Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Comparing Economies: Hawaii and Greece -- The Writing on the Wall

Recently UHERO, that is the Economic Research Organization of the University of Hawaii, presented a detailed inforgraphic of jobs in Hawaii. The inforgraphic answers questions like: What type of jobs, how many and how much do they make?

UHERO explains their graphic as follows: Each colored rectangle represents a single occupation. The size of the rectangle indicates the number of jobs. The color of the rectangle indicates that occupation's median annual salary relative to the overall median.

The inforgraphic is pictured below but I strongly encourage to visit UHERO so that you can use your mouse to explore the data in each category that interests you.

What I found stunning is this: How is it possible that all these people live in Hawaii where a (roughly) $75,000 income is necessary, nearly double US average?

This graph suggests to me that Hawaii's economy is very much like Greece's pre-default economy. The majority of Hawaii earners are low earners particularly in comparison with the cost of living in Hawaii. So how do so many people make it in Hawaii? (How was it possible for Greece to be one of the largest markets for luxury cars?)

I suppose that at least three things are in play in Hawaii (like Greece):
(1) A large para-economy such as groups of laborers building rock walls, cutting trees and trimming bushes that never report any income. This is just an example. Check Craigslist for carport car mechanics as another example. And so on.
(2) Some under-reporting of taxes by people who have proper jobs or own businesses. (This was vast in Greece.) Do you recall the Hawaii Dept. of Taxation efforts to put cashier machines in farmers markets?
(3) A vast governmental welfare operation dedicated to income redistribution and supporting "the poor with Escalades in the public housing parking lots", as car repairman Nitta, 2008 mayor candidate used to say. Greece had that too.

The score Hawaii-Greece is 4 for 4: Many low income earners, para-economy, tax evasion and big welfare. Wouldn't you say that the writing on the wall is too obvious for Hawaii?