The Sad State of Florida

Teacher crisis. Housing crisis. Property insurance crisis. Homelessness crisis. Healthcare crisis. Covid crisis. Leadership crisis.

The Sad State of Florida

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As is obvious to anyone with a remote control, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a man with big ambitions and a Mussolini impersonation to match.

Encouraged by the continued legal jeopardy facing the mentally feeble Trump, the Yale- and Harvard-educated DeSantis is seizing every opportunity to cosplay as the GOP’s new Carnival Barking Clown.

Even as he strips away one freedom after another from Florida residents, DeSantis is being cheered on by an ever-growing list of media types from Rupert Murdoch to Joe Rogan to Bill Maher—and funded by an assortment of fascist-friendly Dark Money donors from the worlds of tech and finance.

DeSantis seems to think his job consists of hosting Fox-News-friendly press conferences designed to keep MAGA cult members enraged at the libs and ready to do permanent battle in the “Christian Nationalist” culture war. Day after day, he pops up at a lectern somewhere pantomiming the kind of thuggishness that he knows excites poorly educateds, white supremacists, and radicalized incels (i.e. “the GOP base”).

While DeSantis focuses relentlessly on becoming the Alpha Male of MAGA-land,  the state he nominally leads pinballs from one crisis to another.

Most prominently:

The DeSantis Teacher Crisis

Throughout the Covid pandemic, DeSantis has shown little concern for the safety of teachers. He’s dismissed science. Scoffed at masks. Lied to parents. And sent Florida’s cases levels and death toll through the roof, even in the age of free vaccines.

On top of that, Florida is one of the shittiest places imaginable to even consider entering the teaching profession.

In a state where the DeSantis Housing Crisis is plunging more and more of the middle-class into homelessness, Florida teachers are consistently and grossly underpaid.

As News4Jax reported recently, the average teacher salary in Florida is just $51,167, well below the national average of $65,293.

The DeSantis Teacher Crisis is so dire that the Florida Education Association says more than 450,000 Florida students may have started last school year without full-time, certified teachers in their classrooms.

And this year is shaping up to be even worse.

The FEA now says that 60,000 additional students are expected in the new school year, with 14,000 teacher and staff positions still vacant.

As they head into a new school year, Florida’s beleaguered teachers are increasingly distressed by the expectations of DeSantis’ oppressive new “Don’t Say Gay” law. Many are still seeking guidance about how to activate the “gaydar” they will be expected to use to snitch on potential same-sex dating between students.

Exacerbating educators’ and parents’ concerns, the DeSantis Teacher Crisis has also forced the state to relax the rules for hiring new teachers.

In a move born of desperation, DeSantis is now trying to recruit unqualified veterans, even those who lack bachelor’s degrees or any teaching certification to teach kids in kindergarten through high school. The new emergency requirements have even removed restrictions on teaching topics such science, technology, engineering or mathematics, which used to require at least a master’s degree to be taught above the 6th grade.

However, in a twist that may upset DeSantis’ white nationalist supporters, at least one school district is helping give kids a true multicultural education by recruiting teachers from countries like India, the Philippines, Peru, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Ghana & Mexico.

Of course, what kids are allowed to be taught remains an issue. DeSantis’ remains determined to stop kids from becoming “woke,” which means no math or history books that aren’t approved by the state. And one school district just slapped cigarette-style warning labels on 102 books, including popular works by Toni Morrison, Jodi Picoult and Judy Blume, plus seemingly any books that contain the letters L, G, B, T or Q.

And if that wasn’t scary enough: While Florida Republicans are putting warning labels on books, they’re still giving away AR-15s in raffles.

Crisis Upon Crisis

In addition to destroying Florida’s education system, Ron DeSantis has created a vicious cycle of unending crises in the increasingly sad state of Florida. In brief:

  • The DeSantis Housing Crisis: The fact that Florida is now “the least affordable place to live in the country” is a disaster for a state so dependent not only on teachers, but also on its theme park, hotel and restaurant workers. DeSantis’ failure to take Covid-19 seriously exacerbated the economic insecurity faced by service industry workers which, combined with the Florida GOP’s repeated failure to make good on its affordable housing promises, have only made the disastrous situation worse.
  • The DeSantis Property Insurance Crisis: Under Ron DeSantis, there’s no relief even for those who can afford their own homes. At the end of July—right at the start of hurricane season—the American Traditions Insurance Company became the 8th property insurance company to pause new business in Florida. As News Channel 8 in Tampa reported, DeSantis has ignored the looming property insurance crisis for months, abandoning homeowners while he picked fights with “woke CEOs.”
  • The DeSantis Homelessness Crisis: Florida now ranks third in the nation for homelessness—leaping ahead of Texas, even though the Lone Star State is home to 7.4 million more people. And as WPTV of Palm Beach reported recently, after DeSantis failed them during the pandemic, more and more middle-class workers have been plunged into homelessness and priced out of the Florida rental market for the foreseeable future.
  • The DeSantis Healthcare Crisis: When it comes to the biggest healthcare topic of the midterms—reproductive freedom—Ron DeSantis has come down firmly on the side of rapists, perpetrators of incest and sex traffickers. To prove how much he wants rapists to pick the mothers of their children, DeSantis just fired a prosecutor who said he wouldn’t enforce the state’s draconian new abortion laws. This summer, Florida hospitals were woefully unprepared to handle new threats like monkeypox or the easy-to-see-coming wave of of BA.5 infections.  Politico recently reported: “70 percent of Florida hospitals are facing a critical staffing shortage, and the state will be short 60,000 nurses by 2035.” Meanwhile, in Florida nursing homes, DeSantis’ bungling of the pandemic response has created a staffing crisis that means, in the words of one expert, “residents are at greater risk now.”
  • The DeSantis Covid Crisis: Many of the crises described above have been made worse by DeSantis’ total failure to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. A year ago, I wrote here that: “‘Jaws’ had a sequel. Turns out ‘Pandumbic’ does, too.” DeSantis turned Year Two of the pandemic into a year of death and disease. And when Omicron arrived, he made sure that maskless Florida welcomed it with an open mouth. So far in 2022, 36% more people have died of Covid-19 in Florida than in New York. While part of his calculation was to sabotage Biden nationally, the reality is that under DeSantis Floridians have suffered and died far more than they needed to.

All of the above highlights that what Florida is really facing is a leadership crisis.

While his fans in Murdoch Media may see DeSantis as a younger and smarter alternative to the aging con artist pervert traitor who attacked America on January 6th, many Floridians have already had enough. As Business Insider reported last month, “high prices and shattered expectations” are among the reasons cited as more and more people choose to flee Florida.

DeSantis crams all the stupidity, racism, bigotry, misogyny and religious extremism of today’s GOP into a single belligerent meat sack.

His high profile nationally means most people are assuming DeSantis will win re-election as Governor in November.

Who will he be facing? Polls show Charlie Crist—a current Democratic representative and former Republican governor—holds a comfortable lead ahead of the Democratic primary on August 23.

Can Crist win? As New York magazine says, “he has the name recognition and goodwill to make it a race.”

And in the new, “post-Kansas” world, we have to assume that for a candidate as high profile as Charlie Crist, defeating a Governor as atrocious as DeSantis is a definite possibility.

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