Since hitting the U.S. earlier this year, the coronavirus epidemic has wracked the nation, tragically taking the lives of over 100,000 Americans. It has also put significant stress on our country’s economy, causing millions of people to lose their jobs while straining cities and states nationwide in the process. While the latest U.S. job numbers provide some hope that recovery is finally underway, they also reveal how underprepared many politicians were for this pandemic, and now the areas they are meant to be leading are instead struggling to rebound.
Nowhere is this fact more plainly obvious than in Los Angeles, where many of the issues and problems that have unfolded in the city over the course of this crisis stem directly from the unstable economic and fiscal policies that have been ingrained in Los Angeles well-before COVID-19.
Throughout the seven years Mayor Garcetti has been in charge, the city has struggled to recover the vital middle-class jobs that played a central role in establishing the city as an economic powerhouse, but which have nevertheless slowly disappeared from key industries like aerospace and manufacturing. Even in the developing sectors where Mayor Garcetti promised he would place a focus on creating new jobs, such as his pledge to generate 20,000 new green jobs, he has failed to make good on his promises.
To add fuel to the economic fire that is raging in Los Angeles, Garcetti completely abandoned his prior campaign promise to eliminate the city’s business tax, despite many companies saying clearly that it’s the primary reason they won’t locate to Los Angeles.
All of this helps to now explain why Los Angeles not only boasts the dubious distinction of having a higher unemployment rate than the rest of California, but also than the rest of the U.S.
Out-of-control spending has also left Los Angeles in a precarious and unfortunate position, limiting the city’s options as it contends with how to address the continued threat of COVID-19.
Garcetti bears a significant portion of the blame for this, as he has not effectively managed pension expenses. In fact, Los Angeles owes billions in pension obligations, which take up an incredible one-fifth of the city’s budget. Worse yet, the pension obligation is expected to increase by more than a billion dollars per year over the next decade. All of this is taking place while the city lacks necessary funds to pay for relief efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, in turn forcing it to borrow $70 million from its Special Funds and Reserve Fund to cover the cost of the city’s COVID-19 response.
As this crisis unfolds, the level of mismanagement that has occurred under Mayor Garcetti’s watch shouldn’t be a total shock. From an FBI-led corruption investigation involving the Garcetti Administration to the Mayor having to spend time covering his tracks due to a series of misstatements surrounding the pandemic, these self-inflicted distractions by Garcetti have prevented the city from focusing on what matters most: keeping the people of Los Angeles safe and healthy. All of this hasn’t gone unnoticed either, as efforts have arisen to recall the mayor.
Rather than protecting the city, Mayor Garcetti has provided a blueprint in how not to handle a crisis. The coronavirus has served as a critical reminder not only of the importance of ensuring the resilience of our health care system, but the strength of our economic and fiscal health as well so we will be better prepared to handle future crises when the time comes. And given how 2020 is turning out, we can expect more crises are on the horizon.