During the campaign over Proposition 71, I warned that even if the Golden Gate Bridge fell into the ocean and an earthquake devastated Los Angeles, “the scientists” would be constitutionally entitled to $300 million of borrowed taxpayers’ money each year. The media was so caught up in “thwarting Bush,” it never reported these kinds of problems until after the election! But what else is new?
Well, that kind of a crisis has hit California, metaphorically speaking. Meanwhile, the mutual backscratching at the CIRM continues–fancy building being paid for, conflicts of interest rife–and the agency doesn’t even blush. Finally, we are seeing a reaction. Yesterday, the Merced Sun-Star editoralized that the time has come to substantially restructure the agency. From the editorial:
On Thursday, the Little Hoover Commission held its first hearing into the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the quasipublic agency financed with $3 billion in bonds that voters approved in 2004. The hearing revealed, once again, that this institute’s 29-member governing board is rife with potential conflicts; that it is overly large and unwieldy; and that it awards multimillion-dollar grants in a manner that favors secrecy over accountability.
The most striking testimony came from Kenneth Taymor, executive director of the UC Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy. Taymor, who has been watching the institute’s operations for three years, noted that nearly everyone on the institute’s governing board–medical school deans, university officials–has some sort of financial interest in the grants being awarded. Even with officials recusing themselves, the board’s deliberations, he said, have the feel of “a club that was allocating money among themselves” based on preordained decisions.
Ponder that truth in light of the larger financial corruption we are seeing from top to bottom in this country. The hyper rich are feeding beyond anything we have ever seen before and we are paying the price.
The editorial continued:
Experts at the hearing also testified about the unusual executive structure of this institute, in which operational duties are shared between the institute’s president and its chairman. Each position has its own staff and reports back to the governing board.
But because of the way Proposition 71 was written (by developer and stem cell activist Robert Klein II), the governing board can’t fire the chairman or have control of his staff or operations. Klein, of course, designed this structure for a reason: He alone has served as its chairman.
But this is what happens when rich men are allowed to buy laws.
What really needs to be done in this crisis is to find a way to halt the borrowing of money by our bankrupt state. We are running a $28 billion deficit and counting. Our bond debt is already approaching $60 billion, with another $70 billion or so already committed! And I don’t think that includes interest. The CIRM should be cut off from this borrowing at least for as long as the financial debacle ongoing in California lasts. But that would take common sense, a commodity that, alas, is in very short supply in the country these days.
And so we go right down the drain, and we only have ourselves to blame.