As I travel through our city these many weeks, I am profoundly disturbed as to what I see. Businesses in our community closed until further notice, religious and community centers are no longer public meeting places, stores empty of product, people are out of work, people are in panic, and all of us are being told not to travel and to stay at home.
We know, as the result of the shutdown, the Lakeside Inn and Casino will not reopen, the summer flea market at Elks Club Road will not be reopening, and the US Forest service is prohibiting use of parks in the Basin.
What happened to our country? The freedoms that we have enjoyed since its founding have been so simply set aside and suspended, and our free market system is on edge of collapse with the specter of a depression at our doorstep.
For what? Another strain of influenza? Between the national press and our government, together with the ease of disseminating information, there has been a magnification of this health threat.
There are thousands of stories about the coronavirus with many opinions as to the health effects. Some articles speak in terms of almost certain death; other articles claim that for most it may be no more than a common cold; and, still other articles claim that many cases are asymptomatic. With all the conflicting and speculative information about the virus, can sound policy be made?
The founders of our country sought to protect the citizens from the power of government and assure our freedoms. Both our state and federal constitutions provide that we have the inalienable rights among those rights are enjoying and defending life and liberty, possessing property, the right to travel, right to peaceably assemble, the right to exercise our religion, freedom of speech and the press, and right of due process of law.
As to the free marketplace and the middle class, these elements of economic freedom and the independence of the middle class are essential in making possible the exercise of the rights set forth in our constitutions.
Nothing in our state and federal constitutions provide that our inalienable rights shall be subject to suspension. When the founding fathers drafted the Bill of Rights, they also faced many health challenges from yellow fever, to cholera, to smallpox, but they rightly chose not to make exceptions to our inalienable rights; these rights cannot be taken away by the government.
We are faced with the present situation with no ending date, no conclusion. Those in power think they are building another public works project of cost overruns and missed deadlines. They fail to understand that our economy is like a fine pocket watch of many moving parts, running together, provides the correct time, and which can easily be stopped by removing just one part.
Our elected officials are playing with fire. At the height of the Great Depression, unemployment reached the level of 25% of the workforce; during the Great Recession of 2009, it was 9.9%, and presently we have an 18% rate, up from 3.5% last year. It took over 10 years and World War II to recover from the Great Depression. Many of us still carry the scars of the 2009 recession.
Enough. Where do we start? We demand from our elected officials to immediately stop the use of their police powers of regulations and intimidation, stop interfering with our lives, and permit businesses to open now.
We should always use good judgment in dealing with any health challenge. But are we prepared to stop living and stop our lives every couple of years because a new strain of flu appears in our community? Think about the precedent we are setting. Think about how easily the government has taken over. Think about it.
Bruce Grego is a South Lake Tahoe resident.