California Needs A “Mensch”


By Richard Colman

The words “mensch” in German or Yiddish technically means a person.

But, over time, mensch has acquired new meanings.  In Yiddish, a mensch is someone to admire.  In American English, a mensch often means a person who will stand up for what is right.

Look at what is going on in California.

Except in communities of wealth or education, the public schools are failing.  Pupils are not able to write well and lack the ability to handle mathematics.  What are taxpayers receiving for their money?

The single-family, detached home is in danger of becoming an extinct species.  In Minneapolis, Minnesota, zoning exclusively for single-family homes is now prohibited.  In recent years, there have been bills in the California State Legislature to force local communities to build extra housing even if the community lacks space for such housing.  The California Department of Housing and Community Development is mandating that local communities have a Housing Element (HE) and a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).  Both HE and RHNA mandate plans to construct extra housing units.  Some of these new housing units have to set aside for low-income people.

Discrimination in housing has been prohibited by the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, which bars bias in the sale, rental, or financing of housing.  Does California plan to wreck Chinatowns, Japantowns, and Koreatowns?   No one is forcing anyone to live in ethnically similar communities.

Taxation in California is another problem.  On July 1, 2019, the tax on gasoline went up by 5.6 cents a gallon, making California’s gasoline tax the highest in the nation.  Before that tax increase, Pennsylvania had the nation’s highest gasoline tax.

California has the nation’s highest state sales tax.  And the state’s personal income tax has the nation’s highest top bracket, 13.3 percent.

There is also free stuff.  Why do people who are not residents of California or citizens of the United States get, from government, free food and free medical care?  President Franklin D. Roosevelt said if people want government money, they must earn it.  Perhaps, some temporary help can be justified for people experiencing bad luck.  But, ultimately, people need to work for their money.

It’s time for people assume personal responsibility for themselves.  However, society can make some exceptions — preferably temporary exceptions — for individuals who have disabilities.  For example, there should be help for disabled veterans.

Should government run pre-schools?  Local communities should be able to do a better job than government agencies.

The language of the United States, including California, is English.  There is no way to get ahead economically in the U.S. without a fluent knowledge of English.

On June 30, 2019, California finished its fiscal year with a $21.5 billion dollar surplus.  However, that surplus is imaginary.  The state, for its public employees, has unfunded pension obligation of between $300 billion and $1.5 trillion.  What happens when the pension bills come due?  Does the state raise taxes, cut benefits, or do both?

The reality of excessive pensions can be seen in such Northern Califoria cities are San Ramon, Orinda, and Moraga.  In those municipalities, fire chiefs received $300,000 a year in pension benefits (as well as health care benefits).  The retiring fire chiefs were able to retire at age 49 or 50.

There is nothing wrong with what seem to be old-fashioned values like hard work and honesty.  And there is nothing wrong with charity to help deserving individuals.

Nothing in this essay is meant to be cruel or hard-hearted.  But there have to be limits on what government can do for people.

Civil rights, which prevents discrimination, is law and must be preserved.  No one should be allowed to discriminate against ethnic minorities, women, or members of religious groups.

California appears to be falling apart.  Where is the “can-do” optimism of a few years ago? 

Someone in California has to be able to say “no” to demands for more government.

In short, California needs a mensch.


Richard Colman is the founder and president of Biomed Inc., a biotechnology, publishing, and informatics company.  He is a biochemist and earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.  He lives in Orinda, California.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.

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