California’s Gift to Humankind and Health Care Cost Containment
California’s Attorney General received over 90 statewide ballot initiative proposals needing title and summary prior to circulation for signature gathering to qualify for the November election. Certainly, not all of them will find their way to the ballot, 26 being the most ever appearing at one time.Still, one has to wonder what the late Governor Hiram Johnson, the father of our state’s initiative, referendum and recall system would say if he saw how his idea of giving California voters a degree of direct democracy is being exploited.Of those initiatives placed on the ballot since 1911, the year the system was created, which would have been his favorites? Least favorites? Would this liberal Republican have embraced Proposition 13 of 1978, the initiative that robbed local government of access to the well of property tax revenue to dip ever deeper into to fund ever-increasing demand for costlier local services? Similarly, how would Johnson have felt about Proposition of 98 of 1988 that grabbed half the state budget for schools?
After reading Johnson’s legacy and related writings about his and the Progressives’ efforts leading up to the creation of direct democracy for California voters, I’m convinced that this liberal Republican would cringe at the thought of his brainchild being used to enact Propositions 13 and 98, though he would perhaps have supported the other Proposition 98, the one that proposed limitations on the use of eminent domain and the prohibition of rent control that failed passage in 1998.
Of this I’m certain, Hiram Johnson and the Progressives of the time would have heartily embraced Proposition 71 of 1994. Fifty-nine percent of the voters in that election poked a collective thumb in then President George W. Bush’s shortsighted vision – he shut down our nation’s plan for stem cell research – by authorizing $3 billion in bonds to fund stem cell research in California. Californians rejected Bush’s imposition of his personal ideology to thwart the following:
“Stem cells have incredible potential to treat disease. Embryonic or iPS cells can turn into any cell in the body, creating an endless resource for replacing diseased or damaged tissue. Stem cells within our own bone marrow, brains, muscles and other tissues can repair damage after injury if properly activated. In a lab dish, stem cells can mimic human diseases, pointing the way to new drugs. The challenge in generating a new therapy isn’t whether or not the cells can do the job, it’s understanding the best way to get the job done.” (California Institute for Regenerative Medicine)
After overcoming legal challenges in 2006, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the agency created to administer Proposition 71, has made California home to the first clinical trials based on embryonic stem cells, and 43 more projects are in various stages of progress toward helping people with chronic diseases and conditions in California and worldwide. The agency has funded the efforts of more than 450 California scientists with more than $1.2 billion, all with a single goal: to develop new stem cell-based therapies for incurable diseases and injuries.
Because of Proposition 71, we are closer to obtaining effective therapies if not cures for chronic, debilitating and costly diseases like diabetes. And it’s not beyond the possibility to see patients with spinal cord injuries today freed from their wheelchairs and other confinements in their lifetimes.
This is a terrific gift to the quality of life for humankind. And for any naysayers out there, this investment will do more than all other interventions combined to reduce the rising cost of health care plaguing our nation.