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What Else Whitman Could Have Done With Her $100 Million Shopping Spree

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Amidst the nation's worst economic recession since the Great Depression, and continuing problems in California with health care, education funding, home foreclosures, and lack of jobs, how do you explain the disgraceful spending by candidate Meg Whitman in her campaign to buy the governor's office.

According to campaign finance reports filed yesterday, Whitman has spent $99.7 million the past two years, a figure that the Associated Press notes climbs to $100.3 million when including donated services.

Those numbers, which shatter campaign spending records in California and presumably exceed the amount any candidate running for any office in the U.S. other than President has spent, signal a campaign that is out of control and that shows little regard for the real life of most Californians.

With more than 2.2 million Californians are out of work (Employment Development Department, July 16, 2010), at least 6.4 million are uninsured (U.S. Census Bureau as of 2007), and California ranks 41st in the U.S. in per capita spending per pupil (National Education Association rankings), such massive resources could surely be put to better use.

Those are just three of the many signs of crisis in California that show the appalling contrast with the outrageous spending spree by one billionaire candidate who seems to be driven by personal ambition and little else.

If Whitman, whose main qualification for office appears to be her unlimited wealth, really wants to help the state, there are many other ways she could use those resources to add real social value to our state, and help Californians who are hurting, who are sick, or to bolster our education system.

At the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, we have calculated, with the help of our research arm, the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy, other, more fruitful ways that $100 million could have been spent.

• Pay monthly unemployment benefits for 82,237 unemployed Californians. (Average unemployment benefit in California is $1,216) Source: Orange County Register, July 19, 2010

• Pay the unemployment benefits for two months for the 40,000 workers she would lay off. (The U.S. Department of Labor calculates that by its broadest measure, the U-6 rate which is defined as total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, California has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, 21.9%.)

• Pay yearly health insurance premiums for 7,477 families. (Average yearly health insurance for family coverage $13,375) Source: Employer Health Benefits, Annual Survey 2009, Kaiser Family Foundation

• Fund 18,018 students at the Pell Grant maximum. (Pell Grant maximum for school year 2010-2011 is $5,550.) Source: United States Department of Education

• Pay for 11,447 pupils in California K-12. (Average expenditure per pupil in 2008-2009 school year was $8,736) Source: California Department of Education

• Pay the "fees" for 10,770 students to attend one of the University of California campuses for academic year 2009-2010. (Fees to attend UC are $9,285.) Source: University of California, Fees and Financial Aid

• By our calculations, help as many as 5,714 households avoid foreclosure The California Housing Finance Agency, the state's affordable housing bank, estimates it will help 40,000 or more households avoid foreclosure with principal write downs and other plans unveiled Wednesday. In all, the agency received $700 million for the relief programs. Source: James Wasserman, "California to help pay down homeowners' mortgage debt."

[Four out of the Top ten cities for housing foreclosures are in the Central Valley. Source: Realty Trac].
o Modesto is ranked second in the nation with 5,138 homes or 2.93 percent of all housing units in foreclosure in the first quarter
o Stockton is ranked fifth, with 6,327 homes in foreclosure, or 2.77 percent of the city's homes.
o Merced is sixth. It had 2,307 homes in foreclosure in Q1 or 2.76 of all homes.
o And Bakersfield is ninth in the nation, with 6,343 homes in foreclosure or 2.33 percent of all housing units]

• Hire as many as 1,755 new grad RNs in California for a year. Source: United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2008 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates