Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday ordered a loan of up to $150 million to the state's voter-approved stem cell research institute, catapulting California into the lead as the nation's top public funder of the divisive research.
The governor's action, a day after President Bush vetoed expanded federal support for embryonic stem cell science, is expected to kick-start the state's long-delayed program to pay for cutting-edge research projects.
Of course, this is for the good of mankind. Did I mention that this is a gubernatorial election year?
The Republican governor's move could also help him win over moderate voters by drawing a sharp distinction with the president, who is unpopular in California. The action drew derision from the governor's opponent in the November election, Democrat Phil Angelides, who called it a "smokescreen to cloud the memory of California voters that it was Arnold Schwarzenegger who campaigned for President Bush in Ohio and helped put him back into office.
"For the past year, while I was fighting for immediate funding for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the governor failed to lift a finger to stand up to the anti-research activists," Angelides said in a statement.
Ironically, Hall noted, Bush's first-ever veto - based on his opposition to the destruction of embryos in some forms of embryonic stem cell research - served California well. "I think with one stroke, the president energized [the institute's] program," he said.
Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey have approved some state funding for the work. And on Thursday, the governor of Illinois announced that he was diverting $5 million from the state budget for stem cell research - also in response to the Bush veto.
Schwarzenegger's $150 million loan dwarfs those efforts.
It is also about quadruple the budget for embryonic stem cell research at the federal government's National Institutes of Health, which is strictly limited by the Bush administration to select stem cell lines created before 2001.
Another watchdog group that has worked to ensure that the institute is accountable to taxpayers cautiously applauded the loan.
It's "better than going hat-in-hand to fat cats with a potential vested interest in the outcome, begging for money," said John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica, who criticized a recent private gala held by the institute to raise funds to keep it afloat.
Among stem cell scientists Thursday, the mood was good.
All Bush did with his veto was show conclusively that his moral compass spun its needle off long ago, if he ever had one to begin with, which I doubt. His previous limitation on funding to only use old stem cell lines is somewhat akin to limiting research on gas mileage to carbureted pushrod engines: irrelevant to reality and a hindrance to scientific progress, not to mention blatant pandering to a few christowhackos. Big surprise, huh?
It also shows that he's lost control over Congress. This is good. They won't automatically do what he wants them to do anymore, so he has to veto them to stifle the will of the majority. Look for more of this as he gets weaker.
To sum up Bush's attitude, I shamelessly paraphrase Robert Goodloe Harper: "Millions for armaments and pork, not a penny to help sick people!"
Kudos to the states who are funding stem cell research. By the way, there is plenty of government funding for this work. In China and India.
At the moment, I personally have no need for the benefits of said research, unless they come up with a cure for CRS*. Time will tell. Or maybe it already has...