San Nicolas believes Guam can make a comeback from its growing problems

Michael San Nicolas is running to take back the seat voters gave him in Congress during the pandemic so that he can help to resolve a new, post-pandemic crisis the government of Guam clearly did not prepare for: Life in Guam without all that federal money Mr. San Nicolas brought to the local government’s coffers when he was in Congress.

Voters in 2018 sent Mr. San Nicolas to Congress and within four years more federal cash flowed into the island than any similar period since the reconstruction of Guam following World War II devastation. Then, when the money came and his political rivals at the time spent it on a cornucopia of politically-expansive purposes, the voters appeared to sense they had no further need of the maverick’s abilities.

San Nicolas’ problem (per se) with politics, politicians, and the electorate is strikingly similar to Winston Churchill’s relationship to his people of that time. The question is, ‘Like Churchill, will San Nicolas be seen by voters as someone needed for this time, for this new crisis?’

In the British elections of 1945, following the five years Winston Churchill led the United Kingdom from near-German invasion and into European victory over the Nazis and the fascists, Mr. Churchill’s challenger, Clement Attlee sold the public on this line: “Churchill is the hero of our war. But now we are in the era of peace. We needed Churchill’s expertise to win the war. But what we need now is prosperity during peace time.”

It was a promise Mr. Attlee made that the British, Europe, and the rest of the free world soon came to regret believing. And by 1950, the British returned Mr. Churchill to office to deal with communism, the erosion of the British empire, and the economic turmoil all of that brought to the doorsteps of the average Briton.

Unlike the 1940 election that first made Mr. Churchill the prime minister, Michael San Nicolas’ 2018 election as Guam’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives was not based on any particular crisis the Guamanian people entrusted him to resolve. Arguably, he was elected because of his maverick reputation as a senator, but most people likely did not expect him to solve any of the problems every congressman before him had been unable to fix. After all, since 1971 Guam had been sending delegates to the House, and none of them brought closure to war claims, unreimbursed payments of federal earned income (tax) credits, Medicaid matching funds, Agent Orange compensation authorization, and more.

So, when – only months after his election – democrat Mike San Nicolas convinced the republican Congress and the republican president to resolve the seven-decade-old war claims matter, people began to understand the voters had elected someone different. Someone effective.

It was the revving of an engine that just kept going. And by the time the crisis – the pandemic – actually started, Guam had its island version of Churchill representing its interests in the only place on earth Guamanians were getting money from – the federal government. The $2.5 billion Mr. San Nicolas secured for Guam in federal pandemic-era grants – not inclusive of the billions infused into Guam from normal military spending and the ongoing military buildup – filled the void where tourists once sustained the economy, and wiped out every financial problem and excuse for progress the government of Guam has ever had.

And that leadership –  much like Churchill’s – was needed at just the right time. Eddie Calvo left office in 2019, leaving behind an island wealthier than it had ever been. Gross domestic product for Guam that year was recorded at $6.3 billion, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. One year later – the first year of the pandemic – GDP plummeted to $5.8 billion. And that was with nearly one full quarter of near-normal economic activity prior to the shut downs, the infusion of more than $1 billion in federal pandemic aid, and the ratcheting up of spending by the military. Had the federal and military cash inflows not happened that year, the economy would have been devastated.

The federal spending trend continued in 2021, not only providing for the public health needs of the island during the pandemic, but providing the cash flow and the revenues that resulted in budget surpluses, massive public pay raises, unemployment aid, grants and loans to keep businesses running, and so much more.

In the midst of this economic and government financial relief, Mr. San Nicolas resolved several other “legacy” issues and problems that had baffled every congressman and governor before him, not to mention the millions in local resources that had been spent to fail over 50 years what San Nicolas did in four.

The most unexpected of these achievements aside from war claims was his convincing Congress to approve federal reimbursement to Guam for paying out the Earned Income (Tax) Credit to poor workers, eliminating the decades-old structural imbalance of the General Fund. Around the same time he convinced Congress to raise the federal matching funds for Medicaid from 55 percent to 83 percent, saving GovGuam tens of millions of dollars annually.

Then he got period-certain Guam veteran victims of Agent Orange eligible for compensation, the authorization of housing projects for H2B workers in an effort to stem the rising cost of housing, funding for the broadband expansion program being implemented now, funding for water improvements in poverty-stricken developments, funding for the fisherman’s cooperative and a livestock cooperative, highway funding that is paying for all the routed road construction that’s been happening, rental assistance, child care assistance, the stimulus funds, education facilities funding, and more.

Well,  now, almost all that money is gone. And in its void is a society that anecdotally is growing poorer, with data suggesting around 10,000 Guamanians – about 8 percent of the population – have relocated to greener pastures.

Mr. San Nicolas believes all is not lost, and that an innovative focus in Congress can help Guamanians to make the island a better place for all.

“It is our hope and belief that the island shares this vision, and that we all know the only way to achieve this is to make it happen with true grit and unrelenting determination,” he said in a statement.

Is this Mr. San Nicolas’ 1950 Churchill comeback? Will the voters see him as the right man needed at just the right time?

We shall see. Voters have an opportunity August 3 to advance either he, Ginger Cruz, or Amanda Shelton in the democratic primary election to challenge incumbent republican James “Jim” Moylan in November.

“Kathy, Kaleb, Keke and I talk often about what we know our island and people deserve, and that everyone’s lives and futures should be filled with greater opportunities – we want this for Guam. It is with great humility that we make ourselves available once again to serve if our people will so have us,” said the former Congressman. “We humbly ask the people to join us, from all walks of life, all politics parties; let’s build a responsible Guam.”


Leave a Reply

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