Call it California's five-buck, stem cell mystery. It could be a case of Proposition 14 campaign voodoo or just simply a boring calculation, but no one knows -- at least anyone who is willing to talk.
As readers may recall, Proposition 14 is a $5.5 billion bond measure (plus a lot of other things) aiming at saving the state stem cell agency from financial extinction. The folks behind the ballot initiative, including Robert Klein, the sponsor of the proposal, are telling California voters to never mind that billion-dollar stuff.
He may be right.
However, Klein, who has already put up millions for the measure and heads the campaign, has not explained how he or his team devised the bottle-of-aspirin figure. The California Stem Cell Report has asked the campaign more than once to explain the figure, most recently just last Wednesday. But so far no explanation has been forthcoming.
Arriving at such a per capita cost involves a number of assumptions, including population projections over the next 20 to 30 years and interest rates over the same period. Of course, it also should be noted that the five-buck figure is per capita not per taxpayer. That means that taxpayers -- because they now number only about 18 million compared to the total population of about 33 million -- will be paying perhaps twice what the campaign claims.
Some might say this is no big deal, and they may be right. But a substantial number of persons could believe that this black-box, five-buck number is real because it has been repeated so often, even though it is unsubstantiated. Certainly, the campaign hopes that it will be effective and move a fair amount of voters into the "yes" column.
At this point, the five bucks is no more than campaign voodoo. But, as the California Stem Cell Report wrote in July, such is to be expected in any ballot campaign. The object is to win. Campaigns can be expected to embellish, push the envelope and release information that may not stand up to real scrutiny.
As mentioned earlier, the California Stem Cell Report has not received a breakdown from the campaign about how it devised its five-buck figure. If an explanation comes in, we will carry it verbatim. Meantime, the five-buck countdown stands at 27 days since the first inquiry was made. Readers should stay tuned.