City Journal Winter 2016

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Winter 2016
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Lloyd Billingsley
Partial Recall « Back to Story

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We all had such high hopes for Arnie. However, even more than the usual politician, be was awful, simply awful.

Actually, not much different from Bush II, who was similarly disappointing - in fact, a very good case could be made that without Bush II, there would be no Obama.

Which goes to show that the only thing worse than a Democrat is a RINO - it's not surprising that Dante put traitors in the lowest circle of hell.

As for California, we get the leaders we deserve. It has been interesting to watch the state go from first to worst, and the media apologizing the whole time.
Arnie's philandering was known by DemocRATic Party operatives years ago, and he was blackmailed into ineffectiveness by them from the earliest days after his election. The only question that I have is were the California Republican Party leaders in on the scam since day one and complicit in the looting of our treasury.
It’s not well advertised outside California, but no one within our state government earns less than $100,000 per year, before non-salary bennies and pension contribution of course. Mr. Billingsley mentions a Schwarzenegger appointee to the state waste management board pulling down $135,000 annually – chicken feed within California government. Previously on this website, the wise and prolific Heather MacDonald reported on a vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion at UCSD (University of California – San Diego) starting at $250,000 annually plus an additional $100,000 in relocation expenses - which tops a similar position at UC Berkeley where the vice chancellor of diversity struggles to make ends meet on a mere $200,000 per year. And you don’t want to know what the assistant sous chef in Sacramento’s Capitol Building dining room earns.

Lest you suspect us Californians are all hopeless twits and complete dolts, the details of the embryonic stem cell swindle need to be fleshed out a little further. Because, when it comes to slicky boys cutting back room deals, the Movers and Shakers in California government plus their private industry pals make the sharks on Wall St. look like your kids playing monopoly on a rainy afternoon. California can boast some very sharp folks living amongst us who are widely recognized for their genius at making taxpayer money feel right at home within their personal bank accounts. Yes, $3 billion was passed out to private parties in exchange for embryonic stem cell cures. But the money was raised through floating debt in the form of bonds which also allowed some Wall St. sharks a piece of the action and raised the long term total cost to taxpayers into the neighborhood of $6 billion after interest payments.

Our state’s leading scientists, the actors Michael J. Fox, Christopher Reeves and former first lady Nancy Reagan, were paraded around the networks to tout this swindle for the miraculous cures it would create, cures for Alzheimers and Parkinsons being prominently mentioned. However, buried within the Prop. 71 language was the real reason for raising the money. Basically, the backers wanted to create another Silicon Valley chock full of clean emission firms researching new medicine – sort of a Stem Cell Valley if you will. Missing from the Prop. 71 language were words describing the actual intent – mainly, to raid the public treasury for free money to support research leading to patentable cures and techniques, plus handouts to universities and the creation of highly compensated state jobs. Naturally, patent royalties and revenue from sales of new medical techniques would accrue to private firms and individuals, the taxpayers would receive honorable mention.

A state board was created to dole out the money to well-connected insiders. Politicians could and did appoint their pals to the board, reciprocal favors to follow later. And, yes, a position on the board pays quite well, one former state senator wrangled a $225,000 per year appointment to provide expert medical insights of which he had none to speak of. The board was also exempt from trivial nonsense like “Open Meeting” laws and the recipients subsequently blessed with the cash went undisclosed for the stated reason of “confidentiality”.

University scientists were adamant they be included, which also came to pass. UC Berkeley was blessed with $25 million to help erect a new building, UC Davis received $50 million and change. So divvying up the taxpayer provided windfall required the public and private industry board members to recuse themselves to avoid conflict of interest when awarding public universities and private firms hefty grants. All went as planned although it would have been a major political coup for the Democrats to develop one measly cure derived from embryonic stem cells.

And that briefly describes one of the largest and most profitable swindles perpetrated on a state’s taxpayers – ever. Californians aren’t all dumbbells and it’s a good bet your state’s legislators are secretly making the trek out to California to learn from some real pros.
Arnold was an abject failure as a governor - for many of the reasons you suggest in this book review. He had a rare chance to really do something. He didn't really need the money, wasn't a professional politican (though he sure acted like one) and had all the fame/prestige already as a media celebrity before his time in Sacramento.
Mr. Billingsley has always been a commentator of impeccable integrity. This is his usual authoritative reporting.