Wednesday, September 7, 2011

White House in "Shock" over NASA Budget? Puh-leeze!

The article 'White House Experiences Sticker Shock Over NASA Plans', in today's Wall Street Journal (p. A5) immediately drew my ire. I mean, these people - buried in the caves of the Oval Office- evidently have about as much contact with the reality of manned space flight and its costs, as they do with Martians. Why would you not expect planned missions to the asteroids to be costly? And besides, as I will show, "costly" is a relative term. It doesn't seem "costly" to very many in this forlorn land that we've pissed away over $61 billion the past ten years in Afghanistan including jails never built ($124 million), and bribe money for the Taliban ($308 billion). But who's pissing and moaning about all that money wasted? (I am saving that for a 9-11 blog on how we need to cease allowing the dead bin Laden to dictate our priorities...and the allocation of our treasury money!)

Anyway, the WSJ article notes "many OMB and NASA officials are already worried" regarding the agency's $35 billion projected for heavy lift rockets and manned capsules (such as the Orion) by 2025. The article then goes on to cite the "sticker shock" associated with NASA's drive to push U.S. manned space flights beyond the orbiting space station.

But what did they expect? Space ventures cost money! They aren't frickin' cheap! Manned space expeditions especially! But in contrast to pissing away $61 billion on Afghanistan, this is a jackpot! This actually delivers tangible results. Not only will the U.S. continue to have a viable space program, it won't have to suffer the humiliation of having to depend on anyone else to support its hardware, or offer lifts to space. (Including the pathetic private sector, as we found out how great that was this week when's Jeff Bezos' funded rocket blew up!)

As for the whining about the projected $62 billion, that is around the amount we have wasted in Afghanistan with "nation building" with no decent results (From recently reported CBS News stats, 1 in 3 Afghan soldiers continue to defect).

Sadly, the WH and its minions seem to be incompetent or unable to marshall a convincing argument, despite the fact this program would deliver tens of thousands of badly needed jobs. Instead, they cower and "fear the political risk in asking for more money". Well here are some ideas for them to offset the money that would be needed:

1) Get out of Afghanistan and Iraq now!

2) Stop all the Bush tax cuts from December! No more, not even for the middle class. Have the gumption, honesty and political rectitude to cease playing politics and explain to the American people why they can't have both tax cuts and future benefits that are undiminished. Use your brains for once.

3) Cut the Pentagon budget by at least $350b a year, or at least until their denizens manage to locate the $1.1 trillion they "misplaced" in 1999 (according to defense analyst Chuck Spinney)

Let's bear in mind here that the reason the Shuttle program faltered and collapsed in the 1980s was due to cost cutting and excessive bean counter interference. NASA, confronted with this mindset, tried to save money wherever they thought they could but they went too far...especially with the Shuttle O-rings. We simply can't go that route again, and the powers that be need to get that into their heads.

Are we, then, still a nation of profound ideas and mammoth projects, like: the Hoover Dam, the Apollo Moon Project and the Federal Interstate Highway system? Or have we devolved to a species of timid mental pygmies who've ceased to have any large ambitions nor any stomach to see a vast project through? Are we so inhibited by deficits that we dare not think or dream big anymore, lest some jackass assert 'you can't afford it' (when we can if we just allocated our resources properly!)

Let's put it this way: No one can claim this country is not in decline, or still "triple A" if they refuse to fight for the most ambitous projects which extol, focus and aggregate the best parts of the American can-do spirit, hope for the future and character. Something, in other words, beyond the narrow confines of financial speculation and bean counting! And let me add one more phrase, not original but timely:

"Where there is no vision, the people perish!"

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