re-election campaign. I was then invited to work with him in Washington D.C. I assisted Senator Akaka with programs and legislation directly benefitting Native Hawaiians. Specific efforts included supporting Native Hawaiian 8(a) businesses, and working with Senator Akaka to introduce the Kalaupapa Memorial Act, which passed as part of the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009.

Formal recognition of Indian Commerce Clause status of Native Hawaiians would help reauthorization of these important acts. Additionally, tying such reauthorizations to Native Alaskan health and education acts is good strategy because Republican Don Young of Alaska needs Democratic support. Congresswoman Hirono successfully used this strategy in 2011 to obtain reauthorization of $41 million in education funds for Native Hawaiians.

What really strikes me is that we in Hawaiʻi nei have so much to give our nation and the world. What the world desperately needs right now is the spirit of aloha. This aloha is in our collective DNA as a state. It’s what our visitors always comment on when they return to their homes. They say, “Yes, Hawaiʻi is beautiful—spectacular oceans, mountains, valleys, waterfalls… but there’s something intangible about the people who live there.” Each of us who live here have the potential of being ambassadors of that aloha spirit to offer to the world.

Hawaiian Home Lands

The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921 isn’t working and it needs to be revisited. Hawaiians have every right to be on their land and it’s wrong that the DHHL has 200,000 acres of land under their control, but meanwhile people wait for generations to get on the land. We need to think out of the box and look at practical things we can do to free up land, such as loosening the regulations. Many homesteaders don’t care about the condition of the land, whether it has water and sewer, etc.

Another problem we’ve got is that many Hawaiians can’t afford the homestead homes that are being offered by DHHL. So, we’ve got to do a better job of assisting Hawaiians to be financially prepared for home ownership. This speaks to the different programs, like HOAP (Hawaiian Ownership Assistance Program) under DHHL, that need continued federal financial support and appropriate oversight.

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Click to read:
Tulsi's Reflections on the Role of Government in Our Personal Lives