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Through the looking glass 

Living in California today is like living in an "Alice in Wonderland" experience. It's surreal: What was once deemed absurd is becoming the norm. We live in a state that once was the envy of the nation, an economic powerhouse that was the land of opportunity for 150 years, starting with the 19th century Gold Rush, culminating in the post WWII economic boom.

California was the American dream as portrayed in multiple TV shows of the perfect family living in a virtual paradise of prosperity and a climate to be envied by all. More than once in phone calls with relatives back East, they would ask me what the weather was like. I was often embarrassed to say 75 degrees and sunny as I knew their weather was near 0 degrees with icy streets and heavy snow burying their car in the driveway. What has changed? Not the weather: It's pretty much the same as it's always been, hysteria notwithstanding that doom is imminent.

What has changed is the political climate with political extremes posing the greatest threat to what was once the greatest state and economy in the nation. The education system here was second to none with various ladders of opportunity for even the poorest of the poor. My Eastern cousins needed many thousands of dollars a year to attend any college. California had the community college system and virtually no tuition, just administrative fees for the first two years. With an associate degree, a student of modest means didn't have to incur massive debt to finish a degree at a state university. That has all changed, although it still offers opportunities not available in most states.

Sadly, the education system leading to college has virtually collapsed with American College Testing (ACT) showing that the current crop of California students are the worst prepared for college of any group in the last 15 years. This is the first group to cycle through the state's Common Core curriculum. Across the board, academic rigor is being replaced by mountains of bureaucratic mandates upon teachers and social engineering requirements that fail to prepare California students for life outside a classroom, setting California students up for failure at unprecedented rates. The latest absurdity being pandered in the "woke" community is that math is racist. Note to the brain-dead: Math doesn't care who or what you are; it just is, and it doesn't change.

California highways once led the nation in engineering innovation and quality. Today we drive on roads built more than 60 years ago for a population less than half of today's 40 million. Citizens recently voted to tax themselves for new road construction only to see the Legislature divert the money for other pet projects, especially for expensive, underused urban mass transit or a high-speed train located in the desert, miles from any major city. If this system was a freight train to free up coastal lines for passenger rail, it might make a little sense, but the governor and Legislature are determined to keep pouring money into a rail system likely to never generate enough riders to pencil out.

Ever-increasing gas taxes, ostensibly for road repairs and improvements, are continuously diverted to bike lanes with not one additional vehicle lane added to an overcrowded highway system. Have you noticed the increase in traffic and especially heavy trucks on the 101 in SLO County? We should have three lanes from San Miguel to Santa Maria, not to mention fixing "Blood Alley" at the Highway 46/41 interchange near Shandon, which continues to kill motorists. The governor "stole" the allocated funds for the Blood Alley upgrades last month.

We once had an excellent health care system or at least a humane one. Last month, California's Medi-Cal began dumping severely disabled patients out of the nursing and care facilities in this county as a cost-cutting measure. When you have a government-run health care system, the first people to suffer are the most vulnerable without an advocate. Rationing is the norm when government over-promises.

Seniors are also left vulnerable, especially in nursing homes when the power shutoff program blacked out millions of homes and businesses. Gov. Gavin Newsom laughed when the Public Power Safety Shutoff program was announced, saying, "It's a great idea ... unless you're affected." He's not so cavalier now as it hit his home base repeatedly last month during major wildfires. Seniors, however, were left in the dark—they tumbled down stairs and were left terrified and helpless in care facilities unable to provide backup power for more than a few hours during blackouts that lasted for days. As if we've never had wildfires before, the most vulnerable are paying the price for decades of government wildland mismanagement and indifference to personal and economic losses caused by an unnecessary power shutdown program.

When seniors were left to drown during Eastern hurricanes, the nation was outraged, and care providers were prosecuted. The power blackouts were approved by the governor and his utility commission appointees. He and his Democratic colleagues, who have a supermajority in the Legislature, own this though they decline responsibility. The "Queen of Hearts" and her minions rule in Sacramento. The question is, will you hold them accountable? Δ

Al Fonzi had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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