When social engineering becomes unsustainable

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Robert Magee
Robert Magee. Courtesy photo

It is a time unlike any other in our nation’s history, but Americans have always found a way to rise to the occasion and meet any challenge head on. The COVID-19 virus will not defeat this great nation. However, after this crisis has passed, it should give us pause to reevaluate some of the policies we have put in place under the guise of being a progressive nation.

Here in California, the progressive movement has been all the rage for decades as we worked to build carpool lanes instead of simply adding more general-purpose or regular lanes to our freeway systems. We even pushed electric cars into these lanes as an incentive to “do the right thing.” Or, we have punished you into paying a toll if you wanted to avoid traffic. Currently, almost no one is on the freeways, and toll lane revenues are plummeting.

The California Environmental Quality Act, a well-intentioned legislative effort to protect and preserve California’s rich and wonderful natural beauty, has now been bastardized into a tool to extort money from developers or union jobs from employers. Saving the grizzly bear – the state’s symbol – is no longer a priority as the animal is extinct. There’s a message there somewhere. Shouldn’t we be looking to push the reset button when a policy fails or becomes obsolete?

In the midst of a housing crisis, the bureaucrats continued to insist on prohibiting the construction of new homes if they believed their development “may” impact such precious “endangered” species as the kangaroo rat, the Delhi Sands flower loving fly or the arroyo toad. With so many families in need of good quality, affordable housing, shouldn’t we be more focused on sheltering American citizens than a frog, a rat or a fly?

Our air quality police took away the ability to build a new home with a fireplace in order to reduce pollution impacts, but the homeless, or urban outdoorsman, can still have campfires and threaten the safety of those who follow the rules and pay their bills. And the water police restricted our ability to water our lawns or wash our vehicles just two short years ago – this policy will no doubt return – and now with the extra time on our hands who hasn’t washed their car?

The state has restricted the use of plastic bags and straws to protect wildlife in our ocean, streams and lakes. But, the Department of Fish and Wildlife spends their time passing out tickets to anglers with too many rods in the water rather than pursuing and arresting those who actually pollute and destroy our waterbodies. If their mission is revenue generation, then they will continue to cite those who can pay the ticket. If their mission was to protect the environment, then they would take steps to do that.

On Jan. 31, 2020, our president placed a travel ban on China. He was immediately vilified for what the progressives called an unnecessary isolationist policy. Some even called him a racist. Today, those same players accuse him of acting too slowly. Such is the “reality” of a true progressive. These are the same people who legislated reusable grocery bags and now have made them illegal. They pushed an open borders philosophy for decades and now have ordered us not to leave our homes. They reduced the penalties for “non-violent” crimes in order to release convicts out onto the streets early, but now they will arrest a small-business owner for operating if their function is defined as “nonessential.” If that’s how you make a living for you and your family, it sure is essential to you.

As the pandemic rages, New York’s governor said quite clearly that “our density is our biggest enemy.” Yet, here in California, our governor has pushed for higher and higher densities, ordering Riverside County to create 30,000 new housing units near mass transit hubs in the next decade. How do you maintain social distance in an elevator, train, bus or carpool?

After the Second World War, America’s postwar production shifted to the housing industry to accommodate the baby boom as Americans transitioned from a rural agrarian lifestyle to a more urban city-style and the detached single-family home became the new standard. Entrepreneurs adopted the Henry Ford model, creating an assembly line of production homes on large plots of land, and the subdivision was born with living rooms and dining rooms, garages and backyards. American’s coveted having their own space, and it became “The American Dream.”

This dream has now been demonized by the progressives who want us all to shrink our footprint on the globe and surrender like sheep to a new standard of living in shared spaces. Spaces that we are now told to stay in or stay away from – the gyms, parks, beaches, etc. – during this crisis. Where would you rather be quarantined? In the backyard by the pool with your family or barbecuing a meal on your 4-foot by 6-foot balcony where you could ask your neighbor to please pass the mustard?

The mixed messages of the progressive movement are blaring examples of a well-intentioned but wrong-minded group of people who want to inflict their academic values on the rest of humanity while they pursue a different course for themselves and their families. Former Gov. Jerry Brown, who some consider the father of the progressive movement during his four terms as governor, retired to his family’s 2,500-acre ranch. While he’s driving around the ranch in his gas-powered all-terrain vehicle, does he avoid trampling the protected California sage scrub? I wonder if he longs for a small cramped apartment, a public gym and a daily bus ride to work? I’m thinking no.

And then, there is the progressive Los Angeles County sheriff who announced that he would be releasing prisoners from his jails, thanks to Assembly Bill 109 these folks are no longer in state prisons – to protect them from the coronavirus, while at the same time attempting to close gun stores – until someone reminded him of a little thing called the Second Amendment. And while the sheriff is releasing criminals, the Los Angeles mayor has vowed that he will cite, punish or incarcerate anyone who violates the “stay at home” order. A surfer received a $1,000 citation for riding the waves. Just how many personal freedoms are we willing to surrender these lunatics? We should all be following the direction from our public health officials: stay in place, maintain your space and cover your face. But if I’m on the Pacific Ocean with my longboard, I don’t believe that I am a danger to myself or others.

When this crisis ends and I pray that the suffering of our people stops soon, we must remember the lessons from this moment and reverse the failed social engineering policies of the progressive movement that have systematically stripped away many of our freedoms. Moving forward we must: Put violent criminals back in jails or prisons; provide the mentally ill with quality behavioral health care; rewrite the California Environmental Quality Act; repeal Senate Bill 375; restructure the Air Resources Board; repeal Proposition 47 and Proposition 57; repeal Assembly Bill 109; bring back the Three Strikes Law and rewrite the Endangered Species Act.

Today, after exercising in my home gym, I walked my dogs on our city’s levee trail where I looked out over a beautiful lake as it lays out in front of the majestic Ortega Mountains – not a high-rise apartment building or elevated bullet train in sight. As a long serving elected official, I am proud of the quality of life our policies have achieved for our families and businesses, while preserving the precious natural beauty of our environment.

We should all be able to enjoy the opportunities the Greatest Generation fought and died for us to have. Millions of servicemen and women have continued that proud tradition and have protected us from evil while preserving our freedoms. They made it possible for us to pursue the American Dream; don’t let the progressives take that dream away. Get informed, stay active, hold your elected officials accountable and get out and vote for the life you want for yourself and your family.

While the country was not ready for the Socialist agenda being pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, his surge in popularity especially in California should be a wake-up call that the progressive movement appeals strongly to a group of people who have been raised to expect government involvement in all facets of their lives and have grown to appreciate and accept it. Those people who still cherish their freedoms and rugged individualism need to be prepared to rise up and push back on the progressive agenda, because it has now been shown to be unsustainable.

Robert Magee