“The very definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting change.” -- Albert Einstein
All human existence dwells between two points -- fear and hope, the two extremes on the emotional scale. Everyone lives somewhere on the scale. Most people hope things will be better, but they fear change. So until more people have hope than fear, we are paralyzed in the status quo.
On the political side, fear looks like: “I am afraid of voting for new people I don’t know.” Such fear limits your choice to people in one of three groups: friends and family, people in the news, or people with enough money to buy political ads so we think we know them. Traditional politicians bank on “fear of new people” to help keep themselves in power.
The opposite side of that political fear is hope. It is “hope” that gives me the courage to take a risk and vote for new and untested candidates, because I know there is more than a 50-50 chance they could be good public servants. That “hope” makes it a risk worth taking.
The serious problems facing our island are political problems that we won’t be able to solve as long as we keep electing the same politicians over and over— especially those who are more concerned about their own welfare.
Once upon a time, each generation worked hard to make things better and easier for the next generation. My grandfather (Greatest Generation) worked hard to send his sons to college on the mainland after the war. My parents (Silent Generation) came of age after living through the Great Depression and World War II and worked hard, sometimes holding down two and three jobs to provide a better life for their children (Baby Boomers).
But things have changed, and not for the better. Children born after 2000 (Generation Z) live in fear knowing they are the first generation that will not be healthier or live longer than their parents. Thirty-seven percent of respondents in a PEW Trust survey of 5,000 GenZers reported that health care benefits ranked as the No. 1 factor that influences their employment decisions.
On Guam, those concerns are valid, as the rate of chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and cancer) continues to rise, along with the cost of health care. In a service economy, jobs offering health care benefits are rare.
Many GenZ families have either joined the military or moved to other areas where health care packages are offered as part of employment compensation.
By electing public servants over politicians, we hope that one day Guam will follow Hawaii’s lead and create a form of universal health care coverage. In Hawaii, 93 percent of residents have some form of health care coverage, compared to Guam’s 25 percent.
Many GenZers work in low-wage, service sector jobs with no retirement benefit programs. They worry, rightfully, that the Social Security System will not be around when they retire. This is a valid concern, given that corporate greed and lax enforcement have led to the plunder of private retirement systems and drastic underfunding of public worker retirement programs (including the Government of Guam’s retirement program, which is $1.5 billion underfunded). This leaves new people entering the workforce wondering if they will ever retire or be forced to work their way into the grave.
We hope that by electing public servants over politicians, Guam will be able to diversify the local economy and create more middle-class jobs that come with retirement benefits.
Millennials and GenZers are the first generations that do not enjoy a quality of life rated better than that of their parents. More than 30 percent of adults born after 1990 live in multigenerational homes; they are unable to afford to rent or buy homes with their working poverty wages. They are priced out of the housing market as the change from an industrial to a service economy has eliminated many middle-class jobs.
The young adults who failed to delay marriage and having children? Some end up moving to places where the cost of living is low to start their families.
We hope that by electing public servants over politicians, Guam will one day offer more affordable homes and make the American Dream come true. Homeownership can provide long-term financial stability, as homes are the highest-valued asset owned by a family at retirement.
While politicians want to expand tourism, the island is not capable of supporting such expansion, given our inadequate infrastructure. Our roads are full of potholes, and our parks are overflowing with trash. Investors are buying up affordable homes and apartment buildings, expanding the bed & breakfast industry and drastically reducing the number of affordable rentals for local residents.
By electing public servants over politicians, we hope they will make the hard decisions needed to preserve the beauty of Guam. Hopefully, our public servants will learn from Hawaii’s mistakes. The Aloha State pushed growth for growth’s sake, overlooking its impact on infrastructure. It tarnished Hawaii’s tourism appeal, and destroyed the quality of life for residents.
Time and time again, we will face the swing between fear and hope, but the fear goes away as we get better at electing public servants over politicians. By facing our fears and moving through them, great things happen, great public servants get elected into office, and we make our island a better place for future generations.
This coming election, voting for all new faces gives us a better than 50 percent chance to improve things. Voting for the same old faces that got us here in the first place will not change things for the better.
So let’s make “hope” lead the way in the 2020 elections.
Ken Leon-Guerrero is the spokesperson of Guam Citizens for Public Accountability. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org