Technology Day 2003 - "Fast Times at MIT: What's New, What's Next - Now What?” Pt.1
BILL HECHT: Good morning. Are you all asleep out there? Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
BILL HECHT: Good, good, good. Welcome back to Saturday classes. Now, those of you who are my age and older know about Saturday classes. You young folks, you missed a great opportunity. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday morning, you would get up. You would go to the lab, and you would do an experiment, which undoubtedly was going to fail.
Now, it may have been failing because you were dead asleep. It may have been failing because you didn't do it right, and it may have been failing because the physics department intended it to to teach you a lesson about physics. On the other hand, we're not going to have any experiments this morning. Welcome. It's my pleasure to welcome you to what, believe it or not, is my last welcome for a technology day.
I've done this for 23 years now, and I've actually held the job for almost half of its historical history. And I'm finally going to go half time on July 1. So welcome back to tech. As you know, those of you who are my age and have a little gray in your hair, this place keeps changing, and for the most part, for the better. It's my pleasure this morning to do one thing, and that's introduce our president, Chuck Vest.
PRESIDENT VEST: Thank you very much, Bill. This being MIT, I carry some instrumentation around. It measures the relative humidity, and it works this way. When I make it from Gray House, the president's home, to Kresge in five minutes flat, and stand up to speak, it's a question of how quickly my glasses fog up. So just watch them, and you'll tell.
Before we begin this morning, I just really want to be sure that everybody heard what Bill Hecht just said. We've been remarkably fortunate as an institution to have an individual who has been so dedicated and so effective to maintaining the alumni family of MIT-- strong, and vigorous, and moving forward. It's been a terrific run.
Of course, as Bill said, he's held the job for the majority of its existence. He's held it for all of my existence as a member of the community, and, Bill, I just want to personally thank you and thank you on behalf of those thousands of men and women out there who owe so much to you. Thank you.
But being MIT, we have a new vice president, and one who will be equally extraordinary and wonderful in her tenure-- Beth Garvin, who is also with us this morning. Beth, welcome.
Well, I know she's here somewhere because I saw her a few moments ago, but let's get down to work. It's really a great time to welcome all of you back to your campus, because this has been an absolutely terrific year in terms of accomplishment and momentum on the part of our faculty and their students, as well as our staff and our alumni. I think you've had a look around at parts of the campus, and you can see steel, and brick, and metal, and some other materials you probably are wondering what they are rising here and there. These are the physical or outward symbols of an institution that is both bold and very confident in its future. And I think we have good reason for both that boldness and certainly for that confidence in our future.
The campus is continuing its transformation in the area of residential and community life this year alone we opened Simmons Hall, the magnificent new undergraduate dormitory just to the north of the playing fields. We opened a much larger residence hall for graduate students a little bit further to the north at the intersection of Sydney and Pacific Streets. And we opened the magnificent Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center, which I hope all of you have an opportunity to have a look at while you are here.
I must say I've never anywhere seen or heard of a building that has had a more instantaneous transformational effect on a campus community as has the Zesiger Center-- the Z Center, as it is known in the vernacular-- with its magnificent Olympic pool, and workout rooms, and squash courts, and so forth. And it's just busy and humming 24 hours a day, and mixing together our staff, and our students, and our faculty in really an extraordinary way, and, of course, contributing to the wellness of our community.
In the agenda for research and teaching, we are in the final stages of what has been a horrendous, but very important project to renovate the chemistry building from top to bottom to really bring it up to modern standards of safety and so forth to allow us to continue the movement of chemistry into so many new areas-- nanoscale science, and biologically based chemistry, and so forth-- and to do so in a way that is safe, that minimizes the amounts of chemicals that need to be used, and so forth. It's just wonderful. About 2/3 of it is finished and occupied. We're doing the last phase even as we speak this morning.
And I hope you all have seen the Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computational Information and Intelligence Sciences. That's rising at the site of the famous Building 20, and really in so many ways symbolizes the advance of MIT into a new century. It has two major elements, the Alex Dreyfoos Building and the Bill Gates Building. And I just hope you do have a look at Frank Gary's magnificent structure, which is about at the point you can begin to really sense what it's going to be like as a building. And I'm sure this time next year we will be holding some portion of these events within it.
Last week, we had the groundbreaking over the last two weeks for the new brain and cognitive science complex that will consist of three integrated buildings-- the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, the Picower Center for Learning and Memory, and the Facilities of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science itself-- a symbol of a very major intellectual advance for the campus. In terms of quality of life, we're slowly but surely working away at all the important infrastructure-- the terribly important things that you don't see-- life safety systems in the residence halls and so forth-- and also making some advances toward improving our streetscapes. You will see within the next year that at least the eastern part of Vassar Street-- that is to the east of Mass Ave-- is going to become the kind of thoroughfare that this campus and its people really deserve with nice paving, and trees, and bicycle paths, and a little less parking, and so forth. Going to be a great, great improvement.
In teaching and research, we continue to have the best there is. We celebrated two remarkable anniversaries this year. Back in the Fall, we celebrated the 50th year of the Sloan School of Management in a wonderful MIT combination of intellectual events and celebration. And just last week we had an extraordinary celebration of the 100th year of electrical engineering here at MIT with, again, a magnificent set of lectures, as well as celebratory events.
And I made this statement at the opening of that event that I'm going to repeat here. I do not believe there has ever existed an academic department in any institution in the world that has had as much influence on education and also on practice in its field as has MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Good. Fine.
I'll vote with that. At that time, it was announced that the laboratory for computer science and the artificial intelligence laboratory have merged to form a new entity, and also during the intervening week we opened the new Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology, which is a remarkable $50 million undertaking of our faculty and students on behalf of the US Army, which will also form an incredible platform for the young faculty from many different departments who put this program together to explore the new world of nanoscale science and nanoscale engineering.
Computational and systems biology-- again, a cross disciplinary group put together by an extraordinary group of young faculty here at MIT. It is something I think you will be reading about over the coming decade. They're just a remarkable group of people with wonderful ideas about how to blend the way engineers think with the way biologists and medical doctors must think as we enter this new century. We've continued innovation in teaching and learning at all levels. Our open courseware program will really ramp up this fall with about 500 subjects on it, and our pilot sites have had just remarkable responses from across the country, and especially all around the world.
But the heart of all of this is our remarkable faculty and their students. This Fall, the class of 2007 will arrive, and I have to tell you, every year these young men and women get better and better. It's going to be a truly remarkable group. This year, MIT faculty were recognized by receiving the highest awards in virtually each of our core areas. That began with the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology that went to Bob Horvitz of our biology department, our Cancer Center, and also the McGovern Institute for Brain Research for his pioneering work some years back in understanding programmed cell death, which has great importance, of course, to the field of cancer research and, as he is beginning to learn, to the field of neuroscience, as well.
The National Medal of Science went to Ann Graybiel of our Brain and Cognitive Science Department. And I have to tell you, I was fortunate to be in the White House for that event, and it felt really good to see eight men and one one woman on the stage, and she was the one from MIT. We're very proud of Ann.
The Draper Prize this year, the highest award an engineer can win in the United States, went to our own Bob Langer for his incredible work in biotechnology. And by the way, Bob was the cover boy of The Boston Globe Sunday magazine last week with a big banner headline that said the smartest man in Boston. How would you like to live up to that?
That's quite an accomplishment. The Turing Award, the highest computer science award given in the world, really, went to Ron Rivest, who shared it with two former MIT people for their seminal work on public key encryption some years back. But even more important to me is what's happening with our very young faculty. We had Sunil Mullainathan in economics-- won one of the so-called MacArthur Genius awards this year. And Angela Amon, a young professor in our Biology Department, won what, in many ways to me is the most impressive award in this entire list, which is the Waterman Award that the National Science Board gives every year to one scientist or engineer in any field for research accomplishments under the age of 35. And so the future, I can tell you, is at least as bright as the present and as our past.
And finally, this last week, it was announced that Kristin Forbes, a young applied economist here at MIT in the Sloan School, has been nominated to serve on President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors. So I'm through bragging for a little while, Mr. Lash, and I think it's time to get on with seeing the substance behind the bragging. We have a wonderful morning put together for you to sample a bit of the intellectual potpourri that is MIT. And to start that, I would like to introduce to you your president of the Alumni Association, my friend and colleague, Jim Lash. Jim?
JIM LASH: I am not the substance, just to be clear about that. You have, of course, your booklet, and the booklet outlines the program for today. My job is to try to keep it moving along. I will be introducing the speakers, and after I've introduced each speaker and they've given their talk, there will be a brief question and answer period.
You should have received, when you came in, three by five cards on which you may write your questions. We're not going to be picking those cards up. We want you to read the question from the card. Why would we do that? Well, it's because the speeches are to be given on the stage, not out there, and you're not to come on the stage. So we want you to try to keep it brief because we only have a short period of time.
The program this morning consists of five individuals-- or it's actually today-- consists of five individuals, one from each of our schools. The first is Dr. Lawrence Vale, head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and he will be speaking with us today on the subject of housing the lowest income Americans, the past, present, and future of public housing. You have his biography in your material, but I just wanted to give you a sense of how committed he is to this subject.
I have a long list of books and articles he has written on this subject, and they have titles like Urban Design for Urban Development, The Future of Planned Poverty-- Redeveloping America's Most Distressed Public Housing Projects. From the Puritans to the Projects-- The Ideological Origins of American Public Housing, Public Housing and the American Dream-- Residents' Views of Buying into the Projects. Without further ado, Dr. Vale.
DR. LAWRENCE VALE: At this time of reunions, when alumni and alumnae come back on their alma maters, I realize I'm something of a 20th century relic. I finished a graduate program here at MIT 15 years ago and forgot to leave, and I've never applied for any other job than the one I currently hold, a very strange notion. Although faculty members even here at MIT sometimes like to complain about salaries, my title today-- Housing the Lowest Income Americans-- is not meant to be particularly autobiographical.
Rather, I wanted to spend a few moments with you today talking about public housing, which, aside from prisons, I think is probably the country's most vilified and stigmatized domestic environment. If you ask people these days where it is that they think the lowest income Americans live, they probably don't give you an answer like slums or ghettos anymore. They probably would say public housing, and there are 1.3 million households-- about four or five million Americans-- living in public housing today. And the census showed that, during the 1990s, 9 out of the 10 economically most distressed neighborhoods in the country were, in fact, public housing projects, something that were largely the creation of direct federal policy, a strange notion.
The worst examples of public housing certainly deserve their dismal reputation, although most public housing, especially in smaller communities, is functioning quite well. We sometimes forget that there are 3,500 public housing authorities across the country, and we usually hear the most negative things only about the few in some of the largest cities that have gone so far astray, but they've failed so dramatically that it's understandable that that happens.
So my interest in this is to try and put some perspective on it, going both backwards and forwards, and I really have been struggling for the last several years with two questions in particular. How and why did public housing in this country fall into such ill repute? And second, what can be done to fix this? Both of them turn out to be fairly complicated questions.
Let me begin by asking you to judge a couple of books by their covers. They're up there. Probably not the best thing to do. Neither of these books is likely to become a bestseller, but at least displayed this way I can claim that they're the largest sellers. And I'll be sure to tell this to Harvard University Press.
The book on the left-- I'm reminded by the title of today being Fast Times at MIT-- you'll see whether I qualify. The book on the left started as research on my undergraduate thesis in 1980 and was published as a book a mere 20 years later. And the book on the right fared only slightly better. I began work on it during my first semester as a master's student and completed it this fall during my first semester as a department head. So I'm not a particularly speedy researcher, but these are problems-- these are really not problems that emerged quickly or that will be solved quickly.
The title of the book on the left, the first book, From the Puritans to the Projects is meant to suggest that the problem of public housing is embedded in about 350 years of past cultural practices, specifically notions about work ethics, and a sense that that poverty is usually caused by some sort of individual moral failing, and a belief that government, the town has an obligation to help those who are worse off, the people that I call in the subtitle public neighbors-- that the government would step in, the town if those people couldn't be supported by their family or by private charities. Here in Boston, that's the way things worked 350 years ago. In that view of the world, the single family home was the thing that really remained supreme even hundreds of years ago, as it does now. And multi-family housing, going back historically, was something that was associated with institutions.
The second project, which culminated in the book, Reclaiming Public Housing, is attempting to tell the story of public housing primarily from the viewpoint of its tenants. In other words, the first project is a long story about how various institutions managed poverty in cities, a tale of where people in positions of power chose to put the poorest citizens, and where poor people tended to need together, as well. Whereas the second book is a more of a bottom up kind of story. It's about the rise of public housing, a rise that many of the people in this room can remember was during a period of optimism about what the government could do for low income people in housing. But it's also about the collapse of public housing, and most importantly, it's about three ambitious attempts to try and revitalize particular housing developments, reclaiming them not just as buildings, but as safe and secure communities for continued occupancy by very low income households. The advantage of taking so long to write these books is that I was able to watch and observe the transformation of these places over a period of more than 15 years.
I asked you to judge these books by their covers, but doing so also means looking closely at what isn't there. Even those of you who are close up probably can recognize that people are not shown in either of these covers. The key ethical challenge for my work really is to make sure that I always remember that I'm not writing about buildings, or at least not just about buildings, but about the people who design, and manage, and transform and live in these buildings. More than 300 interviews were conducted with such people.
So my challenge has been to try and contribute to scholarship in history, and urban planning, and social science, but also to make sure that my books were going to do so in a way that paid full respect to the people that I was writing about. I call this the doing projects in the projects challenge. There is a glaring disparity here that I want to be upfront about with you. A researcher from the second richest institution in Cambridge-- well, maybe that's not right. Maybe Harvard is in Boston now. But anyway, coming from a place of wealth and privilege, I'm spending years studying some of the poorest people in Boston.
So what did these people gain from my study, right? How can I avoid the sort of intrusive exploitation that has characterized past generations of social science research? In other words, what's in this for them? I don't have time now for a full discussion of that question, but I want to emphasize that I began the inquiry with the public housing tenants themselves through slowly nurtured relationships with the leadership and others at the tenant organizations in the housing developments that I was attempting to analyze. The tenants themselves helped shape the kinds of questions that were asked of their fellow tenants and encouraged me to find ways to raise issues that were going to be important to them, as well as to me.
That was really the prerequisite for mutual trust, and it constituted the only hope that I had that the kind of interviews that were going to be done with these people who otherwise had no particular reason to trust me or my institution-- that they were going to be honest, and open, and candid. The most critical thing was a decision to actually hire public housing residents themselves to do much of the interviewing, and to train them, and to try and provide them with a skill to come out of this. Rather than the white male professor coming across the river to do his project in the projects, I was hoping that the tenants would be able to see this as something more of a joint venture. And I wanted them to see that most of the money that went to this research was going to them rather than to the MIT student RAs that they perceived as rich and privileged people, even though those same students regarded themselves as low income individuals on this side of the river.
So what I was doing was valuing their time at the rate of $10 an hour and implicitly valuing their viewpoints by doing that. So the result was 267 hour long taped interviews in four languages-- they were conducted in four languages-- that were really intended to get at broader range of opinion and viewpoint, not just the loud, activist, tenant spokesperson, but to try and get at what people who hadn't been asked about anything had to say about life in public housing and what could happen. It had a lot of downsides certainly, mostly due to the logistical complexity of that and to the highly variable interviewing skills of the people we hired. And I'm sure that it never really was fully viewed as the joint venture that I intended, but I still think it marks a small attempt to counter some of the stereotypes that still are prevalent about people living in public housing and the worlds they inhabit.
So let me just now with the aid of some illustrations spend a few minutes illustrating three aspects of American public housing struggle. First is the struggle to build public housing in a country that venerates homeownership and individual initiative. Second is the struggle to maintain the high idealism that initially characterized public housing construction, and third is the struggle to reclaim public housing projects for continued occupancy by low income people.
So if you look at what I tend to call the prehistory of public housing, arguing that it goes back 350 years and not just to the New Deal like most people think of it, there is a long term tension between two trends. One, a sense that, if government and the state are involved in any kind of housing provision for low income people, that it ought to be a reward for the best kind of people. It ought to be recognizing your contributions to the town, your service to country through veterans programs, through land grants and things like that. Or alternatively, it ought to be acknowledging that the federal government, or the state government, or some form of government has a kind of public obligation to the least advantaged, that it's a kind of way of coping with poverty, a coping mechanism.
So I always try to think of public housing in the context of its antithesis-- the private home. Some of you may not be able to read all of this, and I don't have the little laser pointer with me to show this, but what it says here is his castle. Home owning breeds real men. And then in the fine print at the bottom it says it's what puts the man back in manhood.
This is an illustration from the 1922 booklet by the National Association of Real Estate Boards called Own Your Own Home. Here, does Brown own his home? No, he rents. Haven't you seen him scratch matches on the wallpaper?
There is this inferior moral being out here known as the renter that is being vilified and stigmatized by this alternative. So the kinds of images of home ownership in the years immediately preceding public housing-- the homeowner as the most efficient workman and the most successful in business and the professions at the upper left. A home as the best known incentive to persistent and organized effort. Or down below, the woman in her garden, where it says what woman does not yearn for her own garden and flowers? The work of caring for them and the sunshine helped to keep her young.
And if the garden weren't enough, the modern kitchen of the owned home-- the little caption says no drudgery here.
So this is what you gain. Or finally for children, what it says here is every child has the right to a home of its own. The child raised in a rented house or apartment is cheated. It makes childhood happier.
So this is the sort of thing that's going on, and we know it well historically going back to the 19th century, the Homestead Act. There's one from Oklahoma on the left. And then here in Massachusetts there was an organization in the 19-teens called the Homestead Commission that was building houses for worthy upwardly mobile workers in Lowell, Massachusetts, one of the earliest forms.
So you have this kind of reward tradition on the one hand, trying to say that the way that government belongs in housing is to reward the people who are the most deserving, who are going to work the land, or who have served as veterans, or who have done one thing or another to gain from that. And alternatively, there's this other long tradition about housing and government involvement as a kind of coping mechanism. This is the alms house in Boston on Leverett Street right about where Mass General is now-- or part of it-- that was built in 1800 to replace the earlier almshouse on Boston Common. It was designed by Charles Bullfinch, the same designer as the new statehouse, and when they built the new statehouse, they didn't want the old almshouse across the street from it. And so it moved over, but got very prominent kind of thing.
So people that really couldn't afford to maintain themselves on the town were there, and then gradually went even further. Now that I have my pointer, that's the Boston peninsula that was there in the 19th century. And what initially happened was that Leverett house one was about as far as you could get to that point, and then that wasn't far enough or big enough. And so they moved it all the way out to Deer Island, which, at that point, was still an island, and built this thing by 1850 as an almshouse and house of industry, meaning able-bodied people should be put to work. It was actually almost a form of incarceration with visits only possible once every three months and it being an island. They didn't allow for anybody to elope-- was the phrase-- meaning escape from it at the time.
So you see, you had this kind of sense of put poor people in an institution. Of course, most people were left in tenements on the mainland, and this book that came out in 1893 is Boston's equivalent of the famous Jacob Riis book, How the Other Half Lives-- is called a Civilization's Inferno-- Studies in the Social Cellar. And what it was was a study of what happened while the people were dancing on the streets in the townhouses of Beacon Hill or the Back Bay, and the levels of poverty that existed. The worthy people looking for work over here, the widows and orphans who were poor through no fault of their own, and then the so-called social cellar, the world of vice, and illicit behavior, and all of the sorts of things.
And the attempt was to figure out which of these people you should care about. Do you care about these people and these people, but not those people? How do you distinguish what happens in the inferno of civilization? But it's not until the 20th century that people started to worry about this in any great detail.
This is a map of Boston and Cambridge, showing what they called to be sections in which are blighted areas that may be considered for rehousing projects. That was the phrase. So there's Main Street and where Memorial Drive would be running there. So we're just sort of in here. There's Mass Ave. And if you know Cambridge, you know that there are two very large public housing developments right here at that Main Street intersection over there that did get built.
So this is the idea, but the question was, well, what was meant by rehousing projects? The authority came to power. This is the way the Boston Housing Authority preferred to self-reference themselves. So these five guys and their descendants were in charge, self-appointed of picking who was going to go into public housing. Boston, shown here at the top, had two big bursts-- one pre-war and one post-war-- where all of the housing was built. This is the national picture, which also has the pre-war spike, a post-war spike, but it had more activity in the '50s and '60s. Boston stopped building the large public housing projects for families in 1954, ahead of most other cities, but did a lot of it very, very soon.
And what was happening, at least in the older days, is that there were neighborhoods being taken, like this one, with hundreds of individual structures, including homes that people owned and businesses that were owned that were simply being torn down. A line is drawn around it, and it's rebuilt. This is the Mission Hill District in Roxbury, one of the first one in 1940 that was taken.
And this question of rehousing project turned out that it was about building new housing over here, but not really about rehousing those people into this place. What happened when I looked back at it and looked at the population records, I found that between 50% and 70%-- or 50% and 80% of the people in these various neighborhoods that were being torn down expressed an interest in moving to public housing, but when they actually built it, only between 2% and 12% actually got in because these people had the wrong family size. They might have been single individuals, or they might have had an extended family. They might not have had a US citizen at the head of the household. They might have been the wrong race for a project that was going to be only for one race or the other, and it was a black-white issue in those days in Boston.
They might have not had a stable enough job, because public housing was a reward in those days. It wasn't a coping mechanism. It was a reward for the people who really had demonstrated good citizenship and good housekeeping, and were likely to make maximum advantage and move on as quickly as possible so someone else could take their place. That's the kind of thing that was happening.
The idea was, as the cartoon here says-- it says the man's holding the bag here of the slum clearance tool. And it says disease, dispiritedness, delinquency-- we hope you'll be gone with the slums. The idea was you tear down the slums, and you eliminate the problems, but what was lost in the equation was that, in fact, you were just inviting a very different group of people to return. Public housing in 1940 in Boston was more selective than MIT. There were 10,000 applications for 1,000 places in a public housing development when it opened.
I think MIT's selectivity has improved since then, but in any case, it was really this kind of sense of moral uplift. You can't read all the details here, but it says out of the shadows, into the sun-- the notion of back alleys here and then the kind of openness of public housing. And the sentence, which is too good not to read to you, says after the war there were eight shining developments rising fresh to the sun, where once in dreary dirt filled dilapidation slum dwellings had shambled in contaminating hopelessness against a gray and somber sky. In this day, public housing was intended to even fix the weather of Boston.
It really was there. So this was a period of optimism, and openness, and opportunity. When people took pictures of public housing projects, they emphasized things like flagpoles and the Bunker Hill Monument at the Charlestown development, or here in Mission Hill, the Mission Church almost looks like the town church on the Common. And the references were all to New England villages. People wanted it.
Here in Boston, every one of those circles is the site of a post-war housing development where every one of the city counselors said, well, what about ward 24? We didn't get ours yet. There were 17 of these built after the war to complement the eight that were done before.
This was a desired thing, but note, also, that the gray areas were the only areas where there was a majority non-white population in Boston. In other words, 23 of these developments-- or 22 of them-- were built in white neighborhoods and intended for white occupancy. And so some of the real challenges for housing has been, what do you do as the neighborhoods change and as the population of the town changes when you have done a housing stock like that? It's been a real question.
But the idea really was that these were slum neighborhoods like that map I showed here. This map is a close up of that area of South Boston, and the idea was this was a substandard area known as census tract M3. And the idea was it just cost too much to the city. There were all of these various kinds of expenses, ranging from street cleaning to health costs, and that this was a net revenue loss. And so the idea was you tear it down, and you put something else there, and you get other people.
So you got these dramatic before and after kind of pictures. That's the same neighborhood. They simply drew a little red line that you may be able to barely see, tore down hundreds of places, left the Lithuanian church that was in here, but destroyed the entire parish that was around it, and then rebuilt public housing for 972 units of housing, and handed it over to Irish American occupancy. The Lithuanian and Polish communities of South Boston have never forgiven this.
So the struggle, though, has been what do you do when this stuff starts to decline? And I don't have time to give you the whole picture, which is fairly well known, but increasingly you had needier people applying. All of those white upwardly mobile veterans were given all sorts of other opportunities through various federal initiatives and the way the housing markets were working under the FHA at the time, and increasingly didn't need or want to apply for public housing once the 1950s and '60s started. You had people that had much less stable employment choosing to apply.
The financial system of public housing was premised on the rents covering the operating expenses, and that was increasingly impossible when you had people bringing in lower incomes. The management failures and the maintenance failures are legion, and the design inadequacy of these places that had hundreds and hundreds of children-- thousands in some cases-- clustered on stairwells and reliant on unreliable elevators-- that sort of thing. So by the end of the 1970s in Boston and elsewhere, public housing had declined dramatically.
This is the same project in South Boston that I showed just a moment ago-- the aerial-- where nobody really knew what was public, what was private, what was street, what was asphalt, what was courtyard. This, I think, may have been the last tree, and there are not any tall beavers in South Boston in case you're wondering, but it's the kind of thing that was happening. And when I first started visiting, they actually had to annotate the public street sign to say private way, dangerous passing-- a very sad commentary.
So the question is, well, what do you do about that? The answer in St. Louis famously in the 1970s was to take the infamous Pruitt-Igoe project and blow it up. The problem, having done that, as the aerial photo of St. Louis taken at least 15 years later shows, is that there wasn't anything in there to replace it. This is the open field that is on the site of that that I took about two or three years ago when I went to visit it. There's even been a proposal for a golf course, but it's a very short sighted answer. This is the answer that says give up, but I don't think that's the way to do it.
The current thinking is under the federal HOPE VI program. It says hers-- these are some HUD brochures. It says HOPE VI, building communities, transforming lives, a promise fulfilled, the transformations of American public housing. These are all before, after, before, after the kind of dramatic transformation. And this one says principles for inner city neighborhood design. The idea being that you tear it all down, and you rebuild it as mixed income communities, and start all over, and try and attract a different set of people.
Here's a kind of example, again, in St. Louis, the code of public housing and the housing that's being replaced it. The catch in all of this is that it's asking a different kind of person to benefit. This is now public housing for those people, the kind of multiracial briefcase set. And it's not serving the people that public housing had become intended to serve. If you actually look at the figures, it's very disturbing about how few very low income people are now going into the redeveloped housing. It's being torn down and then replaced with a different kind of tenant, just like what happened in the 1930s and '40s during the slum clearance, when the new housing was not intended for those people.
So the alternative that I've been proposing is what I call reclaiming public housing, which means not just reclaiming buildings, but reclaiming the occupancy for very low income people. And so what I did was look at places-- and I'm just telling you about the most successful of them since time is short. The Commonwealth Development in Boston, which I think is probably the most successful turnaround of a severely distressed public housing development anywhere in the country, not just here. When it opened, it was for veterans housing-- 650 units here, and a lot of children, and a lot of milk trucks. This is 1951.
And it had mid rise buildings, and elevators, and all of these things that are not supposed to work in public housing. It worked pretty well for a while. It opened as an integrated, though barely integrated development in the early '50s, which was considered extremely progressive at the time and remained a tolerable place to live into the early 1970s. These fellows, Steven Brown and John Murphy, were best friends in the early 1970s, and a lot of the climate managed to miss the real tensions over busing that tore apart so much of the other city.
But by the end of the 1970s, for all of these reasons that I mentioned, Commonwealth declined dramatically. By 1980, it was 52% vacant. Only 14% of the households had full time employment. 94% of the households were headed by a single female. Only 11% of the people, when interviewed, said they felt very safe. The judge who put the Boston Housing Authority in receivership in 1980 said that the development was regarded by neighbors with fear and loathing-- were his words.
When people moved out, as they did often without notice, no one was able to secure the apartments. They were vandalized and then proved unrentable. So you ended up with things like this, and you ended up with the kind of picture that characterized the top of this, which is just at the beginning of the efforts to reconstruct it, but people didn't give up, nor did they give it over to wealthier people. What happened was a transformation from this plan to this, which may look very similar, except for the color to you, but note a couple of things. Instead of that building, here is a daycare center. Instead of that building, here is a management center and a community center. And instead of these buildings separate, they're connected over here in a special complex of housing to serve needs of the elderly. And another road was put through here so it didn't just seem like a single loop through it.
The tenant leadership was crucial. This man, Bart [? McDonough, ?] was the tenant leader at the time at the opening of the childcare center here. And they did a fabulous job of organizing themselves and working with people to assert their needs, especially their right to return to the redeveloped place. The design-- it's a little hard to read the one on the left, but what they did was they turned three story buildings that had had apartments on each floor into townhouse type things so that, when somebody was on a stoop, they could actually talk to somebody on the street. And it really transformed the design into something much closer to a normal streetscape.
And they landscaped it beautifully. As much as 10 feet of fill was put in here, and it became a place where people had a sense of what was private and what was semi-private, and where the public realm was. And lastly, they turned it over to a very first rate private management team that occupied part of this building along with the tenant offices. And it got to a point where a place that had been considered so dangerous that nobody would go near it in the late 1970s-- by the mid 1980s, they had to erect resident parking only signs because there were people from the suburbs that were coming and parking on site at Commonwealth development, and then getting on the green line to commute the rest of their way to their jobs. It's just a remarkable kind of transformation of a neighborhood and of an attitude done by this tremendous kind of thing.
It's ultimately, I think, a function of community. This was a sign I saw in the community center that some of the kids had put together. Welcome to our community room rules. No cussing, fighting, jumping, on tables, groping, stealing, ball playing, drinking, smoking, throwing, spitting, teasing, or running. One warning, then you must leave on number two. This was an effort to restore community in a place that was done so without a loss to a commitment to extremely low income people.
The redevelopment succeeded in fostering safety, and reliability, and quality management, and attractive conditions without replacing the population with a less needy group. I wish it were the national model, but it isn't. Instead a recent study of the $5 billion federal program known as HOPE VI-- some of you saw the Globe yesterday. It was a big discussion of it on page three. The program that's known as HOPE VI-- H-O-P-E six-- found that only 11% of those who had lived in the neighborhoods that were in severely distressed public housing that were being replaced by the HOPE VI program actually got back into the redeveloped housing or are slated to do so. In other words, it's that same kind of 10% people get back that we noticed in the '30s and '40s. So I don't make any friends at HUD when I suggest that the hope acronym really ought to stand for House Our Poor People Elsewhere.
Let me briefly conclude, then, by returning to this question of ethics. I began with a few words about methodology and about the need to address the power relations that are inherent in studying our fellow human beings, but clearly the ethical challenge in this kind of work is really a double one. It's not just a matter of method, but also of content. In terms of content, we really have to remember that the entire field of housing is infused with moral judgments. Each of us, consciously or not, is making moral judgments about a person based on where he or she lives, and to study public housing is about making studying societal judgments, about the place of poor people in cities.
So really at base I'm interested in the history of public housing not just because it tells us so much about who we were and who we are, but because it helps us explain and inform action in the present. That sentence alone is probably enough to keep me from ever having a joint appointment in a history department, but it's really an essential perspective to have for someone interested in urban planning. My field entails taking action in the world, building theory out of a close observation of practice. Ours is really a never ending kind of search to make sense out of the messiest parts of the world, and I thank you for letting me share a part of my search with you this morning.
JIM LASH: [INAUDIBLE]
DR. LAWRENCE VALE: Stay there?
JIM LASH: You can stay right there. All right, we now come to the participation part of the program. We're going to start here and sort of work our way across with questions.
AUDIENCE: There is the prevalent feeling that without an individual's investment in his own residence there won't be the accompanying responsibility for upkeep. Is there any validity to that?
DR. LAWRENCE VALE: I think there is. I showed one of my graduate students yesterday the slide about Brown and his match scratching as a renter. And she says, well, I was a homeowner in New Haven, and now I'm a renter in Boston, and I don't want to do anything for this landlord that's got my place. I mean, that's an anecdote, but the interesting thing from my work-- and I didn't show the images today-- is looking at what people were doing in these redeveloped places with the area immediately outside of their apartments.
It used to be that public housing was often-- there was a real split between the beautiful upkeep of the interior of the apartment and then disaster the moment you stepped out the door into the hallways and all of that, but in these more successfully redeveloped places, what you find is that people are taking control over some of the semi public space immediately outside their area, whether it's an interior of the building or outside. And people are doing gardens, and vegetable gardens, and flowers. And when people have a sense of security about their environment, I find that they're taking some personal investment in it. So I'm sure that what you say is absolutely true, but when you restore some stability, and security, and good management, I think that people respect that and respond accordingly.
JIM LASH: Here?
AUDIENCE: If there are low income requirements for occupying housing, how can this not then have a negative effect on a family's ambition to advance economically?
DR. LAWRENCE VALE: Well, there have been a number of measures taken recently on that. It used to be the problem was that people advanced so quickly that they were kicked out of public housing in the early days because they would go over income. Now, because there's some interest in maintaining some of the more stable earning families, there are ceiling rents so that, after a certain point, you don't have to pay a portion of your-- the 30% of your rent to remain and that that will encourage some people to remain and diversify the community by incomes.
So it is certainly a problem, and I think the goal for any good community ought to be that there are some people who become lifelong residents and other people who last there only a short while, and then move onward and upward to something else. And the hope is that people will not have to be sending the next generation through public housing. And the interesting thing about Commonwealth, where the unemployment rate is still very high, is that they have a much higher percentage of the younger people going on to college than other public housing in Boston. And it seems to me that, by stabilizing the environment, there are new opportunities for the next generation that might not otherwise have happened.
JIM LASH: We've got a question in this section over here.
DR. LAWRENCE VALE: The three that I wrote about were all in Boston-- the Allston-Brighton area where Commonwealth is, South Boston, and Dorchester, and particular developments within them, the other two being West Broadway, or known as D Street in South Boston, and Franklin Field along Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester. And I found that there was almost as much diversity within a single city as there would be if I had done a more nationally comparative kind of study, I think.
JIM LASH: In the next section over here?
DR. LAWRENCE VALE: I think that's a great question.
DR. LAWRENCE VALE: Oh, sorry. How much does success depend on a single charismatic individual? I don't think that there was a single charismatic individual at the Commonwealth success. What there was was a nurturing of ability for tenants to speak outward about what was really bothering them, and people who were initially not terribly effective in public settings gained that kind of confidence. But it was a process that was really cast with stars for every role. I mean, people from the housing authority, from the community organizer, from the designer, from the management company-- I don't think it was necessarily charisma, but it sure was a whole lot of competence.
JIM LASH: Let's see if we can take the last question with the microphone.
AUDIENCE: How do you see the role of private affordable housing developers such as Habitat for Humanity?
DR. LAWRENCE VALE: There is such a crying need for low income housing provision that everybody from all sectors needs to pitch in. What I would observe, however, is that nearly all of what comes out of either private or nonprofit sectors has failed to reach those who are most at risk. The million people that are on housing authority waiting lists around the country often have incomes that are so low, either through lack of employment or minimum wage kinds of jobs-- often multiple minimum wage jobs-- where they can't afford to live in the cities that they are. And my fear is that most of what goes on either through Habitat, or through the Community Development Corporation world, or even a lot of the housing that's funded by low income housing tax credits, which can go up to 60% of median income, is simply not reaching the people who are at 15% of median income that are in public housing.
So if you lose your spot in public housing-- and that's happened to 115,000 units that have been torn down by the federal government during the last decade or so-- you don't have an alternative. We are going backwards on the question of provision of housing for very low income people, and I find that to be very disturbing.
JIM LASH: Thank you very much.
DR. LAWRENCE VALE: Thanks.
JIM LASH: Thank you. That was great.
Our next speaker is Dr. Steven Ansolabehere. He is a faculty member in the Department of Political Science. He was a Carnegie scholar. He won the Goldsmith Book Prize for Going Negative-- How Political Advertising Divides and Shrinks the American Electorate. And he's been a national fellow at the Hoover Institution.
I have to tell you, I'm looking forward to this, as he doesn't know my congressman is Chris Shays. And I know Chris fairly well, and we've had conversations about this subject. And I am at the moment candidate for first selectman in my community, which is sort of like being mayor, only you don't have any power. And I'm looking forward to either going negative or not going negative, depending on how things work out.
So I'm here to take notes, and with that, Dr. Ansolabehere.
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: Thank you.
JIM LASH: Thank you.
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: This is my-- the book Going Negative was written and published in '96, and this project that I'm going to talk about today is really a follow on to that, because the question coming out of the study of political advertising in the '90s that I did and that others did was whether or not television and the demand for money to pay for political advertising is having corrupting effects. And that's where Chris Shays comes into this. And this project is really about a transformation of my own thinking and, I suspect, a transformation of other people's thinking on this issue. And it's really at the intersection of law, and politics, and economics, where this research is located.
And let me tell you a little bit about that transformation, which is that going into this project, my assessment, my thinking, my beliefs were that television advertising costs were driving political campaign expenditures, along with corruption, the things you had to promise as a politician in order to raise money. And the transformation gradually-- and a lot of the facts were right underneath my nose the entire time going into this. The transformation really came out of an understanding that money in our society is more about participation, and that raises a different set of problems. And so I wanted to sort of talk you around to that and get you to the point where I hope you understand at least where I'm coming from, and maybe you even agree with me by the end of this.
Let me begin with a famous equality in this area of thinking, which is money is speech. Now, to most of us, we can think of some immediate problems with this equation, but this is the legal view in the United States. Money is speech, and this came out of a famous court case called Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, where the Supreme Court made that equation. And before then, it really had never made that equation.
Money is speech in this perspective in two ways. One is, if you are a political candidate, or an organization, or even an individual who wants to spend money to promote an idea, to campaign for office, the government cannot force you to limit the amount of speech that you want to engage in. It can't arbitrarily or unilaterally limit the total campaign spending in the United States, and that was what the court threw out, which was a provision in the original Federal Election Campaign Act, limiting the amount of money that congressional candidates spent for elections.
In addition, the court decided that giving was a kind of speech. If you give money to somebody, you're supporting them. You're endorsing them. However, the court didn't go quite as far in their view that money is speech with respect to giving because they said that there was also a government interest in limiting corruption. And against that government interest, we had to weigh our views of how we regulate contribution behavior. It's a difficult line to draw, and it's what's before the Supreme Court right now, because last year the McCain-Feingold Bill passed, and that was to limit other kinds of campaign spending and contributions. And that raises, once again, this thorny set of issues, which we seem to be continually thinking our way through.
From a social scientist perspective, one question we should ask is, is money speech? And there has been a variety of research on this-- a set of laboratory experiments, which is what I did in my earlier work, relating the advertising that one sees to whether or not one supports a candidate whose advertisements you saw. And there in the laboratory you can produce a pretty big effect of seeing just one political advertisement. There have also been a set of field experiments done at Yale, where they've sent people out into the fields. They've gotten campaigns to agree to do this. They randomly choose who's going to get direct mailings and who's not, who's going to receive a canvasser and who's not.
And it looks like it cost about $40 to persuade somebody to vote. Hard to say if it's whether or not they'll vote for you. And then there are what are called observational studies, just correlating how much is spent with how well you do in the election. And that seems to suggest something on the order of, if you double your spending, say, from $250,000 to $500,000, you can increase your vote share in a congressional campaign by about five percentage points. So there does seem to be this connection between money and speech, though I'm not sure I would call it an equality.
I think there's a fundamental ethical and societal set of problems that we need to think about and that the court is really thinking about right now. And that is that everyone benefits from free speech in our society. Everyone benefits from campaign finance-- all of us. Why? Because the fact that the candidate can go out and advertise means that they're creating a more informed electorate, and that's a public good. So anybody who votes can get information. Otherwise, it's very difficult to become informed about what the choices are that face you in a primary election, especially, but in a candidate contest or in an initiative or referendum.
However-- and this is where the difficulty comes in-- private financing of political campaigns, which is the way almost every advanced democracy works, make politicians more attuned to the interests of donors. And that's where the difficulty lies. As a societal problem-- and I want to distinguish a societal problem from a legal or ethical problem-- as a societal problem, the question is, how do we weigh the gain that we all get from having competitive informative elections against the idea that maybe the people who give money in some ways are getting more weight in the society? And we'll come back to how that might work.
There is a set of individual ethical problems which have to do with the individual relationship between a specific donor and the politician, which we might call bribery, and we will maintain bribery law throughout, no matter what the court decides about the bipartisan Campaign Reform Act-- versus personal speech. So if I'm an individual politician or I'm an individual in this society, I want to have my speech, and my money is my speech.
Well, the US after Buckley v. Valeo still regulates political campaigns, and we regulate it in a couple of ways. The Federal Election Campaign Act set down contribution limits on individuals, and groups, and parties. And if you're an individual, you can give $1,000 an election. Because there is a primary and a general election, that means that in an election cycle you can give $2,000 to a federal candidate. You can get a group-- like a corporation that has a Political Action Committee can give up to $10,000 to a candidate. And parties have a different set of limits, but they're roughly comparable.
In presidential campaigns, we have public financing. We have two kinds of public financing. In the primary election, we have matching funds, which has all sorts of interesting implications. Any candidate who raises a certain amount of money can have that money matched. In the general election, we have public financing that's just an outright grant, and to either qualify for the grant or for the matching funds, you have to abide by spending limits. And that is the only way that the court's been willing to allow spending limits.
In addition, an individual or a group can spend independently, and that's what are called issue ads. You can go out and buy as many issue ads as you want advocating a particular issue. And parties can spend money in the state elections because they're no longer federal elections, and that's called soft money. That's what the McCain-Feingold law went after-- those two issues.
The big question that everyone's wondering about right now is, is the Federal Election Campaign Act failing? Is this system that was set up in 1974 about to fall apart, and so we're going to go into an unregulated system? In 2000 election, we spent about $3 billion on federal elections. That's every dollar I've been able to uncover from any sort of odd loophole and so forth. It's roughly evenly divided in the US between congressional candidates, who spend about $1 billion-- and that's all within the limits. It's all legal money, no loopholes-- parties, who spent almost another $1 billion, a little over another $1 billion, most of which was hard money. That's legal that's under those contribution limits. And then finally the presidential system, of which only about $240 million came from the public treasury, and $500 million came from private sources.
And here's the real problem that people point to, which is, this is the trend in campaign spending relative to inflation since 1880 in the United States. And this is presidential-- I've been able to accumulate a series of presidential expenditures, and that's this graph with little dots on it going up. And it looks like this system is about to come apart because the trend is going up extremely fast. Since 1974, we've had some accounting of what Congress spends, and Congress is going up, as well. And these are political action committees. These are interest groups.
The worry, then, is that, even with these regulations, we're not able to control campaign spending and the resulting issues of corruption. So the fundamental question that political scientists and economists are grappling with right now is, why is spending growing? Why is campaign spending growing? And I just want to say parenthetically this is not an American problem either. Every democracy that we've been able to study and every state is witnessing the same problems-- campaign spending growing apparently without bound.
So the first thing that social scientists have been looking at since the '70s is corruption. Is there a smoking gun out there? Is there a relationship between donors giving money to legislators and legislators voting? And the answer is, if it's out there, it's extremely rare.
So we've surveyed over 200 studies that have been published, and only one in five of those studies report any significant correlation. And once you control for the district's interest-- in other words, the people the legislator represents, their interests-- there's no connection between the donations they get and how they behave in legislation, either making decisions in a roll call vote or in terms of final passage of legislation.
What about TV? This is probably the thing that surprised me most in this investigation. This is total campaign spending-- challengers and incumbents combined-- in different congressional elections. And what we've done is grouped quintiles of expenditures of districts. So this is the cost of airing ads in congressional elections.
The fifth quintile is New York and LA. You pay $1,100 per rating point in LA. The lowest quintile is Alabama and Montana. You pay $62 per quintile. There's no correlation between the cost of the rating point and how much is spent, which is-- when we saw this, it stopped a lot of researchers in their tracks, because this means that total campaign expenditures are unrelated to TV costs.
Now, this is for Chris Shays. This is a pressing issue in the future, because the next piece of campaign legislation that John McCain is sponsoring is to give candidates free airtime and to regulate campaign TV advertising prices to try to control campaign spending. The lesson here is this has nothing to do with the rise of campaign spending or the demand for interest group money.
Why is this true? Well, this is best seen in a little graph. This graph shows those quintiles along the bottom. This is the most expensive market, and this is the cheapest market, and this is the percent that candidates are spending on TV and on direct mail.
Campaigns are like little efficient firms. If you face a very expensive input price, you substitute into a near substitute, and in this case, it's direct mail. So as TV goes down as you get a more expensive media market, and direct mail goes up. And there are other kinds of campaign communications, but the price or cost-push inflation doesn't really seem to bear out very strongly.
The model that social scientists seem to be concentrating more on now is one in which we believe that giving is a form of political participation. Even giving by corporations is a form of political participation. There have been some excellent surveys of who gives, why, and how much.
And it looks like a fairly constant fraction of the United States public has been giving to politics for the last 25 to 30 years for which we have survey data. And that constant fraction is about 8%. 8% of the American public gives money to political candidates. Those 8% tend to be drawn disproportionately from the upper income quintile. In other words, the wealthiest quintile gives about-- about 12 people in the wealthiest quintile give for every person who's in the lower and middle income quintile. So we have a fairly constant participation rate.
When we study state elections to get a little more leverage on what explains the growth in campaign spending, we find that two things come out. One is income per capita strongly predicts how much is spent in gubernatorial elections, and the closeness of the election-- so the demand for money. The size of government is not related to how much is spent, and this is sort of something that's predicted by economists who think that government is-- there's a lot of corruption or a lot of extortion that underlies campaign spending. And therefore you'd expect that the size of government would explain the amount of money that was spent. In fact, it seems to be more of just two things-- the income per capita and the closeness of elections.
And I think that the main surprising thing that we've uncovered-- and this is my collaborators here at MIT-- is that, when you take that same time trend of how much is spent in US elections and deflate it by not inflation, which is the purchasing power of the dollar, but GDP, which is how much income there is in the society, you find that, since the 1940s roughly, there's been really no change in how much is spent in US elections. Spending grows with income.
What changed is this era is a lot different from what came after it, and that era was the era of political party machineries in the cities, the robber barons, and so forth. This is a very different political era than this era out here. And from this perspective, it does not look like after the Federal Election Campaign Act, which is this line right here, 1974, there's any trend at all in how much spending is growing. Spending just grows with how much income there is in the society.
We've gone out and looked at several other countries-- England, Sweden, Italy. All of them show the same pattern. Campaign spending is a constant fraction of the society.
This takes me back to the fundamental question that I think is before the court right now today and the fundamental question that really motivated my own interest in this problem, which is, is there a societal problem lurking behind the campaign finance question that really the United States has debated since 1905? There are two ways to view the societal problem. One is that campaign finance reflects the purchase of private benefits for corporations and wealthy individuals at the public trough. And the answer seems to be no, that donations from corporations, donations from labor unions, donations from wealthy individuals are not buying private benefits, such as a specific tax loophole, at least to any significant amount.
And I think that the most stunning way to think about this is the amounts that I've shown you are actually trivially small. $3 billion as a fraction of government spending is nothing. $3 billion as a fraction of our national income is nothing. And if we imagine that what was going on was the sale of private benefits, which is the usual picture, I think, that people have in their minds when they think about campaign contributions, especially from corporations and wealthy individuals, then those private benefits would be exclusive little benefits that you could buy, say, a subsidy for an industry.
If that were going on, then you'd have a nice little natural market, and this would be probably the best market to invest in in America, because the rate of return would have to be enormous on $3 billion for this to amount to any amount of societal problem. So if you believe that you can buy significant private benefits, I have one little recommendation for you, which is to take your money out of the stock market and invest in a politician. However, we've seen very little of that kind of behavior.
There is a second societal problem, and it has to do with public policy. And that is the fact that you have a system of campaign finance which draws disproportionately on wealthy individuals means that the wealthy individuals might have more weight in the society. And in a sense, campaign finance might be thought of differently as weighted voting.
Think back to the one figure I told you, which is it costs about $40 to mobilize someone to vote. So if I gave $2,000, or if I even gave $100, I'd be worth two and a half votes by that equation. So the amount that I get is somehow translating not into speech, as the courts originally defined it, but maybe it's translating into votes. And if that's the case, then we have a different sort of problem on our hands, one that the courts have not really grappled with, and that is the idea that we have to weigh the issue of weighted voting, how much weight individuals in our society have in a participatory model of politics or a pluralistic society, and whether that sort of behavior reflects the kind of representation we want.
That is not the question that the court has put before us, but it is the question that's sort of lurking out there. And this is the direction in which we're taking this research at MIT, and that is now not to look at a set of small private benefits that individual firms might get, but to look at the overall tax code and why the overall tax code is more or less progressive or regressive. It appears-- so this is very preliminary-- it appears that there is a small but noticeable effect of campaign giving in the states on the progressivity of the tax code to the tune of about a half a percentage point. In other words, the rate that the upper income people pay in terms of their income taxes is about 0.5% lower as a result of about $1 increase in per capita spending in the states.
I want to end there and just sort of throw this open for some questions, mainly because whenever I talk about this to a public forum the fundamental facts seem to be a bit jarring, and I'd like to just hear what you all have to say about the nature of money in our American political system and whether or not this is something we need to fundamentally reform at this point. Go head.
JIM LASH: Let's see if we can start on the far side of the room and work our way back over here. Wait for the microphone, because otherwise the people on the outside can't hear you.
AUDIENCE: Well, I think 3,000 [INAUDIBLE] California, and I would suggest that you did your next five studies in California [INAUDIBLE] corruption [INAUDIBLE] balance out [INAUDIBLE].
Where a meeting with the governor is actually a prize pack for a meeting. However, a little more serious nature, what about the money that union members pay as individuals to the union? And then they-- for instance, in California, the teachers union is the largest single contributor by millions of dollars over anybody else. And they have managed to centralize all public education in Sacramento and remove local control, and the result has been disastrous for public education.
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: Let me talk about the price of a meeting first. Terry McAuliffe said at a meeting that I was at that there's a price schedule for the time of the president. This was referring to Clinton. You can get a photo for $10,000 with a group. You can get a photo at your table for $25,000, so forth.
So it is the case that money is used to regulate politicians' time, especially the more prominent individuals. Whether that gets you anything in return privately is a different matter and a pretty substantially different matter, and there's just extremely hard to find any evidence of instances of corruption that go beyond small scale bribery. Kim in California is a classic case and for which we have bribery laws, and they're pretty effective.
Union members are an interesting other issue, and that is classically what I'm talking about. That's taking a bunch of individuals who are participating through their membership in a union and pooling their resources. The same is true of a corporation in the United States. A political action committee is not siphoning money out of the corporate treasury. They're raising money from individuals within the firm, so it's a way of pooling resources. The union members, though, tend to be middle and lower income, and their donations are outnumbered, I said, 12 to 1 by wealthy individual participation.
What the effect of teachers unions are on public education and so forth-- that seems to be another topic. I don't think that their power, however, comes from their money. I think their power comes from the fact that they're organized, and they can walk out on strikes, and that has a much bigger effect on negotiations and wages, and the NLRB protects them, and so forth. So the union brings so many other resources to bear that that's what's explaining their effectiveness in terms of public policy.
JIM LASH: Let's see if we can come back to this side.
AUDIENCE: I'm curious as how do you draw the connection between the income tax and the wealth of donors-- the income tax changes.
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: There are a couple of interesting case studies of the Tax Reform Act of '86, where what was at stake in the Tax Reform Act was whether we should eliminate a bunch of corporate loopholes and lower the marginal tax rate, or keep the marginal tax rate on the upper income segments of the society high and keep those loopholes. And in the end, when push came to shove, it was lowering the income tax rate rather than keeping the corporate loopholes, which is an interesting statement.
And there was a lot of evidence about the lobbying. So once people got in the door, what did the firms in the end lobby for? They lobbied for lowering the personal income tax rate, rather than keeping the private benefits for the corporations. So it's one piece of interesting evidence, and there are other bills that have the similar flavor, where corporations, when push comes to shove, prefer to pursue their income class's interests.
The immediate studies I was referring to here take the broad panel of tax rates in the states and relate that to the total amount of spending in those states over time within states. So when you see a change in campaign spending over time-- say, a five year interval-- do you see a shift in the income tax subsequently? And you do.
And then when there are other pieces to look at such as Florida, and a few other states, and Minnesota introduced public financing, once you remove the private money, what happens? In those states, you saw an increase in progressivity of the tax code. So we're attacking this from a bunch of different angles-- one from the observational or aggregate data, and also from some sort of more focused case studies. If you have any thoughts on what to do, let me know.
JIM LASH: [INAUDIBLE] one here.
AUDIENCE: I thought MIT was the only school that gave SB degrees, but apparently [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: Give him the mic.
AUDIENCE: Use the mic.
AUDIENCE: I thought MIT was the only school that gave an SB degree. Apparently the University of Minnesota does also?
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: Yeah, but at Minnesota it's BS.
Minnesota is a bachelor of science, so it's a BS.
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: Instead of SB.
AUDIENCE: Use the mic.
AUDIENCE: They can't hear.
JIM LASH: The gentleman with his hand up there.
AUDIENCE: I find your results very interesting, but I can't wrap my mind around-- I can't come to believe it yet. And I think the following way. What if the advocates of low income housing had as much money to spend as the advocates of any income tax cut or a tax break like the petroleum industry had to spend? Wouldn't they be a lot more successful than they are now?
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: If you equalize the amount of money that was given as a matter of participation, then yeah, they probably would be, because that's a matter of weighted voting. However, when you start looking at how much corporations give, it is remarkably small. The average corporate contribution to a candidate-- to an incumbent is $1,700, which is, in the scheme of things, a tiny amount. Corporations total gave-- in this entire picture, all that money, $3 billion, corporations total in terms of their hard money giving-- in other words, they're giving to Congress-- was $300 million.
So of the $1 billion that Congress gave, corporations gave a small amount. And I suspect that that in and of itself means that corporations see this as not a great investment in the scheme of things since it's a small fraction of corporate revenues. If we equalized spending by-- not giving it to a group of public housing advocates. I think they would be as effective as a corporation in their ability to get things. But if we equalized spending across income groups, then I think we would see some changes.
JIM LASH: We have a question over on this side.
AUDIENCE: Following up with the question of equalizing over income groups, what would be your response to making any kind of private contribution or corporate contribution completely illegal and having the government finance all campaigns as a public collective good, just like it does for national defense?
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: I'll put the national defense issue aside.
Don't want to get in trouble with Chuck. So we do publicly finance general elections for president. So there is some degree of that already, and we've had an experience with that. And the problem is it's very difficult to implement a public financing scheme without things leaking through loopholes or to find their way through another organizational scheme. If we were to do something like that, I think you'd have to be extremely generous. Basically you have to buy people out-- so to completely remove the incentive for them to misbehave in any way.
And when you propose a very generous system like that, the public just doesn't go for it. Massachusetts just went through a five year struggle over this-- and let me briefly characterize it. In 1998, we passed an initiative which was to create a publicly financed electoral system. The advocates of that system knew in advance that there was no way that they could do that, pass that, and tie it to any kind of financing scheme like a tax that you'd put in like a tax checkoff. So they left that off, and that passed pretty substantially.
That meant that the legislature had to pass a financing scheme, and when the legislature sat down to pass a financing scheme, they just couldn't do it. There was just too much opposition within the Democratic Party in particular to finance Republican opponents. And this system failed. So the Supreme Court of the state eventually had to get involved in this issue, and their level of involvement was down to ordering the sale of the furniture of the Speaker of the House to pay for the system.
So the opponents of this system put an advisory initiative to the public in 2002, and that advisory opinion was, if we use taxpayer dollars to pay publicly for elections, would you support it? And that lost overwhelmingly-- 2/3, 3/4 against using taxpayer money. So the issue is the public will not go for it. People do not like the idea of using taxpayer dollars to pay for elections. And I think that's where we are.
JIM LASH: I'm sorry. I think we're going to stop there. We need to take a break. This is a subject that we could all have fun with, but standing here it's making me extremely uncomfortable. The underlying tone of this is politicians are corrupt. Is there gambling in Las Vegas?
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: No, that's fixed.
JIM LASH: By the way, I was an aeronautical engineer as an undergraduate here, and when the newspaper found that out, the headline said rocket scientist runs for first selectman. So with that, we're going to take a break. There are refreshments out in the lobby. We'd like to have you back at 11:00 so that we can continue to stay on schedule and get you off to lunch. Thank you very much.
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: Appreciate it.
JIM LASH: Thank you [INAUDIBLE].
DR. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE: [INAUDIBLE]
JIM LASH: [INAUDIBLE] has had an interesting time.
Welcome back. If you'll take your seats, we can get restarted.
This is always the hard part, getting the enthusiastic conversation to come to an end, but we'd like to get started again if we can. Thank you. Thank you.
I had the opportunity to try to settle down a crowd about this size once a couple of years ago. Then past President Ford was about to speak, and I was standing at the podium like this trying to get the crowd to settle down, and they weren't nearly as helpful as you were. They kept right on talking and talking, and finally the Secret Service man who was standing just to my side sidled up to me and said, would you like me to fire off a couple of shots?
Which apparently is Secret Service humor. This was a few years ago. It probably wouldn't have crossed his mind today. Well, our next speaker is Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch, who is going to talk with us about mammalian cloning and stem cell therapy problems and promise. Dr. Jaenisch is a distinguished member of the faculty and a founding member of the Whitehead Institute, and I encourage you to look at the material in the booklet. Not much more can be said than that. That institution in combination with MIT has led some of the most astonishing research in the last decade. So without further ado, Dr. Jaenisch.
DR. RUDOLF JAENISCH: Thank you very much. I very much appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about something very different from what you heard this morning. So what I'd like to do is to talk about some biological issues which revolve around Dolly, the first mammalian animal cloned by nuclear transfer. It's about now six years ago.
And when Dolly was reported, this raised a number of quite interesting issues. One issue, which I find still totally surprising, is, why does it work in the first place sometimes? I think mammalian cloning raises other questions. What is the usefulness of this technology for research, for medicine, for medical application, for biotech industry? Then maybe the most controversial issue is, should we use this technology for human applications?
So I want to really in the next 30 minutes or so really address some aspects of these three questions, mostly from a biological point of view. So we know cloning works. We know this from the Raelians, and this is Rael, the leader of this sect of Raelians, who knows that life came by cloning from another star. He is in front of his UFO. And this is Brigitte Boisellier, who is the CEO of Clonaid, who we know by the day, by the week clone people. Healthy people are getting so boring that even the press doesn't mind anymore. And there's another aspect of this sect which makes them probably interesting to many.
Anyway, Rael is a very imaginative guy. He got his ideas in 1970 when he was abducted by a UFO in the Pyrenees. And then he got it. And so he had very imaginative things to say actually after September 11, which I really can't resist to show you what he said there. What he said is human cloning will make terrorist attacks inefficient and will allow the judgment of the perpetrators. So off he said, we must accelerate development of human cloning technology because it will make terrorist attacks inefficient in the future. Indeed, when phase three of cloning will be reached, the [INAUDIBLE] direct cloning of an adult thanks to this growth [INAUDIBLE] will be followed by regular downloading personality, memory, and experience to your PC.
Therefore, when tragedy occurs, this information-- what primitive people used to call the soul-- could be transferred to the new clone. So you would lose one day.
But this is even more important. This technology would allow us to do the cloning of terrorists, thus allowing us to try them for their crimes.
This way, no suicidal attack would see its perpetrator escape from justice through death. So what you have to do is you have to identify the terrorist before he does it, make several copies. One can go to jail, one go on death row, whatever you want to do. So it's obviously a very imaginative way of this technology.
So let me come to the issue. What is cloning? So there are two types of cloning. One is molecular cloning, when you take a human gene, for example, and multiply it in a bacterium. We know this since the '70s. It's a very important technology. Animal cloning, in a sense, is the carbon copy-- a genetic carbon copy of an individual. So it has identical genes as a donor.
Let me contrast the difference between the conventional way of reproduction and cloning. So in the conventional way, you know that in the parents there is a genetic exchange between the two chromosomes they inherited from their parents. This is meiosis. As a result of this, every sibling has a different combination of genes which were present in the parents. So every sibling is a new and genetically unique life, which has not existed before and will never exist again.
In cloning, one takes cells of one of these individuals. It now generates new individuals, which, of course, all identical. There's no meiosis. No sperm or egg maturation. So these clones are all identical. So there's no novel gene combination. It's really the propagation of existing life. From the biological point of view, it is not new life. I think that's important to realize, and we'll come back to this.
So cloning has enormous problems. It is extremely inefficient. The major problem is what we call epigenetic regulation, and we define what that is. So Dolly was made from a cell of a mammary gland. So these nuclei of such a cell are poised to express the genes which are important for mammary gland function-- let's say milk production-- but not the genes which are important for embryonic development. They are there, but they are silenced.
So what in cloning has to occur after the nucleus is put into the egg-- this adult pattern of gene expression has to be converted to some which is appropriate for an embryonic one. This is not a genetic change. It's called epigenetic because it doesn't involve any change in sequence. So let me give you a very simple-- so I know that's a little bit-- for many of you, you will not appreciate what that means. Let me tell you in a very simple example what I mean, and this is a text example.
So you know this first paragraph. To be or not to be-- that is the question. And so on. You can read this very easily because there are spaces between the words, the punctuation, and so on, and so forth. Let's make an experiment. Let's take out all the spaces and all the punctuation. Now try to read the sentence. It's much more difficult.
This is exactly what epigenetic does. It makes genes readable to the cell or non-readable. There's no change in information content. It's the same information content. So development occurs by making some of these genes, some of these sentences readable. Let's say, in the mammary gland, the genes for milk production are readable, but the ones for embryonic development are not. In the early embryo, those genes are not readable, but those are.
So the problem of Dolly, of cloning is how you convert this epigenetic state, or this state of the genes, to one which is appropriate for the early embryo. This probably goes over some of those stages. So I could put molecular terms on this, what I mean with this, but I think that gives you the idea.
So the problem of Dolly, then, was that the donor cell expressed the genes, which is important for mammary gland function-- let's say those for production of milk, but not those which the early embryo needs. So the transplanted nucleus must activate those genes and inactivate the other ones, and that's why it's the main reason that this procedure is extremely inefficient, and the outcome is almost always detrimental, not normal. So this is the
Procedure. So in normal fertilization, two gametes-- a sperm and an egg. They're called haploid because they're only half the set of genes-- are combined to give rise to what's called a diploid zygote, or early embryo. Genes come from father and from mother. In cloning-- then removes the nucleus from the egg and replaces this with a diploid nucleus which comes from a body cell. So you get a diploid clone.
Now, they have eight species-- now have been cloned in mammals. In most cases, this is done mechanically, and this is done by electrofusion. You just fuse the cell. It's quite efficient in some species, very inefficient in others.
We work with mouse at the Whitehead Institute. Mouse is the most difficult one to clone, and this is only possible really by a mechanical way to transfer this nucleus. And a student in my lavatory, Kevin Ecklund, has really proved one of the most proficient cloners in the country. He took the movie, which I'm going to show you, to make you appreciate what is involved in this nuclear transfer in mouse.
So this is the first-- is the nucleation step, where you see here the egg to be enucleated. This is the enucleation pipette, and you go in, and you suck out what's called the [INAUDIBLE] if i spin the nucleus of the egg. There it is, and this is actually-- that's the pipette to immobilize the egg. So he has to orient the egg in a way that the nucleus will spin, which you can-- very difficult to see-- faces the pipette, and he has to go through this eggshell with this pipette, and then take out the nucleus. There it is.
So the next step would be then the preparation of the donor nucleus, which you see there's a very small pipette, which is smaller than-- this is a cell, and you suck up the cell up and down this pipette. And you disrupt the cytoplasmic membrane. So what's left over is the nucleus, which is not disrupted. You can see the nucleus is now sucked into the pipette, and you leave behind the corpse of the cell. The next step then is the transfer of this nucleus into the enucleated egg. And you will see now again this has to be immobilized-- the egg. It's a very high magnification.
And now he's expelling now. He will be now expelling the nucleus, the nuclei in the pipette. There it comes. And now we very deeply insert this [INAUDIBLE] into the cytoplasm. You insert one nucleus into one egg. There it is.
So this is really the transfer of a diploid nucleus into the enucleated egg to generate, again, a diploid cloned embryo, which has two complements of chromosomes. I'll show you one more here. So this is done under very high magnification. It looks very easy. It is not.
So the next step then was to take these cloned embryos. He would incubate them in a salt solution and then divide, make a two cell embryo, then what's called 16 cell embryo, and the blastocyst. The blastocyst is about 30 cells, and these blastocysts then-- in humans, they would be about 100 cells. There would now implant into the uterus of the mother. And you wait then, and at the other end comes out Dolly at a later age-- clone mouse, pigs, a cat, cows, and there's a mule, and there's another species.
So what is the problem? The problem is it's extremely inefficient, because, we believe, of faulty reprogramming, not resetting the genes which are important for early development and for later stage development. So most clones just die right after implantation. The blastocyst goes into the uterus and dies. Few survive to birth, but have many serious abnormalities and may die just after birth. Even fewer become apparently normal adults, and I really emphasize apparently.
And I'll show you an example of such a clone mouse. Very often [INAUDIBLE] talks about the large offspring syndrome. This is a newborn mouse, a clone, which is about four times the size of a control. This is a monster and didn't survive. The placenta is very abnormal-- much bigger than a normal placenta.
So this is typical for all species. They're very large at birth. They have problems. Many die. They can't initiate respiration. But some then recover and look normal. Are they normal? That's a very important question.
So when you look at such an animal, you think there must be something wrong with genes. Genes are not correctly expressed. So we tested that. And when you test in such an animal, let's say, the expression of 10,000 genes-- then we find that hundreds of the genes in the animal, which looks normal, are not correctly expressed. We believe probably 1/20 of the genome. That's a lot.
So from this, I would argue they maybe even not normal clones. All clones, even if they appear normal, may not be really normal, but nevertheless, they do appear. Are they? And this is a very controversial issue, particularly some biotech companies believe. Because their cows are sitting on the fields-- ACT is one near close to Boston-- they must be normal. And they look at them for proof. They look. They have a heart. Yes, they have a heart.
They have serum. Yes, they have serum. And then they conclude they must be normal, and it's published in Science. So this is a very superficial way of looking at it. In mouse, one can do this much better. And the question really is, are there hidden defects which you don't see when you just look at an animal? And there are, and this only has been possible to do in mice, because although these animals appear quite normal up to one year of age, suddenly when you age them, they're really dying much earlier with major abnormalities.
So you pay a price when you short cut sperm maturation, and egg maturation, and fertilization. And there's a study here, which came out last year, and I'll show you there's one new way-- they looked at the survival curve of cloned animal plotted against the age to normal ones. We can see the clone ones die much earlier-- a year earlier. This is 30% of lifespan-- than controlled animals. And when you looked at them, why do they die? They have major abnormalities in many, many tissues.
Nevertheless, they appeared quite normal-- actually, totally normal when they're one year of age. So there's some hidden defect which you need time to come out. So either you die early, but even the survivors are not good and may have really serious problems.
But it's important. The problem one sees in clones is epigenetic. It's not genetic. Genetic means change of sequences, and we know that for sure, because if a cloned animal can produce mature gamete-- a sperm on egg-- the offspring is always normal. So there's no genetic change which would be passed. It is really this reprogramming, which, of course, is important for the biotech industry. I mean, they're not going to eat their clones. They're going to eat the offspring, and the offspring is, of course, normal.
So I think it's very important to realize the difference between epigenetic and genetic. Genetic means change in gene structure and sequence mutations. Epigenetic does not mean this. It is reversible.
So of course cloning is very closely sort of connected with embryonic stem cells and their potential. So what are embryonic stem cells? Embryonic stem cells are derived from these blastocysts I showed you, and curiously enough it only works in human and mouse, but that works quite efficiently. Now, these cells can differentiate in culture to almost any cell type of the body-- to neurons, to muscle, to blood, to bone-- anything, in principle. And we're learning how to do that.
So what is the potential of these cells? I think the potential for medicine is for transplantation medicine. So an embryonic stem cell, as I said, can give rise to blood cells, to neurons, to beta cells-- actually to all cells of the body, and we know the potential medical applications include treatment of Parkinson's, diabetes, of blood diseases, of leukemia patients, many others.
Is there any evidence that this would work in the first place? Well, transplantation medicine-- there's solid evidence that, if you put normal cells into patients suffering of Parkinson's or diabetes, for example-- in Parkinson's, those cells which die, dopaminergic cells-- you can help these patients recover very much of their function. This is solid evidence.
The problem is, where do you get the cells? The cells come from aborted fetuses, and for example, to treat one side of a patient you need six brains of a fetus. For example, for diabetes, they come from corpses-- from dead people.
So the problem is, in this conventional transplantation medicine, first of all, it's immuno rejection. You have to treat these patients to avoid rejection, but I think a major problem is availability of cells. You can't get enough fetuses. And the quality control-- there's no quality control here. That's a really a problem, but if you could make embryonic stem cells, you have as many cells as you want, and you can control the quality. And if you do it from a patient, you would avoid immuno rejection because it comes from the same patient.
So let me tell you what such an experiment would look like. So an experiment we did-- because people argued it doesn't work anyway. So we thought in mouse we just see, could it work? So in therapeutic cloning combined with gene therapy, what you would do is you would take a somatic nucleus from a diseased patient, for example, and derive an embryonic stem cell by nuclear transfer, as I showed you. You could use, actually, these cells to correct a genetic defect which might be the cause of the disease.
Then you have to in vitro, in the cultural dish, differentiate the cells that are repaired cells, and finally transplant those back to the patient, and see whether it helps. So we choose as an-- I'll give you one example-- is a patient, a mouse, which lacks a gene which is called Rag2, which doesn't matter. But if you don't have that gene, you're sort like a bubble boy. These are these children who are born without an immune system. So they have to live under bubble to avoid any infection. You know this. Well, some of these boys were treated with gene therapy in France.
And so what this gene normally does-- it's important for the peripheral B and T cells-- these are your lymphoid cells which fight infections. They're not present in these animals. So we thought-- this is our patient, and I'll show you just what it involved.
It's an eight step procedure. So this is the patient, the mouse-- the bubble mouse, if you want-- and you take skin cells from this animal. And you make a nuclear transfer-- this is the nucleus of this-- put them in an egg, generate a blastocyst, as I showed you, and this blastocyst will be now converted to an embryonic stem cell, which is, of course, a mutant, like the patient. So now you can use what we call homologous recombination just to repair the defect. It's a trivial operation. It works.
To repair the defect you make an embryonic stem cell, [INAUDIBLE] can express this mutant gene. Then you have to differentiate those cells to what's called [INAUDIBLE] stem cells, put them back, and indeed the mouse now can make B and T cells and becomes immune competent. So in principle, that works. In a model system, it works quite clearly.
So when we think about the two possibilities of therapeutic cloning and gene therapy, we have two roots. We have the one of what call therapeutic cloning, where you take a patient's cell, generate an embryonic stem cell. You could correct the gene defect. You could then differentiate those cells, put them back, and it will work. In some instances, we have shown it.
The alternative, which you probably read a lot about, is somatic stem cells. Somatic stem cells are cells which are taken from an adult organism in which many people-- there's a lot of hype in this field now-- which many people claim and believe that you take a stem cells from the bone marrow. It could make neurons and maybe liver cells-- a lot of publications. Of course, it would be very nice if you could do this, because there would be no ethical problem. You wouldn't need eggs for the transfer.
The problem is this is a very young field, and much of the evidence which has been published has alternative interpretations, and I believe there's really no clear evidence which is convincing that says you can indeed transdifferentiate a bone marrow cell in something else which is not a blood cell. So I would argue there's lots of question marks here how to use those. The potential is there. It's very interesting. We need much more research. And with the exception of bone marrow stem cells, there's so far no evidence that they're useful for therapy.
So many argue because of potential of these cells is they don't have to do this research, and I think that's wrong. I think we need to do in both areas very active research, because this one we know will work, and this has promise. And this is a very young field. This is an established field-- the stem cells. We know that for 20 years. Whereas this field we know for a few years, two or three.
So I would conclude then that what's called SCNT-- to avoid therapeutic cloning, there's somatic cell nuclear transfer. It's for research or for therapeutic purposes. I think it will work. It has worked in mouse. It will work in humans. They are only technical. There are no principle barriers to do that. We have to learn how to do that with human cells. Whereas in the reproductive cloning, as I will tell you in a minute, there are principle barriers to do that, and I think this will be very important.
So what we have to do is we have to adopt the methods which have been used now in the mouse, which we know the system very well. We have to adapt this to human cells, and this is very active research going on, although, of course, no nuclear transfer, but learning how these stem cells can differentiate to neurons and beta cells of the pancreas, and so on.
So there are two questions. One is reproductive cloning-- can we think about that this could be made a safe procedure, as safe as in vitro fertilization? Could we think there should be a human-- an acceptable technology of human reproduction? And I'm not going to go through the evidence, but if I told you [INAUDIBLE] I believe not. We have principle biological barriers here, which I find very difficult to imagine how we can overcome them in the foreseeable future. And this is coming from much understanding. We have no particularly in cloning of mice, and, of course, mice are mammals and humans are mammals, so there's no reason to assume that humans are different from mice in these principal biological problems.
So does this pose a problem for therapeutic application? And I believe it does not, because in therapeutic application, we make an embryonic stem cell by cloning. And if we don't make a fetus, this embryonic stem cell is put in the Petri dish, and in one step, we make neurons in the cells we want, but no fetal development. We know all these genes which I mentioned-- these hundreds of genes which are not correctly expressed-- they are important for fetal development, but not for many of the functions we see in an adult cell. So there's one of the reasons why I believe here is no principle problem. It's, at best, a technical problem.
So I would conclude then that is unlikely, if not impossible, to create a normal individual by nuclear cloning. That's very important. Some people disagree with this. Those people who clone humans claim to do this. They would disagree. I think they're distorting the evidence. So the problems of reprogramming will not be solvable for the foreseeable future. I think there are principle as opposed to technical good barriers to do reproductive cloning.
But embryonic stem cells derived from a cloned embryo have the same potential for tissue repair as those from a fertilized embryo. So the question was, if a stem cell from a cloned embryo-- is it less worth than a stem cell from a fertilized embryo? And we have very hard evidence there's no difference. That's important to realize. So I would argue, yes, cells which have been derived from an in vitro fertilized embryo, which was not implanted, has the same potential for therapy as one from a cloned embryo.
So there are two types of nuclear cloning. There's reproductive cloning. The purpose is to create a person. There's therapeutic cloning. The purpose is to create an embryonic stem cell, which is really tailored to the needs of the patient and can serve at the source for tissue repair. So both approaches involve the transfer of a somatic nucleus into the egg and develop into the blastocyst stage. In reproductive cloning, the embryo is implanted in the uterus. In therapeutic cloning, the embryo is explanted into a Petri dish. That's the difference.
So what have we learned from animal cloning? Well, we think [INAUDIBLE] should it be tried for humans? I think we have learned that even clones that survive to birth and longer have serious abnormalities and die later. I showed you the evidence-- a little bit of the evidence. And it's due to widespread epigenetic dysregulation. So I would argue most clones may have at least subtle abnormalities. And I should argue really, if you look at a mouse of one year of age, you don't know what the brain function of this is, right? I mean, these animals are cloned cows. They're not suitable to look at those functions which are probably even more important than looking at liver function, which, of course, we can measure.
I think this is all very difficult to assess, but I would argue there were even major more problems, so I think it would be very interesting to clone primates, but this has not worked. There are major technical problems, I believe.
So I would argue that normal clones, if they exist, might be the absolute exception, but this doesn't really frighten some people. Some people think this is a bad idea-- to clone people like these two sheep. They would think it's disgusting, but other do think it's a good idea, like Zervos, this fertility doctor from Kentucky, who, in April, said they cloned now human embryo-- which, of course, eight cells is not a big deal-- and made a big fuss about this. But this is particularly interesting. What he argues is he can use-- he can screen pre-mutation embryos by genetic means to weed out the good ones from the bad ones.
This is a serious distortion of all scientific evidence. It's a misleading of all the evidence, because what he argues is that he could use prenatal diagnosis, which is routinely used in the clinic. And this is used to detect chromosomal aberrations for a Down syndrome fetus, for example, or known genetic defects, which are known to be present to parents. Does a fetus have it? It's a terrific method to do this, but the problems in clones, as I told you, is not genetic. It's epigenetic. And there's no way, no way you can test 30,000 genes for any epigenetic problems. We can't do it for one gene in the laboratory.
So this is a gross misstatement of all the evidence. So it says clearly at present there's no way to predict whether a given clone will develop into a normal or an abnormal individual. And so I think it's really very misleading, but unfortunately these guys are very vocal, and some people believe.
So for example, this guy, Doug Dorner, 35 years old, was quoted I would not mind being the first person cloned. I don't mind being a Guinea pig. Now he as a normal confusion. It's enormous confusion, right? Who is the Guinea pig here-- the one who gives the cell or what? So I think it's unfortunate. This is distorted often by media coverage and by these, I think, very irresponsible people like Zavos, and [INAUDIBLE]. And these clones, the Raelians I don't count anymore as being to take serious.
So there are a couple of ethical issues. Now, when does life begin? Which is, of course, a very important issue. And I believe, as a biologist, you have to say it begins with fertilization. I can't say anything else. I think that's not the issue.
The issue is, when is an embryo a person? That is the issue. I think there are extreme views. Some believe an embryo has human status at the moment of fertilization, and others believe, no, only much later, maybe as a newborn, which I think more the Jewish philosophy would argue. Or some even believe maybe only when the children leave the house. So it is--
What I'm trying to argue is here there's no way-- no scientific way to argue when is an embryo a person. Really there must be other-- we can't do scientifically this. So the British made sort of a compromise. They say the early embryo really deserves special status as a potential human being, but at the very early stages, during [? cleavage ?] up to the blastocyst stage, this can be weighed against other potential benefits for society or therapy. So I'll come back to this.
So this is now a human blastocyst, about 200 cells. When you implant, it will give rise to a fetus and [INAUDIBLE] give rise to an embryonic stem cell. So some few issues which you hear often discussed. For example, life begins with conception, with fertilization. Now, clearly in cloning there is no conception. There is no fertilization. In the biological sense, it's not new life. It's a propagation of existing life.
The fertilized egg has already individuality. Yeah, it probably has genetic individuality, but certainly not anything else. We know this. Splitting an embryo gives you two different certainly identical twins with very different personalities, and actually two embryos might fuse, which probably some of you in this room are derived from a few [INAUDIBLE] that don't know that. And they, of course, have only one personality. It's something which happens normally.
I think the real problems, to my mind, are these here-- the moral issues for producing embryos and human eggs. There's enormous market for this-- their commercial pressure-- and I think this is really of big trouble, and I will give you one potential answer for this. And then other people are very concerned that this is a slippery road. If you allow this type of cloning, it's a slippery road to cloning people.
So let me kind of humor this from my point of view-- address some of these issues. So one is the therapeutic application of nuclear transfer requires large numbers of human eggs. I think this is a problem. It's a major problem. How do you do this? Under which circumstances would you get them?
Is that an insurmountable problem? Now, there is a recent paper-- it came out in Science a few weeks ago-- where they argued that they can derive oocyte-like cells from embryonic stem cells. Now, that looks pretty interesting. It's not an oocyte yet, but it looks sort of interesting on the way. So if functional oocytes could be produced in tissue culture, for an embryonic stem cell, it may be possible to generate these recipient eggs you need for transfer without asking a woman to donate the eggs in tissue culture in a generic cell. That would be very interesting, but we are far away from this at this point, but I think it's a technical issue to solve. I think it will work, but we are not there at all.
So I think one of the key concerns against therapeutic application of nuclear transfer is, for example, also voiced in the bioethics commission of the president headed by Leon Kass-- is that the derivation of embryonic stem cells by nuclear cloning necessitates the destruction of potential human life. I think that's a major concern, and then for many, of course, it becomes an abortion issue, which it really has nothing to do with abortion, but I think it becomes.
So let me come to this issue here. So if you think about where do human embryonic stem cells, which have been [? produced ?] so far-- where do they come from? They came from left over in vitro fertilized embryos which were not implanted.
So the intent of generating such an embryo was to generate a baby clearly. It wasn't needed. It wasn't implanted. It was always a creation of new life. It's a unique genetic combination. It has a high potential to generate a normal baby no doubt.
In therapeutic cloning, the intent is not to generate a baby but a tailored cell for cell therapy. As I said before, it's a propagation of existing life. There's nothing genetically new, and I think most importantly it has a very low potential to ever create a normal baby. I argue this all in all. Most of those will be abnormal.
So if I put this in a very simple conclusion, there are three possibilities which are faced by an embryo which is left over which was not implanted-- left from in vitro fertilization. There are a couple of 100,000 in this country-- or from a cloned embryo. It could be disposed. It could generate a normal baby if implanted, or it could generate a normal embryonic stem cell.
For a cloned embryo, you have also three possibilities. It could be disposed. It could generate a normal embryonic stem cell or an abnormal baby, if anything.
So when you think about, in this country, most people believe instead of throwing away these embryos, you might as well use them for research or for therapy. This is acceptable, but you do destroy a potential human life. There's no doubt about it. If you accept this, I wonder-- this would be much easier to accept because there is no potential to generate a normal baby.
So I find, at least from my point of view, if you accept that, this poses-- it might bring less ethical problems. So I would argue, then, if you think about what's the difference between a fertilized and a cloned embryo, the fertilized embryo is created by conception. It's unique. There's a high potential to develop to normal babies. The cloned embryo-- there's no conception, no new genetic combination. It's a product of a laboratory assisted technique. It's not a natural event. There's little or no potential to ever develop to a normal baby.
So I would think, between these two embryos, the cloned embryo does lack some essential qualities which we sort of associate with beginning normal human life, I think. So I think the point I want to make is one shouldn't equate those two. So from the biological point of view then the derivation of embryonic stem cells by nuclear cloning involves the destruction of an embryo. I think that lacks the potential to ever develop into a normal human being with any acceptable efficiency.
So the British have sort of made a compromise, as I said before. They have a law which makes reproductive cloning a criminal offense and allows therapeutic cloning. So, of course, both involve the transfer of a somatic nucleus into the egg and the generation of a clone blastocyst. The dividing line is very clear.
You implant, you go to jail. You don't implant, you don't go to jail. This is not a gray zone. This is not a slippery road, as far as I'm concerned. You either implant, or you don't. You can't half implant.
So I think the slippery road argument-- in this case, it's also enforceable. It is clearly-- because you know you implant or you didn't. And the argument from the Justice Department is saying we can't enforce this. We can't punish a woman who does implant and the doctor. Well, I think then you should change law so you can enforce it.
So I think this is really-- at least biological, it makes sense to do this, and it's certainly enforceable. There's not a slippery road. I think slippery road would be if you say you allow it to manipulate an embryo for 14 days. You make a time limit, and it turns out maybe three weeks is better. Maybe four weeks is better, and you slippery down to go further on. I think implantation is yes or no, black or white.
The problem, I think, are these characters here. So I showed you before this is Brigitte Boisellier from Clonaid. This is Rael. This is [INAUDIBLE], this fertility doctor from Italy who does this. And this is now here Rael in his space suit, testifying in the United States Congress. This is, again, Zavos and Boisellier testifying in the United States Congress.
And I'm afraid, these people, what they do is-- with their distortion I think they really effect, I think, legislation as we see it developing. And I think part of this is that certainly our administration believes anything which has to do with embryos or embryonic stem cells is very suspect. I think it's probably driven partially by this these rather irresponsible people, like I showed you.
And I want to just close really with some of the legislation which has now passed in the House, which is the Weldon-Stupack Bill, which was passed twice. And the underlying philosophy, I think, is, regardless of its ultimate destiny, all human embryos are simultaneously human beings. I think, if you believe that, I think you should have a problem-- you must have a problem with many of these things. So it led to an interesting paragraph, which is sort of prohibition of human cloning. So it shall be unlawful for any person, and so on, and so forth to perform or attempt to perform human cloning, to participate in such an attempt, or to ship or receive any cloned embryo, but this is a really interesting paragraph. Importation-- it shall be unlawful for any person or entity, public or private, knowingly to import for any purpose an embryo produced by human cloning or any product derived from such an embryo.
Now, this is pretty extreme if you think about it. If a patient, let's say, in this country goes to England in case they get the technology established and gets their diabetes treated-- let's assume so. They would arrest him at Boston airport because he would carry a product derived from such an embryo. They would either cut it out or put him into jail, and there are big fines for that. So I think it's a very extreme bill which criminalizes research, which I think is sort of the first in this country, but I think it's driven in part unfortunately by this publicity from these renegade people.
Now, this bill has passed twice in the House, and the Senate is debating, and the Senate is not clear what's going to happen. There is an alternative bill in the Senate, which is more closer to the one like this, and the other one is more closer to the British bill. It's not clear what will happen, I think.
So let me close just acknowledging some people in my group who led to much of the research which I talked about-- the basis-- which is my cloning group here. And this is really mostly students. This is Kevin Eggan. I showed you a movie from him. He is one of really the people who introduced the technology for me. There are three other students and a postdoc who really made much of the work I talked about, and which we take as the basis for our scientific assessment of this technology. So thank you very much for your attention.
JIM LASH: So we have time for a few questions. Let's see if we have some hands here. See if we can find-- no questions.
DR. RUDOLF JAENISCH: Yes, over there.
JIM LASH: Here you go. Oh, here we go.
AUDIENCE: Aside from the political issue, if--
DR. RUDOLF JAENISCH: [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: If therapeutic cloning has been known for 20 years, why are we seeing little or no success in the curing of a disease such as cystic fibrosis, where the defective gene has been known for, I think, about 15 years?
DR. RUDOLF JAENISCH: So cystic fibrosis is much more difficult than, let's say, a blood disease. The problem with cystic fibrosis is the cells which give you the symptoms are the linings of the lung, and they have the problem-- this transport is defective. That's why you get these infections in the gut. Now, to replace by cell therapy the cells of your lung lining-- that's a very difficult issue.
So transplantation medicine works very well with bone marrow disease because it's put in the bone marrow. The cells distribute wherever they have to go. It works reasonably well, let's say, for pancreas for diabetes, because you have the beta cells. They put them anywhere-- let's say, under the kidney capsule also-- and they will work. For Parkinson's, very interesting. You know where the cells have to be which are dying in the Parkinson patient. You, by stereotactic injection, just deposit these cells into this area, and they produce the dopamine, which is lacking. And I think it's amazing. They improve enormously the quality of these people of life and their function.
So I think transplantation medicine-- yes, you can replace a heart if you have the right donor, but you cannot make a heart in culture. No way you can do that, but you could make heart cells in culture. Can inject them in a damaged heart. It has been shown to repair some of the defects.
So there are two problems in transplantation medicine. One is to have the cells and have the immune problems taken care of, and the other one is delivery. And for some diseases, delivery is a real problem. And cystic fibrosis would be one where I think delivery of the cells to the right spot is a real problem.
JIM LASH: We'll go to the next section here.
AUDIENCE: Why are placental stem cells never mentioned as a source?
DR. RUDOLF JAENISCH: Well, placental stem cells is a very new development. So those are stem cells which give rise to the placental lineage. It's a very different lineage from the embryo lineage. And the placental stem cells-- they are very likely not very useful for replacing somatic tissues. They are known to really contribute to the placenta, but not to the embryo. And of course, when we want to treat a patient, we don't want to treat the placenta. We want to treat the somatic organs. So this is very interesting sideline, but it's probably not useful for any therapeutic purposes.
AUDIENCE: Hi. Paul Landsman. How are you doing? Question is, what do you think about animals, transportation-- transporting animal lungs and hearts into humans? Do you think that's going to be a possibility someday? And another question is-- we won't hold it to you, but how would you invest in this exciting field of biotechnology?
DR. RUDOLF JAENISCH: Sorry, can you repeat the last question?
AUDIENCE: How would you invest in this field of biotechnology? We won't hold you to it, of course.
DR. RUDOLF JAENISCH: So the first question is you need a donor animal, and what people believe is the best donor animal would be a pig because pigs and humans have a lot of similarities in many ways. So the problem is, in pigs, there's what's called the acute rejection. So the pig has a certain protein on its cells which are right away a target for, actually, serum in humans. If you transport pig cells in human, they are destroyed within 20 minutes. It's called the hyper acute rejection.
Now, what has been all done is they' knocked out their gene in pigs, so now we have pigs which don't have this protein anymore. So then when you transplant some tissue from those pigs to human, they would not be rejected, but hyper immune-- hyperactive rejection went right away. Now come all the other problems of xenotransplantation, and they are serious.
So are they solvable? Some people believe, yes, you just have to replace immune system of pigs, and make it humanized, and whatever. Maybe. I mean, this is the future, and I think cloning helps you to do this. So I think there's a potential to do that, but I think we're very far away from this.
Now, investing. So there are a couple of companies who were built on stem cell technology. Geron is one, as you know. And I think they have a very hard time now in this investment climate because of the-- part of this certainly is the political situation that people believe it's a hot potato. If you work with human embryonic stem cells, it's a hot potato. How can you attract anyone? I think that's a reality to this. So I think that probably at the moment would be not a good idea, I think, to invest in a company who thinks they can generate these cells for transplantation and using human embryonic stem cells for that, but that's my very humble point of view of investment strategy.
JIM LASH: Let's come back over to this side.
AUDIENCE: Hello, I'd like to know if you could give a brief overview of the use of retroviral insertion of genes in gene therapy.
DR. RUDOLF JAENISCH: Yes, so this was the tragedy I mentioned. So there were 10 bubble boys similar to our mouse-- they didn't have B and T cells-- in France because of a single gene defect. And what he's referring to is a therapy which looked very good. It took the cells, the blood cells from these boys, from these children, and transfused, using a retrovirus, this gene. And they put them back into these boys.
And it was amazing. They got-- like almost-- they made B and T cells, and they were really, in a way, cured. So it was the real first success story of gene therapy. The problem came up when they waited a little longer, because three of these children got leukemia. Why did they get leukemia? I worked my life with retroviruses. I know these things quite well because we struggled with this.
The virus you put in in such a cell can integrate anywhere in the genome in many different positions. And what happened in these three children who got leukemia, the virus had integrated into a gene which is known-- it's called an oncogene-- which is known, when activated, gives rise to these leukemias. So the virus activated that gene as a result of its randomly getting in the genome. So the question is, is it random, actually? It's a major question of interest.
And I think looking at 3 out of 10-- you have to look how many integrations took place, and all these calculations have to be made. It may not be random. There might be preferential integration sites for this virus, and this, of course, is unacceptable risk, which these researchers did not know. And I think they right away went to the public, and they did the right things and said it was very unexpected, but very troublesome. So I think gene therapy with an agent which you don't know where it ends up has an inherent risk, and that's what these have said.
The gene therapy I talked about, where we take embryonic stem cells and now we repair the mutated gene with homologous recombination, there's almost no risk because you repair it. You check whether you did what you thought you did, and you can test and culture, and there's nothing wrong with this, because you can test everything, and they put this back to the patient. So this is a very different type of approach, but you cannot use this approach for adult stem cells-- let's say for bone marrow stem cells, because they're so rare. 1 in 100,000 cells is a bone marrow stem cell. You can't grow these. You can't do these manipulations. You can only use a virus, which infects everything, and then you select the right cells out, but you never know what you did. So that's a big difference between these two types of approaches of gene therapy.
JIM LASH: One last question. Right here in front. Get a microphone to him.
AUDIENCE: You spoke a bit about how there are hundreds of thousands of IVF cells that are out there in the US right at the moment, and I was curious, under the existing law and climate, what is acceptable use for these cells, and what's happening with all of them?
DR. RUDOLF JAENISCH: So I think the law says it's not criminalized. I think you need clearly parental consent. That's very important, and I think people believe who want to get this on a solid footing there shouldn't be commercial rewards for this. [INAUDIBLE] commercial aspects should be taken out of this.
I think the fate of these embryos is pretty much in limbo, because I think many clinics don't know what to do with them, because either they get the permission from the parents to destroy those-- if they don't have, they might be sued for whatever. So I think it's a very unsettled situation of these hundreds of thousands of embryos, which I know there are.
JIM LASH: Good. Thank you very much.
And we have just a couple more things to take care of. First, it's my pleasure to introduce Kimberly and Frances, who chaired the committee that organized these events. Kim?
KIMBERLY FRANCIS: Good morning. President Vest, Bill Hecht, [INAUDIBLE], Jim Lash, distinguished speakers, alumni, parents, students, friends, welcome. My name is Kim Frances. I'm a member of the class of 1978 and Tech Day chair for 2003. And what a program we've had this morning, haven't we? Very good.
On behalf of myself and the Tech Day committee, I want to thank my sincere appreciation for all the speakers who gave of their time and their Saturday to come in and discuss these important topics. Fast Times at MIT-- we've much to learn about ourselves and our choices as we move into some of these very complex technological applications, and I encourage the audience to continue your learning by visiting the website, visiting the speakers pages, and viewing their publication.
Of course, a program of this magnitude cannot be put together without a lot of dedication from several support teams. I'd like to recognize the members of the Tech Day committee. I'm going to read off their names, and would you stand. Barbara Greenberg, '77. Keith McKay, '97. Kim Hunter, '86. Leon Katz, '64. Bill Leach, '56. Holly Schmidt, '87. David Stork, '76. [? Sereka Valhalla, ?] '96. Doug Vincent, '89. And Marvin Grossman, '51. Thank you all.
We challenged each other kindly and gently under the guidance of Elizabeth Durant and the Alumni Association office, and I want to thank her and her staff for helping us put this program together. Tech Day is a very special day in the MIT community. You all have come back here several years. I would like to invite you, in order for us to continue to improve this event, to fill out a blue evaluation form. They're available in the lobby, and there's also boxes to drop them in the lobby so that we can continue to bring the best of topics to you. We also have two more speakers after lunch, so I will ask you to return promptly at 2 o'clock for the beginning of the afternoon program. At this time, I give you back to Jim Lash for another presentation.
JIM LASH: Thank you very much.
We have one piece of official business to do, and to do this, I need Bill Hecht to come up here. Yesterday at the meeting of the board of your Alumni Association, the board voted the following resolution in recognition of Bill's part time retirement. Whereas the honoree has presided over the Alumni Association longer than anyone else besides Ellen Swallow Richards's husband, and whereas, as director of the educational council, he first displayed to his MIT co-workers a taste and capacity for airline travel that amazes ordinary mortals, and that no doubt partly reflects the passion for flying and aircraft which once found him teaching an association president how to tell 727s, MD-80s, and other jetliners one from another. Whereas he oversaw the association while it quintupled its gift total, chose its first woman president, made friends with resource development, successfully spun off Technology Review, set an unprecedented string of fundraising records, and showed its peers nationwide the right way to put your organization on the internet.
And whereas the honoree possesses the exquisite flair for diplomacy required of anyone whose job description says that you must serve three masters, and that you can assume they will rarely, if ever, be in complete agreement with each other. And whereas he knows by face and name so many thousands of MIT graduates that some may wonder how there can be room left in his cranium for his encyclopedic knowledge of topics from Alvar Aalto to the Zesiger Center, not to mention an astonishing store of non-MIT knowledge. And whereas his affection for his alma mater is deep and palpable, as reflected in his lengthy hours on the job, his vigorous representation of the interests and views of the alumni, his unstinting service as advisor to generations of lucky freshmen, and his richly deserved bronze beaver. And whereas he extends that same type of loyalty to friends and family, the latter including a group of grandchildren who are growing up understanding better than most the concept of deep grandfatherly devotion. And whereas he has been described by a prominent alumna as, quote, "one of the most huggable men you could ever hope to meet," unquote.
It is therefore with profound gratitude that we hereby congratulate and commend William J. Hecht, proud member of the MIT class of 1961, for his past, present, and future service to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This resolution voted by the board of directors of the Association of Alumnae and Alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on this 6th day of June, 2003.
You can say something if you want.
BILL HECHT: Thank you. I would like to say just a couple of words. One of them is that each of you in this audience represents 10 or 100 other individuals, alumni and alumnae, spouses, friends that it has really been a privilege to serve. My good friend, Paul Gray, has a wonderful phrase about MIT. He refers to it as this special place. I would add to that it's not only special, it's unique. And what's even more interesting about it and delightful is that the people who are a product to this place are extraordinary.
This job, for many of my peers in this business, is a pain in the neck, or perhaps a little lower. This job of working with you sometimes has been a challenge and occasionally a frustration, but has ended up generally an enormous pleasure, a pleasure because you're extraordinary people, and because you support this extraordinary place. And I encourage you to keep doing that. Thank you.