Human Exceptionalism

Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Kowtowing to Big Biotech”

I have a piece in today’s San Francisco Chronicle lambasting California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for “Kowtowing to Big Biotech”(the paper’s headline that isn’t in the online version.) I have had a burr in my behind about my governor ever since he endorsed Proposition 71 two weeks before the 2004 election. At that time, he was popular and believed to be a strict fiscal conservative. (What a joke that turned out to be!) Prior to the endorsement, the measure showed 71 leading but polling under 50%, meaning it was beatable. After the endorsement, the deal was done and the initiative passed easily–adding $6 billion to California’s backbreaking bond obligations at a time when CA was (we still are) arterially bleeding red ink.

Bad Arnold. But that isn’t all he has done wrong in this regard. From my column:

Ever since, the CIRM has been mired in controversy–including charges of conflicts of interest, and shameless executive pay raises. And proving the old adage about the ease of spending other people’s money, earlier this year, the CIRM shelled out $271 million – not for research into cures–but to help finance construction of plush biotech research centers.

And what was Schwarzenegger doing as the CIRM bought Cadillac buildings on California citizens’ credit card? Rather than chide the administrators to spend the people’s borrowed money more prudently, the governor instead enthusiastically applauded the agency’s opulence in a CIRM press release.

One of the sleazy ways proponents of 71 gained votes was to promise that the poor would have access to treatments derived from the CIRM’s research grants. I knew that was just campaign pabulum, and so it came to pass with administrators refusing to create rules making it so. So the left wing California legislature tried to force the promise to be kept with SB 1565, primarily authored by Santa Monica (San Francisco, South) Democrat Sheila Kuehl, one of the most radical members of the Senate. It passed overwhelmingly. Guess what?

Thus, it came as little surprise when Schwarzenegger revived his most famous movie role and “terminated” SB1565, claiming incongruously that it “does nothing to advance the will of over 7 million voters,” when precisely the opposite–assuring access for the poor to CIRM-facilitated treatments–was clearly part of the package voters thought they bought when passing Proposition 71.

I conclude:

In backing the CIRM’s fiscal profligacy and giving the back of his hand to the poor and the ill through his veto, Schwarzenegger made a joke of his reputation as a fiscal conservative and bipartisan consensus builder. How sad that the once mighty Arnold, who came to Sacramento vowing to smash boxes, has instead assumed the role of a mere industry retainer.

Bad Arnold. Bad, bad Arnold.

Update: Schwarzenegger now says California needs a $7 billion loan to carry on, adding cogency to my argument that he was and is derelict in supporting the boondoggle that is Proposition 71.