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What happened to the American spirit?

I’m bewildered by what I see going on in our country and the growing level of laziness among the American people since COVID changed everything.

It’s been reported that there is going on what’s billed as the “Great Resignation,” where a record 4.5 million people quit their jobs in a single month, perhaps because of the labor supply-suppressing effects of coronavirus. While some working moms had to quit because schools cancelled for much of 2020 and half of 2021, I believe a lot of people are using COVID as an excuse to be lazy, not show up for work, or get a convenient vacation by saying their nasal swab came back positive for COVID.

There is a budding anti-work movement afoot, especially in leisure and hospitality, retail and healthcare.  Restaurants have had difficulty staying open because people are used to being paid to stay home and don’t make much effort to work.

We’re becoming so scared or lazy as Americans we aren’t willing to drive to restaurants or grocery stores to get our food – we pay somebody else to do it now.

Flights are being cancelled in the tens of thousands.

Many of us have never stopped working – indeed showing up at the job site daily – through the pandemic and roll the eyes when we hear about how scared people are that they’ll catch the ‘rona. Some of us find value in working and producing. I would never respect myself if I cruised through life without working.

This country needs to produce and that’s accomplished by work. What happened to the American spirit?

* * * * *

Sacramento keeps coming up with ways to complicate and burden the lives of Californians. Taking effect on Jan. 1 were 770 new laws.

One of the dumbest of new laws is Senate Bill 328 that forbids middle schools from starting class no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. starting July 1. The author, state Senator Anthony J. Portantino (a Democrat, who else?) said that preteens and teenagers need the extra sleep for their health and development – that is if you’re a rural student then this law doesn’t apply. Did this Democrat consider that parents can put their kids to bed earlier or would that cut too much into video gaming?

Why do I get the sneaking suspicion that this is just another payoff to the teacher’s union? The state Legislature has been bought and paid for by the CTA.

The stupidest law – endorsed by your governor who survived the recall – forces large department stores like Target and Walmart to provide a gender neutral toy aisle with fines attached if they don’t. It was passed under the guise that girl toys cost more than toys for boys but it’s really about dispensing with the idea that boys and girls are different. The Left believes gender is fluid, that it can be whatever a person wants it to be. It’s the purest example of science denial. So if gender is fluid, then so is age? Is it a case of I’m really 60 but I consider myself to be 37? Therefore it should be a hate crime if you think I’m 60 when I’m really 37.

Who has sold us these defective goods in the marketplace of ideas?

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Instead of finding ways to reduce tax burdens of Californians, the Legislature adds burdens to business to pay higher wages. In turn, the business raises prices and cuts employees or their hours; after all, there is a bottom line to be met.

As a result of this outright socialism, I pay more for my hamburger because a burger flipper makes more money than his skill warrants. When I eat fewer burgers because the cost arises, the business does less business and the business issues layoffs. It’s a pretty simple concept. Ask yourself why stores have self-checkout lanes. Why does McDonald’s have a kiosk asking for your order instead of a live person?

Sacramento should focus instead on fostering an economy that promotes opportunity for one to raise his or her income and standard of living. But then again, businesses have been volunteering to pay higher wages to get workers to fill the COVID absent slots at their places of work. That’s part of the reason why inflation is at its highest level in nearly 50 years.

Wealthy investor Joe Sanberg has suggested that the state’s minimum wage should be $18 an hour and tweeted: “Today, a single parent with two children, working full-time in CA would need to earn $50 per hour just to get by.”

If that’s the case, ask yourself if paying $18 per hour is really going to help meet the burden of the high cost of living in California.

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On the Courier Facebook page teasing our story, “New projects for the new year,” G. Greg Young asked, “Any new affordable houses?”

While the Whitmore Ranch was approved in May to subdivide 19.3 acres into 107 residential lots for new homes in east Ceres, we have no idea what prices will be. Project applicants Grant Alvernaz and Steve Alvernaz of Turlock propose to build 77 low-density residential homes, 30 medium-density residential lots.

In answer to Young, former Ceres resident Kevin Wix replied: “Nothing out there is affordable and ever will be. Have to come east where the people are kind and you can buy twice the house for half the price. We left so my children will have a chance to purchase a home.”

California is unaffordable for many and that’s why people are leaving. People also want less crowding, less taxes, less homelessness, less traffic congestion, less regulation and more open space. 

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As the country continues to swell with more and more immigrants, problems with housing and jobs will only worsen.

Think back to the 1800s when immigrants who came in – people like Charles Weber and Ephraim Hatch and John William Mitchell – obtained tens of thousands of acres for a song and dance. Weber, the founder of Stockton, snatched up an old 48,000-acre Mexican land grant with $60 in groceries and a white horse, legend has it.

It was a land of opportunity back when John Mitchell (1828-1893) was living in the Keyes to Turlock area. At one time he owned over 100,000 acres extending from the southern part of Ceres to Atwater. He died a very wealthy man and left an estate worth $3 million, the equivalent of $92 million today.

Ironically the statue of John Mitchell in the downtown Turlock park with the word “Prosperity” across the pedestal is the site of homeless encampments. And at the Turlock cemetery where Mitchell is entombed in a family mausoleum, feet away on the other side of the fence is where homeless tents commonly appear.

As more people inhabit our country, fewer opportunities will present themselves. Families in the 1880s could buy a big chunk of Valley land on which to live and farm. My first house, in Waterford, cost $46,500 in 1986 and came with a huge backyard. Today families are doing good if they can break free from apartment rent to buy their own house at $350,000 with a cramped 12-foot backyard – for prices that would make Mitchell roll over in his grave.

Which brings me to homeless.

The Central Valley didn’t have the homeless problem in the 1960s and 1970s like we do today. We also did not have the meth problem that contributes to homelessness today. (No, not all homeless are that way because of drugs but most of them are).

As of January 2020, California had an estimated 161,548 homeless people on any given day, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that total, 51,785 were the chronically homeless, 8,030 were family households, 11,401 were veterans, and 12,172 were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24).

Lest you think great weather is why so many homeless live in California, Florida has great weather and only 27,487 homeless persons.

Californians should find it unacceptable to have people living under bridges, in ditches, along freeway rights-of-way, on sidewalks in front of businesses and in empty lots. Our state must find a solution but allowing folks to live this way is unacceptable; it puts them of illness, injury, acts of crime and death.

Officials don’t want to talk about real solutions, the first being clamp down on immigration. In absolute numbers, the United States has a larger immigrant population than any other country, with 47 million immigrants as of 2015. Crowding our country with more folks to compete with resources and housing will only slide our country into a Third World morass. Yet, Biden’s White House wants to let more in.

Close the southern border. Do you have any idea how many drugs are flowing across the border, which are causing folks to spiral into homeless for obtain reasons? Data on drug seizures at the U.S. border indicate an alarming volume of trafficking taking place in recent years. Since 2009, heroin seizures at the southwestern border have almost tripled, while meth seizures quintupled through 2014. Federal agents in the El Paso area have seen a staggering 4,000 percent increase in fentanyl seizures over the last three years. Fentanyl is the drug of choice for drug cartels because it’s very profitable, extremely potent and easier to smuggle into the U.S. because of its small size. But it’s killing our kids.

Deploying the National Guard to help the Border Patrol would be a great start.

State leaders have misplaced priorities. They are investing billions into a high-speed rail line from Bakersfield to Merced – few will ride it – when we have an urgent need to build homeless shelter compounds.

* * * * *

On Dec. 7 Rep. Harder sent a letter to our governor, urging him to cut the state gas tax “and work with state legislators to address the unsustainable rising cost of gas.”

Finally, a Democrat acknowledging his fellow Democrats in Sacramento are causing the problem.

The week of Dec. 7, California families paid an average of $4.70 per gallon, the highest in the nation. That price includes the state gas tax of 51.1 cents per gallon.

The federal government, as Harder pointed out to Newsom, is dumping billions of dollars into California infrastructure, including $25.3 billion over five years, for repairing bad roads; and $4.2 billion over five years for bridges. Harder also noted that: “The purpose of the gas tax’s enactment in 2017 was to raise revenue for long overdue infrastructure projects at a time when our state desperately needed those funds. However, our state’s finances are now in a significantly better place than they were four years ago when the gas tax was enacted. With a predicted state budget surplus of up to $31 billion dollars this year and the passage of a historic infrastructure bill that will send tens of billions of federal dollars to infrastructure projects throughout California, it’s time for the gas tax to be reevaluated.”

Harder also noted that the state budget surplus and the federal dollars being delivered far exceeds the annual revenue of the gas tax and should allow the state to conduct infrastructure repairs without working families footing the bill.

Want to bet Newsom files that letter in the trash can?

Assemblyman Vince Fong, a Bakersfield Republican, said: “The fact we have a surplus means we have overtaxed people. The ruling party in Sacramento doesn‘t want to have a discussion on tax relief. But let’s have a debate. Start the debate with reducing the personal income tax across the board. And reducing tax burdens on small businesses.”

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I can count on one hand the concerts I’ve attended at the Gallo Centre: Michael McDonald (formerly of the Doobies), Gordon Lightfoot, the Gavin DeGraw/ Andy Grammer show, a comedy improv show by Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood and a stage interview with Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ ex.

But now Gallo Center for the Arts can just take my name off the mailing list for their show catalogue.

I’m a second class citizen to them and I won’t jump through their hoops to  attend a performance. But then again, they haven’t booked an act I’d want to see in quite a while anyway.

The state has caused the rights of citizens like me to be stripped. Gallo follows their rules so I don’t go. Now I know what it would have felt like to be black in the 1950s in Birmingham.

If you want to watch a show at Gallo, you have to jump through the hoop or have your “papers” but you’re okay to walk into a movie theater without one. To see a show at Gallo I’d have to:

1). Wear a mask the whole time I would be sitting in the audience to watch a concert. Not pleasant. Ask a nurse if she thinks the mask will keep anybody from getting COVID.

2). Show proof I was vaccinated – which I’m not – or run my butt over to Kaiser to prove I don’t have COVID two days before.

Our Founding Fathers did not write the Constitution to allow rights to be dependent on vaccinations.


This column is the opinion of Jeff Benziger, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation. How do you feel about this? Let Jeff know at