Where do we go from here? We’ve reached unemployment levels that equal or exceed the Great Depression, which soon may be renamed in history books as Great Depression One. We’ve seen economic growth collapse. We’ve taken on debt that staggers the imagination.

We have opportunities to make decisions and changes as we climb out of the rubble. The first thing we’ll have to decide is whether we’re going to let America change into the Republic of Bananastan.

In America, people have fundamental individual rights, guaranteed by a written Constitution that elected officials swear to uphold. In a banana republic, an all-powerful government takes what it wants, takes care of its friends and makes life unbearable for everybody else.

You be the judge of which way it’s going in California.

For example, in a recent online town hall meeting, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin praised the pressure that the city is putting on hotel and motel owners to sign up for Project Roomkey and turn their properties into temporary homeless shelters. “I was glad to hear Mayor Garcetti last night call out the hotels and tell them to step up and to be a part of this. I’m happy to propose some stuff in council this week that might put some conditions on hotels if they don’t,” he said.

Bonin said he’ll further propose that the city use federal funds “to either buy hotels that go belly-up, or use that to buy the distressed properties that are absolutely gonna be on the market at cheaper prices after this crisis is over, and use that as homeless and affordable housing. It’s going to be a hell of a lot cheaper if we purchase stuff that is already there and move people in quickly than if we start from scratch.”

Those properties would become distressed even faster under a proposal Bonin co-authored to expand the city’s ban on evictions, so even tenants whose incomes were not affected by the COVID crisis could stop paying rent for the duration of the open-ended emergency. The proposal was shot down by the city attorney’s office, which said that the city lacks the legal authority to protect all tenants from having to pay rent. Bonin insisted that the proposal was within the city’s powers.

Observe this carefully. The plan is to force the property owners out of business. Then the “distressed” properties can be purchased for a song by the city, or more likely by well-connected developers who will have access to taxpayer funds or subsidized loans.

This is just evil, there’s no other word for it. As always, in the name of protecting us.

Other confiscatory plans that are afoot include a new tax to subsidize the purchase of electric vehicles. That’s been on the agenda of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is seeking legislation that would allow its board to put a proposed sales-tax increase on the ballot in a four-county area.

The steady erosion of your rights continues with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statement that California can’t reopen until there are thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands, of government workers trained to track and trace the contacts of potentially every state resident and visitor. The potential for abuse and invasion of privacy is unlimited.

It’s nothing new for California’s government to overreach, or to make “investments” of your tax dollars that do little except put your money into the pockets of people who are not you. The difference this time is that we’re in a long-term and possibly recurring “emergency,” ruled by a governor whose power is without restraint or limits.

The thing to remember about banana republics, and all countries that fail to respect property rights, is that they fail economically. If people are not confident that they will own the fruits of their own labor, there is no incentive to invest years of study and work in something productive. The incentive is to lie low and say nice things about the government. Eventually, there’s less and less produced, basic needs cannot be met and there’s a demand for an international bailout.

We’re seeing a version of that now. Cities and states are demanding money from the federal government. But Washington may not be interested in bailing out the previous fiscal mismanagement in some states with the money from people in other states.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the startling statement that he thinks states should be allowed to go into bankruptcy. That would allow a court to set aside contracts, such as the ones the state of California has made with public employee unions.

Bankruptcy would be a nuclear war against unaffordable pensions, Cadillac health benefits and padded staffing levels. A negotiated agreement for pension reform could defuse the bomb.

There are other nuclear options. Unemployment concerns could be addressed through the initiative process, which could be used to turn California into a right-to-work state so that union membership could never be a condition of employment. That would limit the power of the unions, which currently have so much influence in Sacramento that freelance work has actually been outlawed because independent contractors can’t be unionized and forced to pay dues.

It’s not any more unthinkable than what’s already happened. Tax increases and government bailouts are not the only options available as we start from scratch to rebuild.

If you want to live in a free country and not in the Republic of Bananastan, the first thing to understand is that freedom is a condition that exists under a government of limited power.

The Constitution limits the power of government. That’s why.

Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. [email protected]. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley


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