Opinion Pieces Address Ballot Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research
Several recent opinion pieces have addressed Proposition 71, a measure on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that would issue state bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote human stem cell research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center at a University of California campus, as well as grants and loans for laboratory projects at other colleges. State analysts say the measure could cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 10/27). Summaries appear below.
- Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times: Approving Proposition 71 would lead to a "hell" of "fiscal insanity," Hiltzik writes in his "Golden State" column in the Times. Hiltzik writes that "few responsible scientists would endorse" claims that the measure could yield profits for the state, adding that "personal empathy is not the proper basis for public policy." Although the initiative's goals are "worthy," the Proposition 71 campaign has "largely played on the electorate's ignorance of medicine, ignorance of public finance, ignorance of the gulf between what is known about embryonic stem cell behavior and what needs to be learned before it yields useful therapies," Hiltzik continues. He concludes that "the promoters of this initiative should be ashamed" because "few things are more morally dubious than over-promising a cure to the public, much less to suffering families" (Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 10/28).
- Peter Schrag, Sacramento Bee: Approving Proposition 71 "would prove again how bad policy begets yet more bad policy" and show that "even the left has given up on the ability and wisdom of elected government to function properly," columnist Schrag writes in a Bee opinion piece. Funding stem cell research is "clearly a national issue," and there is no assurance that the state could profit from the measure because the "lion's share" of revenue from such research could go to "the venture capitalists and biotech firms whose leaders are among the initiative's biggest funders," Schrag continues. If Proposition 71 and other "ballot box budgeting" initiatives pass, the "biggest long-term consequence ... is likely to be further erosion of representative government" because the state will have "locked itself so firmly into policy-making by direct democracy that elected government is ever more an adjunct," Schrag concludes (Schrag, Sacramento Bee, 10/27).
- Daniel Weintraub, Sacramento Bee: Proposition 71 -- a proposal "as tempting as it is audacious" -- would "thrust the state government into the business of funding basic scientific research like never before," columnist Weintraub writes in a Bee opinion piece. The measure is a "wild experiment based on hopes and dreams and the idea that the government knows better than private investors and scientists how to direct scarce resources into cutting-edge intellectual inquiry," Weintraub continues. Approving Proposition 71 -- which "amounts to a jobs program for some of the best educated, most able members of our society" -- could discourage private funding of "basic scientific research" and is "a gamble California taxpayers can ill-afford," Weintraub concludes (Weintraub, Sacramento Bee, 10/28).
- Steve Westly, Sacramento Bee: Californians should vote "yes" on Proposition 71 because the measure could "lead the next revolution in technology" and "help our state's economy grow," Controller Westly (D) writes in a Bee opinion piece. The initiative is the state's "best hope to help cut health care costs" while protecting the budget and improving the economy, Westly writes. He concludes that the measure is affordable for the state, adding that state residents should vote "yes" on it (Westly, Sacramento Bee, 10/28).