Brief Chat with Robert ‘Bob’ Klitzkie: The ‘tall tales’ of being insular
Former senator says Insular Cases are
not as bad as most people think
Robert “Bob” Klitzkie considers himself a “recovering lawyer” and “serial has-been.” He has been a marine, teacher, union officer, lawyer, director of education, director of corrections, senator and judge pro tempore to name a few. In the latest phase of his self-reinvention, Klitzkie now hosts the thought-provoking talk radio show “Tall Tales” on 93.3 FM.
The former senator, a Republican, is never afraid of going against the tide. As a talk show host, Klitzkie is never coy about expressing conservative opinions that may run counter to popular views.
He has been an advocate of fiscal prudence, less government and lower taxes. He endorses a part-time legislature with streamlined functions— a proposal he first introduced when he was a member of the 28th Guam Legislature. He continues to defend this idea — which has repeatedly been reintroduced in succeeding legislatures — although it’s a long shot in a community where the government is the largest employer.
In May, the 36th Guam Legislature adopted Resolution 56-36, rejecting the Insular Case doctrine that has been the basis of unequal treatment of citizens of the U.S. territories including Guam, Northern Marianas, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island.
While demonizing the Insular Cases may be a popular trend, Klitzkie offers a differing point of view. He puts forth some counterarguments that need close attention and discernment if Guam is to rightfully choose its path forward.
In an interview, Klitzkie points out that Guam has unique benefits as a U.S. territory. To wit, birthright citizenship, income tax collections stay on Guam, exemption from federal income tax payment, and duty-free ports and tax holidays are enjoyed. He questions the logic of demanding “equality” when Guam certainly enjoys the perks of being an unincorporated territory.
He further opined that Guam must understand the differences between political rights and federal mandates. Guam’s political rights are different from those enjoyed by incorporated states. Guam does not have a voting representation in the U.S. Congress, and is not entitled to electoral votes for president.
There are also some federal benefits Guam residents can not enjoy, such as Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid funding, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But he noted that these differences may soon be moot as the Biden administration recently signified its intent to move towards parity federal benefits for territories.
What’s the potential problem at hand? Klitzkie said: “Should Guam want equal footing with other states, then the constitutional uniformity clause would have to apply as well. Do people even understand what that means?”
The Uniformity Clause of the Constitution states that, "the Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”
The implication of this is that Guam may lose some of the core benefits currently enjoyed by the territory, such as the duty-free shopping that lures tourists to the island, the Section 30 that brings military personnel’s taxes back to Guam, and qualifying certificates among others.
“All our beneficial perks would fall to the Uniformity Clause. Because the Constitution would apply, ex proprio vigore independence is off the table,” he added.
He is adamant that people should try to understand what is at the core of the issue. On one hand, the Insular Cases’ wordings are 100 years removed from the current day preferences. “This is present-ism. You cannot judge the language with today’s connotations. That’s totally putting it out of context,” he said.
On the other hand, he said, Guam is in danger of losing its hold on self-determination when equality is demanded (and granted) and the only option left is incorporation. Klitzkie emphasized that Guam currently has the option of maintaining the status quo as an unincorporated territory or taking itself toward three distinct paths – independence, statehood, or free association.
Born on Dec. 20, 1938 in the metropolis of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Klitzkie served 10 years in the Army National Guard that ended in 1992 when he reached his mandatory removal age. He was a lieutenant colonel when he left the service.
He came to the island after accepting a teaching position about 50 years ago. He married Lourdes Palomo. He was one of those who came and fell in love with Guam. He has since Guam made his home.
He feels very strongly that Guam may be pushing itself toward a slippery slope. While the legislative resolution on Insular Cases does not clearly state the path for Guam, making the island an incorporated territory limits its path to only statehood.
Does Guam wish to change from the status quo? He doubts that. Before anything else happens, differing opinions must be heard. He points out that his radio talk show “Tall Tales” on 93.3 FM does exactly that. “People should listen to it. We dive deep into these issues. We are not superficial and we do proper research,” he added.
There you have it, Guam. The future rests on leaders to forge the way forward. But the onus is for them to understand what Guam truly wants. Intelligent debates and not tall tales can make that happen.