George Orwell once said, “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”
I was reminded of that quote while listening to Councilman Jose F. Moreno yesterday afternoon on “The Raad Life” podcast, which unsurprisingly revolved around the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, Moreno and his hosts were talking about how businesses responded as the pandemic progressed. Host Raad Ghantous mused he might have installed protective equipment in his restaurant sooner had the government offered an incentive grant of some amount. Moreno jumped on that remark:
“It shows that it’s a fallacy to show that business people will always do the right thing. That’s the fallacy. For some reason they chose not to require the masks themselves. And now they gotta be closed because they chose not to.”
The true fallacies are the straw man arguments upon which Moreno relies. No free enterprise advocate claims business people always do the smart thing. But the market is far better at efficiently allocating capital, labor and resources than the public sector. When a business makes enough mistakes – or big enough mistakes – it fails. When the public agencies fail to perform, not only does they not close up shop, it demands – and usually gets – more money.
Furthermore, Moreno specific assertion about businesses and taking measures to protect customers is factually wrong. Businesses moved as quickly as possible to sanitize equipment, adopt social distancing protocols, provide PPE for employees and then to require or ask customers to wear masks. They didn’t wait for Governor Newsom to order them to do so. If anything, the private sectors track record in effectively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is far better than government’s.
Then there’s Moreno’s assertion that businesses are closing because, in his mind, they didn’t impose a mask requirement on customers sooner. Businesses are closing because the government is shutting them down. And if they go out of business, it will be because they cannot survived prolonged, serial, government-mandated shut-downs.
People have free will. They can decide for themselves where to shop, and whether or not to wear masks, notwithstanding unenforceable government mandates. Everyday experience shows very few people enter a business without a mask. The vast majority wear masks as they go about their daily business. We are smart and law-abiding people who are fully capable of acting in our own best interest without the heavy-handed shepherding of paternalistic politicians.
Hostility To Profit
Moreno also revealed his DNA-level dislike of profit and the idea that someone, somewhere is making money. He expressed resentment that certain business sectors are doing well because the pandemic has increased demand for their services
Moreno: Somebody is benefiting from this chaos. And, you know, things that I’ve that I’ve seen and read the stock market is still surging it’s still going. Yeah, the billionaire class of Jeff Bezos and these others they’re making billion more dollars because the industry is now – we’re dependent on deliveries, were dependent on their products.”
Ghantous: You guys know the old adage right? Never let it never let a good crisis go to waste.
God forbid Americans should be working and earning a living during the pandemic! It’s as if they see the pandemic as a conspiracy by tech robber barons to add to their already enormous piles of lucre. This is such a bent, class-struggle viewpoint of the present crisis.
Bezos built an online juggernaut out of his garage, revolutionizing how goods are purchased and distributed. Contrary to Moreno painting Amazon as an exploiter, try to imagine weathering this pandemic absent the robust e-commerce infrastructure that Amazon spawned? It would have made flattening the curve by sheltering in place, and other public health protocols, enormously more difficult because far more people would have had to leave their homes to buy the things they need.
Do Amazon and other digital companies benefit from the increased demand for their services? Absolutely. Does our country benefit from those services? Absolutely. Yet something about that beneficial success sparks resentment.
Moreno’s Flip-Flop On Landlords
Moreno also expressed a newfound concern for “mom and pop” landlords:
“And where we use our CARE dollars says a lot. Are we going to protect renters? Are we going to protect property owners of duplexes – mom and pop property owners who depend on that rent for their retirement?”
That’s funny. Last year, Moreno denounced the owners of the Casa Grande apartments for enacting a large rent increase on tenants of the 18-unit apartment building. Moreno cast them as villains and used the rent increase as his rationale for demanding city-wide rent control.
As it turned out, the Casa Grande owners were precisely the “mom and pop” landlords whom Moreno now wants to befriend. The owners were a small partnership of elderly immigrants who literally depended on their rental income to supplement their Social Security. They so rarely raised rents during decades of ownership that their tenants paid rents at far below market rate.
When this site brought those facts to light, Moreno ignored them and continued casting them as the villains in his rent control drama. He shed no crocodile tears for those mom and pop landlords because it didn’t suit his political purposes at the time.
Since the public recognizes that preventing landlords from collecting rent ultimately bankrupts the landlords – who themselves have mortgages, maintenance and upkeep to pay for – Moreno responds by supporting government assistance for small landlords – larger “corporate” apartment owners can pound sand. Small landlords are now “good,” but “corporate” apartment owners are still “bad.”
What Moreno ignores is much of the so-called corporate apartment stock is owned by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT). REITs are investment vehicles into which public employee pension funds invest the payroll contributions of teachers, city employees, etc. to fund their retirement.
Moreno also casts himself as the champion of teachers and city employees. But how does it benefit teachers and municipal employees to undermine their ability to obtain a strong return in their retirement funds? It’s doubtful that thought has even crossed the councilman’s mind.
All of this points back to the reality of Councilman Moreno’s politics, which are characterized by a misunderstanding and mistrust of free enterprise, and an inordinate, intellectualized faith in the efficacy of government.