The lesson from San Bernadino

The California city of San Bernadino has declared bankruptcy and is now being sued by Calpers, the state pension board, over a suspension of payments by the city to the state pension fund.

The city doesn't have the money to pay for a decent police force, but that doesn't matter to Calpers. They want the cash. And because diminished police protection has resulted in a crime wave, the city attorney had a warning for residents at a recent city council meeting:

The city attorney of San Bernardino is under scrutiny for telling residents to "lock their doors and load their guns" during a city council meeting, CBS Los Angeles reports.

The official explained that because the city just outside of Los Angeles is bankrupt and slashing public safety budgets, people will need to start protecting themselves.

City Attorney Jim Penman said he doesn't regret what he said.

"You should say what you mean and mean what you say," Penman said.

(Scroll down to watch Penman's interview with CBS Los Angeles)

The city attorney said approximately 150 residents came to a council meeting to voice their concerns about recent crimes in the area, including the murder of an elderly woman last week.

"You could tell the swell of frustration was coming over a lot of folks. They did not feel like they could get an officer out as quickly to some of the quality-of-life issues that they were dealing with as they would have preferred," said Councilwoman Wendy McCommack, who organized the meeting and was present that night.

"Well, if I remember right, I told them to 'lock their doors and load their guns,'" Penman said.

Penman said the city is dealing with bankruptcy, which has forced officials to cut its police force by about 80 officers. Consequently, there's been growing criticism about the police department's response time.

"Let's be honest, we don't have enough police officers. We have too many criminals living in this city. We have had 45 murders this year ... that's far too high for a city of this size," Penman said.

The city attorney said it's important for people to be smart about protecting themselves and their family.

Walter Russell Meade:

This is the dystopia where blue ultimately leads. As money gets tight, cities have to choose between paying pensioners or paying for vital services. If California's courts rule for the pensioners, they'll be forcing a harsh reality on San Bernardino's residents. Fighting for scraps in the ruins of a higher civilization?

The pension bomb is primed to go off over the next decade -- sooner if the economy tanks. There will be many citizens in the same boat as residents of San Bernandino once that happens. It begs the question; is bad government better than no government? I'd hate to have  to survive on the difference.