Since I moved from Lodi to Pittsburgh, PA two years ago, I've been viewing California's social and economic problems from afar. Instead of moving toward meaningful reform, California can't get out of its own way.
Reporter Jennifer Bonnett's recent story chronicles California's continuing death spiral. [Free Lunches Offered for Anyone Under18 in Lodi, by Jennifer Bonnett, Lodi News-Sentinel, July 19, 2010]
Before beginning my analysis, let's be clear about one thing. Regardless of what label is put on any program—state, federal, county or school—taxpayers fund them all.
The Lodi (not free) lunches are distributed at Hale Park and the Washington School, neighborhoods Bonnett described as "lower income" They are also predominantly Hispanic.
To understand how California dug itself into a $20 billion budget deficit, let's look at one of the major contributors, illegal immigration. By analyzing a typical profile of a lunch recipient from birth through 18, the last year they can qualify for the (not) free program, you'll get a real awakening.
After receiving free prenatal care, the expectant illegal alien mother delivers her child in a local hospital to give birth on your dime. Then, she qualifies for postpartum care as well as a host of other services including but not limited to free strollers and baby car seats.
By the time the child is 5, he can enroll in pre-school that will likely provide snacks. Once in K-12, Title 1 schools he probably attends offer breakfast and cafeteria lunches. Breakfast includes offerings similar to those you have come to expect from a Marriott Hotel: a cereal bar with an assortment of fruits, juices and milk.
Other student perks especially designed for immigrants include a variety of after school activities including language training for the non-English speakers.
In some cases, by the time the immigrant children reach their teens, they have made bad choices. Girls as young as thirteen who are pregnant or have children can attend special day care type classes where without the inconvenience of having to arrange and pay for baby sitters they can spend the day without having to go to traditional school.
While it is impossible to quantify exactly how much taxpayers may shell out for each immigrant child from birth through high school graduation, I put the figure conservatively at $200,000.
Then, rubbing salt into taxpayers' wounds, the organizers either don't understand or care where the money comes from.
Bonnet quoted Wiqar Shah who oversees the lunch program.
According to Shah: "The parents are just happy that they don't have to worry about getting them lunch. Most of our children are low-income, so they don't always get meals, and the parents love [the free lunches]."
Shah makes it sound as if making the parents happy justifies everything. Of course, the parents love the idea of free lunch and having someone else prepare it. Who wouldn't?
My reaction is more realistic. Why, with the U.S. technically bankrupt, do we keep allowing more poor people to migrate only to then become dependent on American generosity?
We have plenty of poor American-born citizens who should be first in line. Let Mexico take care of its own needy.
According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau data, San Joaquin County is 36 percent Hispanic up from 30 percent in 2000. The same figures for Lodi are 32 percent, a 27 percent increase from eight years ago.
The same trend exists in most of California's other 58 counties.
Some Hispanics are aliens and others are the American citizen children of illegal immigrants. What is undeniable is that as long as the state's Hispanic population increases dramatically while relying heavily on an ever-expanding array of social services, California will never pull out of its hole.
Of course, to suggest that federal immigration policy should be more restrictive exposes me as an unrepentant racist.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.