Letters to Jim: The Start of the School Year is Scary

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I must admit it does my heart good watching locals head out to drive their kids to school now that September is here. It’s a great reminder that I am a retired teacher and do not have to deal with the endless meetings and mayhem that mark the beginning of a new school year. In its place, I have replaced reading the list of unanswered hate emails from parents of kids who forgot they had to do work to pass my class the previous year with piles of fan mail from readers who ask me for my advice on issues (Actually, most of it is hate mail that I hand over to the FBI to investigate).

Enjoy this month’s batch. I chose it with you in mind (And because the other 427 letters I got were filled with lots of bad words).

Dear Jim,
Why would you have a problem with President Biden’s student loan forgiveness when the wealthiest companies and individuals were given breaks when the market crashed in 2008? This seems long overdue if you ask me.
Happy to Forgive

Dear Happy,

It is possible to not like either example you cite, but I will focus on just the student loan issue. My primary problem is the people who are receiving student loan forgiveness knew in advance what they were getting themselves into when they took on loans. The very nature of receiving a loan is the understanding you will have to pay it off. Because the individual is betting on him or herself, there is no excuse for them to cry poor when the money comes due.

I would also add this sets a precedent for a generation of people who are likely to want forgiveness of future debts down the road. It sets into the mindset of some that you can continue to run up debt and expect it to eventually be forgiven.

Student loans are expensive, and people should think long and hard before applying for them. Their gripes should not be over the cost of paying the loans back nearly as much as with the people who sold them on the concept you can’t get ahead in life without a college education. Given the number of available trade jobs that sit waiting to be filled, there are many other options out there for young people to consider when seeking a career. Our public schools, banks, and politicians fail miserably at enlightening high school students over the vast number of good paying jobs that do not require a four-year degree.

Perhaps instead of forgiving the loans of college students, we need to be offering enticements for people to follow non-college routes toward a career choice.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Tim Forkes)

Dear Jim,
Is the state of California setting a dangerous precedent by banning the sale of new gasoline powered cars? They’re even going after propane tanks for individual use like camping stoves. How will Californians react to this change?
Gas Powered

Dear Gas,

The more regulations California puts into place, the more residents are encouraged to leave. There have become so many regulations in this state that it seems all our tax dollars go toward enforcing them which ends up frustrating residents. Since close to one-third of the nation follows what California implements, we can expect to see similar laws go into effect elsewhere. Eventually, you won’t be able to own a gas-powered car because these states will outlaw the sale of gasoline or tax it into extinction.

However, don’t feel bad for the auto industry. They have dragged their feet for far too long when it comes to offering affordable automobiles that do not run on fossil fuel. What concerns me is car drivers who now drive gasoline powered cars will never be offered a decent Blue Book value for their car if they go to trade it in for an electric vehicle.

In general, I am a bigger proponent of offering incentives to change before forcing it down our throats. I do not believe California has done this when it comes to combating global warming. This new law smells more like an attempt by our current governor to improve his stock on the national scene for a future presidential run.

“I Voted” sticker (Tim Forkes)

Dear Jim,
How would you change the process we use to elect our leaders? Why are politicians opposed to making changes? The entire process seems to drag on far too long. Can’t we shorten it somehow?
Quick Election Fan

Dear Quick,

Yes, we can speed up the process and make it fairer than it currently is. However, politicians don’t like fair elections because it puts pressure on them to actually accomplish things when heading into re-election.

2020 showed us that politicians can run elections more efficiently than in the past. President Biden ran pretty much a virtual campaign because of COVID and was able to defeat an incumbent president by the largest vote total in history.

First, I would eliminate ALL campaign donations. Presidential elections would be paid for from a federal fund that would distribute an equal amount of money to each candidate whose poll numbers hit twenty-five percent or higher. Eliminate all other forms of formal or informal campaign funding/groups so we can begin electing leaders who are not in debt to large campaign donor groups.

We should rely on a series of national debates before holding a national primary day that whittles the field down to the top two or three candidates whose vote total reaches the cutoff requirement. Then follow up with another round of debates before our national election day.

A similar process can be followed and funded at the state and local level for all other elected positions. The current process is corrupt and results in little turnover and even less accomplishments that benefit voters.

Imagine all candidates for an office having to compete on an equal playing field instead of one determined by the interest of the wealthiest people. Could it be any worse than what we have now?

Are Republicans who oppose the president’s plan to cancel college loan debts hypocrites if they are on the receiving end of relief? It seems to me they would at least stay quiet on the matter. What do you think?
Thankful for Relief

Dear Thankful,

There is nothing wrong with being opposed to the president’s plan if you are on the receiving end of debt relief. It is not as if they asked to receive it. However, I do not see any of these GOP opponents of the president’s plan demanding their loan not be canceled. I do not see any of them saying they will take their debt that is being written off and donate that sum to a cause they support.

This is just another example of how politics has morphed into two sides that blindly select opposite positions on an issue and stick to it no matter how stupid it makes them look.

Chargers QB Justin Herbert is a good bet
(Claudia Gestro)

Dear Jim,

I know you do not bet on the NFL. What would you say to someone on the fence about betting that would convince them not to select a specific team to win it all?
Thinking of Betting

Dear Thinking,

Is the team you are thinking about selecting equipped to win it all if their starting quarterback goes down with an injury? I cannot think of any good team who can continue beating the best teams in the playoffs without their starting quarterback. Teams are too well coached and know the weaknesses of backup quarterbacks to make it likely a team wins with a second stringer.

The top teams this year, in no particular order, appear to be the Rams, Buccaneers, Packers, Chiefs, Bills, and Chargers and none of those teams can win much without their starting signal caller. If you drop down to the next tier of teams, it is the same. It’s only the poor teams where you see less drop off between the starting quarterback and the backup which is one reason why they are a poor team. Case in point, does it even matter who plays quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks?

Rams DE Aaron Donald is a good bet (Claudia Gestro)

Dear Jim,
What would be the easiest way to improve the health of all people in America if it is not done by offering better health coverage? It doesn’t make sense that our health care industry has devolved into providing minimal care when our nation can do more than just extend life once someone is near death.
Sick of Healthcare

You hit the nail on the head. About eighty percent of the money spent on healthcare for individuals is spent over their final two years of living. Well care is in its infancy stages when compared to end of life care.

However, excluding improving healthcare for all citizens, there are things we can do as a society, but let’s get serious — no one is willing. Banning the production and sale of alcohol, cigarettes, junk food, and fast food products would be a great start. Lowering the cost of healthy food so the poor are not forced to pick between cheap junk food instead of healthier options would be nice. Getting our butts off the couch and committing to between 150 to 300 minutes of VIGOROUS exercise beats premature death from heart disease, obesity, diabetes, or cancer.

In fact, there is nothing natural about the above diseases and yet we call dying from one death by natural cause. In most cases, these are self-inflicted illnesses.

Speaking of self-inflicted, death by guns is not a natural cause and yet how many suicides or murders are the result of guns? Maybe less driving to and from work and more walking, bicycling, or even public transportation will decrease deaths from car accidents.

I could go on. However, I think you see each day we all make decisions that are playing Russian Roulette with our lives. However, the reality is, we’d prefer to have access to better health care than not having access to some of these comforts that shorten our life expectancy. Therefore, I am in favor of larger “sin” taxes with that money going specifically toward healthcare. I am also in favor of incentives for people who maintain a healthy lifestyle to continue doing so.

Dear Jim,
Are you serious about moving to Tennessee? Do you know the difference between Tennessee and California? Let me help answer that:
EVERYTHING! You are a fool to want to leave the Golden State just when it is on the cusp of influencing the rest of the nation and the direction it takes moving forward. I used to think you were pretty smart. Now I see you as either stupid or caving to someone who holds some deep dark secrets over your head and is making you move. Good riddance.
California Dreamer

Dear Dreamer,

First, let me thank you for the kind and open-minded words you showered me with. I am honored to know an expert like you who knows better than me is willing to tell me what is in my best interest. I will consider your words greatly as I pull out of my driveway one final time before heading off to a new adventure.

I could write down all the reasons we have for leaving California and they would not be any different than what people have already said. The thing is, having lived here for 64 years, I can say except for about 14 years, I have lived largely in conservative communities. Growing up in Lafayette, in the Bay Area, during the 1960s and 70s was much like growing up in Mayberry.

When I left home for college in Chico, I finally felt like I was where I belonged. The liberal mindedness of college life was balanced by the conservative nature of local farmers and ranchers making for a unique living arrangement.

This was followed by two years living in the heart of southern California where I began teaching in Monrovia while living in the more conservative Arcadia. Though the two communities were next to each other, they were worlds apart in their social make-up. I loved the challenge of teaching in a multicultural environment where clear lines were drawn between the world of wealthy white people, working single Black moms wanting to provide hope for their children, and those of different races living on the edge of an encroaching life in gang infested neighborhoods.

Downtown Los Angeles (Tim Forkes)

Another four years followed, spent in a small town called Red Bluff, where we thought we finally found where we wanted to settle and raise a family. It was here where I would get my first real taste of what it means to be living and working among people who are really conservative. Oddly enough, we would leave there and return to the heart of the Inland Empire whereas I say, “Dreams go to die.”

After a late in life divorce, I would find a home in Camarillo, a more conservative leaning community in a county with a great mixture of people and political views. While life here is very good to my wife and I, we feel it can be better elsewhere.

Better has nothing to do with politics nearly as much as what a place has to offer us at this time in our lives. At the end of the day, there is no place in this state that can allow us to stretch our dollars as far as it will go in Tennessee while still offering us the opportunity to explore a way of life that is attractive to us.

If there is one thing I have found in each place I have lived, good people are good not because of their politics, religion, or any other belief nearly as much as by their actions. I trust this will be that way in Tennessee just as it has been here in California.

You will be giving up all of this — Black’s Beach, La Jolla, CA
(Tim Forkes)