Quit screwing the poor to pay the rich man’s way in the CNMI. Tax hotel buffets, not pugua

By Mabel Doge Luhan

Oh, death and taxes! How well they dance together! I haven’t paid any taxes since I had myself declared legally dead in 1962. Perhaps that boy Shayne can try the same trick — though anybody who dresses like that has always been dead to me!

Sin taxes are my absolute favorite. Doesn’t it just feel so naughty, being forced to pay up for your misdeeds? We’re now eagerly divvying up the money that will be raised by our new sin tax, the one on pugua. Pugua causes nasty red teeth and oral cancer, so we’re all eager to tax Yapese pugua. The pugua comes from Yap, after all, so the tax won’t be paid by Saipan’s pugua producers — just by Saipan’s poor, who are the primary consumers of pugua. At least the tax correctly targets Yapese pugua, because that’s the only kind that causes cancer— oh? No? 

Apparently our homegrown CNMI pugua causes cancer just as much? But we’re taxing Yapese pugua to improve our health? Or is it to help our people — pugua farmers — while hurting pugua resellers and consumers in Saipan, not to mention Yap? 

It makes my head spin, just like a good chew! I almost dropped my platter of sashimi on the KKK logo adorning the Kensington swimming pool! 

But that reminded me: why do we tax our poorest people, and why are we so worried about the negative effects of pugua, when the much bigger problem is obesity? Yes, we do have oral cancer in the CNMI, but it’s nothing compared to the effects of obesity: adult-onset diabetes, cardiovascular events, and all kinds of cancers.

We are serious about improving public health, aren’t we?

So let’s tax hotel buffets. They are definitely a cause of obesity in the CNMI. It’s obvious who’s been feeding at the prime rib trough! I’m not going to name names, because I’ve already talked enough about Rafet.

And unlike pugua, hotel buffets are consumed almost exclusively by higher-income people in the CNMI. Such a tax would be to some extent PROGRESSIVE (taxing the rich more than the poor) rather than a pugua tax that would be REGRESSIVE (taxing the poor more than the rich, like most taxes in the CNMI). 

Let’s tax hotel buffets a good 25%? What’s 25% to someone who’s already paying $75 for lunch? 40% might be even better! It still hurts less than an extra few dollars for a pugua chewer.

In light of how many buffet feeds are government-paid, we must also ban the CNMI government from paying the buffet tax for its employees during “official meetings” at the buffets. All those politicians and special assistants will be presented with personal tax bills — even those who haven’t paid taxes in years!

I hope we can get the MVA to “support” this tax for tourists. In fact, why not just “support” the entire buffet for tourists? After all, that’s the way to bring in government revenues: paying people to visit us! We could even hire Roil Soil to market the free meals.

A hotel buffet tax is so obvious, and so obviously better than a pugua tax. It will tax the economic elite, rather than the poor people who usually pay for our newest tax d’jour. Won’t politicians love to SHARE OUR PAIN and pay 40% extra on their hotel buffet meals — with no reimbursement? And if not, why not?


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.


  • Islas Corrupt

      11/06/2023 at 6:41 AM

    In essence, the current 10 hours cut for cost containment for austerity is painfully disproportionately punitive.

    Government mployees who not on ARPA (On General Funds Only)are actually suffering the pain since realistically they are at 70 hours.

    In contrast, Government Employees on funded both by General Funds and ARPA salaries are inflated. Their salaries included a within grade increase (9% increase,) and an additional 20% increase in salary.

    The computing equates as follows:

    General funds only Employees are at 70 hours and Employees funded by both General Funds and ARPA are at 86 hours plus additional 9% within grade increase.

    • Mabel Doge Luhan

        11/09/2023 at 12:45 AM

      The CNMI’s truly poor would love to have the problem of being paid for only seventy hours of “work.”

  • Islas Corrupt

      11/06/2023 at 11:31 AM

    There is also of great concern and dismay landing a bitter taste on the month of numerous government ghost employees whose salaries boosted by ARPA.

    Some can be openly seen or heard about anywhere but at their worksite along side with their superiors even top cabinet member.

    The CNMI Government ARPA Funding of Pie in the Sky amounting to 20% increase to astronomical funding of $30,934.343 million dollars for FY 2024.

    The total amount from FY 2023 and FY 2024 is $61,868,686 million but given to for a few.

    But waiting, the fleecing continues with new employees occupying positions they do not qualify for with salaries which includes the ARPA laden 9% Within Grade increase and the additional 20% gimme.

    As previously narrated, the austerity measures equals to 70 hour biweekly for General Fund only employees.

    For employees fund by the 80% (but actually 100%) along with 9% WIthin Grade increase General Funds side laden with an additional 20% increase. Those in this category who are on austerity BI-WEEKLY Hours is 86 while not on austerity are tagged at 96 hours. So if one doesn’t not qualify for the position but are on ARPA, providence’s might we seek it more for such is beyond wickedness, humanity in abyss and beyond sin imaginable.

    Almighty Father have mercy on us during bitter times.

  • I lost two local friends to betelnut. One was Jerry Kaneshi, who worked at Microl Toyota. He later switched to JJJ Motors, but by then he had serious lesions in his mouth.

    He went to the PI for surgery, but died there instead. I still miss my old friend.

    Once, in the old Garapan Sunleader, I saw a pretty local woman with an adorable 4 year-old girl. The woman was buying several bags of betelnut. I said, “That stuff can kill you.” She replied, “I know.”

    Self-destructive behavior is not new, but it never fails to baffle me why so many commit suicide on the installment plan.

  • Another, similar, misfortune is the large number of Chamorro and Carolinian people who have a debilitating form of Type 2 Diabetes. I can’t say that chewing betelnut is responsible, but a steady diet of white rice and Spam certainly is.

    Whenever I visit the CHC, I see local people in wheelchairs, with their lower legs twice the normal size.

    When I asked a diabetic friend about the locals and how their disease has dangerously progressed, he replied, “Because they refuse to take their medicine.”

    One would not normally assume that such a buoyant and happy people would willfully make their illnesses worse, but there it is, in plain view. It’s sad and immensely frustrating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *