Slow loss of self-government


Each time we shirk fiduciary responsibility on self-government the feds steps in and takes over. It fixes our mess on its own terms as we rant and rage with childish threats. But it’s one less scaffold in our laughable claim for stronger local self-government.
Uncle Sam warned us about immigration. We took our merry time until one day he just took over. There’s nothing we could do to retrieve it. It’s gone! He simply slammed the door in our face. Again, it’s one less pillar against effective home rule.

We were too busy toying with insignificant issues ignoring the dire need to resolve problems with the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. He came in and took over via the federal district court. Now, CUC could hardly generate enough revenue to pay the court-ordered fine of $64 million. CUC is in bad financial shape it’s difficult meeting this payment. It’s one less pillar on self-government

Again, ignoring fiduciary duty we shoved aside strengthening the solvency of the NMI Retirement Fund. Uncle Sam came in—again through the federal district court—and took over the disposition of what’s left of the Fund. The Fund needs about $50 million annually to pay its retirees. There isn’t much left in its investments portfolio and it looks like its operations would close down by 2018.

Its lifespan may be extended by another four years if the NMI successfully floats a $200 million pension bond. It would come at the expense of our children who would shoulder paying it back for years. Gone is their economic freedom!

The best revenue projection is about $140 million for fiscal year 2015. You deduct the $50 million for the Fund and we’re left with about $90 million for all other obligations. Troubling, isn’t it? What then is our future under such dire fiscal impotency? We still must pay for CHC, PSS, DPS, and other obligations. Where do we cut?

When certainty crumbles in the face of the deepening hardship it forces the question: What about the future of our children? Strange that the lights are on but nobody’s home!

Of selecting policymakers

Indeed, the multitude is struggling to live in the filthy swamp of misery that could easily be blamed on heedless policymakers on the hill. While wages and salaries have remained the same for over 10 years, the cost of living has gone up by 20 percent. At the same time, there’s that deafening silence in obvious ignorance by the “Cash It Now” bunch incapable of seeing the obvious imbalance in the huge disparity in income versus cost of living. Hello?

For now, we sit and watch as exhausted entertainment spouts by the “has-been” whose woefully dismal track records don’t offer much hope for brighter break of dawn. How then do we navigate the treacherous sea of hopelessness so we don’t royally repeat failure? It’s all in the palm of our hands. We can no longer afford being victims of ignorance and arrogance! Stand up!

Sense of hope

But there’s hope in some of the incumbents and new prospects emplacing common decency in constructive and lasting policies. There’s Rep. Richard Seman who has proven in floor debates that he stands his ground premised on reasoned analysis outgunning his colleagues on most issues.

There’s Angel A. Demapan, a promising college-educated youngster who is also articulate. He’s mature, well-read, and equipped with insightful perception of issues. Both folks could make a whale of a difference versus the current “didn’t know what happened” bunch.

Of hopelessness

We can exile Kilili to a post midway across the Pacific. If he can’t articulate the legal status of the CNMI that we’re NOT a territory, he turns his job into nothing more than a “federal coordinator” of sort. We could include photo-ops on Obama-funded computer laptops he helped distribute here a year or so ago.

He’s ignored the likelihood of the CNMI being mutilated by the 157 major regulations issued so far by the Obama administration. He’s done nothing up that alley. I would return to this issue up ahead.

There’s the $1,000 deductible forced upon employees with health premiums. It’s money they must pay out of their own pockets when seeking healthcare at CHC. It’s one heavy blow against health policyholders NMI-wide that Kilili hasn’t discussed or simply prefers avoiding at all cost. Let’s see some real coconuts here, Kilili! Challenger Andrew Salas has your job on his radar screen!

Fund marches to closure

Assuming that we successfully float a pension obligation bond to the tune of $200 million, it means the Fund’s lifespan is extended to 2022. When the original sum is spent, would the CNMI have sufficient anchor investments to support the needs of the Fund of some $50 million per year? Is it fair that a good portion of revenue generated is earmarked for retirees alone?

Moreover, as more active members pull out of the program (as did Defined Benefit members) it means far less money to pay for the pension of retirees. Two things happen: 1). It may mean far less pension pay than the 25-percent cut since last year. 2) Health premiums increase that must be paid for by retirees themselves. It’s a disruption that may force more members to pull out of their health insurance policy. Who covers their health bills? Would they eventually qualify for Medicaid?

None of the incumbents has buckled down to understanding with a sense of clarity that these issues are of a magnitude that requires knowledge-based expertise. Do I expect resolution from any of them whose competency is limited to dinky law enforcement and irrelevant stint as former police and custom officers? We’re stuck in the barrel of bankruptcy, struggling to exit right from the sea of filthy red ink. There’s a fat chance we could absolve bankruptcy at this stage.

John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

John S. Del Rosario Jr. | Contributing Author
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

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