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Government Space NASA The Almighty Buck Science

President Obama Calls For New 'Space Race' Funding 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-we-put-a-man-on-the-moon-we-can-put-a-man-on-the-moon dept.
New submitter dmfinn writes "While his union address covered a wide range of topics, President Obama made sure not to skip over the U.S.'s space program. The talking point was nearly identical to the one he gave in 2009, in which he called for space R&D spending to be increased past the levels seen during the the original cold war space race. Now, 4 years after that speech, it appears things have gone the opposite way. Since 2009 NASA has seen some serious cuts. Not only has the space-shuttle program been deactivated, but the agency was forced to endure harsh funding cuts during the presidents latter term. Despite an ominous history, it now seems that Obama is back on the space objective, pushing congress to increase non-defensive R&D spending to 3% of the U.S. GDP. It's important to keep in mind that not all of this money goes directly to space related programs, though under the proposed budget the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology Laboratories will have their budgets doubled. There will also be an increase in tax credits towards companies and organizations working on these R&D projects. Should the U.S. go back to its 'Let's put a man on the moon' ideology, or is the federal government fighting an uphill battle against newly emerging private space expeditions? Either way, the question remains whether or not Obama will act on any of the propositions."
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President Obama Calls For New 'Space Race' Funding

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  • The United States is headed for another trillion dollar deficit [thehill.com]. (Even the rosy CBO numbers project an $800 billion deficit.) And beyond that the debt bomb of unfunded entitlements and pension liabilities only threatens to make things worse.

    "If you add up the total debt — state, local, the works — every man, woman, and child in this country owes 200 grand (which is rather more than the average Greek does). Every American family owes about three-quarters of a million bucks." [nationalreview.com]

    Where is the brokest nation in the history of the world going to borrow the money for more space flight? When hyperinflation kicks in, we won't be able to afford it or much of anything else.

  • Not gonna happen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:22PM (#42915967) Homepage

    I'd like to see Moon Base Gingrich as much as the next geek, but it's simply not going to happen with this Congress and this President. The reason is that the Republicans in Congress have decided as pretty much a matter of policy that they will vote against anything the President proposes.

  • Mr. President (Score:1, Insightful)

    by iamwhoiamtoday (1177507) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:26PM (#42916023)

    With all due respect, where will we get the money for this? Money is being bled so much from the DOD that we can barely maintain standards. If the men and women who serve are being asked to "do more with less", then how can you insist on spending so much money left and right? Can we at least attempt to pay off the debts our country has racked up over the years? If you want to spend money on such projects, then by all means, do it after we don't owe other countries insane amounts of money. Cut back on Government spending, Balance the budget, bring the Troops home.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:30PM (#42916075)

    The only sensible way to approach this, other than decrying obscene levels of politicial incompetence, is to imagine that obaminator wants to invest in space R&D to re-prime the science and consumer tech boom windfalls of the previous space race, that gave rise to the information era.

    However, those windfalls were the result of brand new technologies, and old technologies being miniaturized to fit in the limited space and energy budgets of spacecraft. Those problems have now been satisfactorily solved, and additional funding will only fund refinements of existing technologies. No big windfall can come from a tree that has already been shaken.

    As such, space investment must be a gambit that some valuable commodity that cannot be obtained on earth will be discovered, and a market opened up by space funding. We have sent many dozens of unmanned probes armed with a wide array of sensory aparatus. We have not found anything that would suggest such a gambit is reasonable.

    As such, the president's suggestion that space funding should be expanded, while the nation teeters on the brink of bankruptcy and loss of confidence with foriegn investors, is woefully irresponsible.

    Mr Obama, "Austerity', do you speak it?

  • Re:Mr. President (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lendrick (314723) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:31PM (#42916095) Homepage Journal

    And raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:43PM (#42916259)

    He wasn't trying to spend his way out of debt. He was trying to spend his way out of recession- something that does work if you borrow (or use savings) the money you do it on and the cause of the recession was lack of consumer confidence/demand or lack of capital (which this was in part). The trick is that you have to make up for it in good times by repaying the debt, something we've been bad at. Also, it helps if the extra money being spent is on things with long term results like infrastructure and R&D. Spending it on things like wars will give a short term bump but no long term advantages.

    THe fact is right now our debt not only doesn't matter, any business leader in the world would be telling us to take on more of it. We're borrowing at about 1% interest. That means if we have anything to invest in that would pay better than 1% return, we ought to borrow to pay for it. Since the rate of inflation is higher than that, anything with any real long term value is a good buy, as the principal will be less when due than it is now. Debt really isn't a short term problem for us.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:49PM (#42916345)

    Austerity is working great for Europe. They are growing at a slower rate than the US which used a half-assed attempt to spur growth, but don't worry, those austerity plans will pay off any day now.

    You do government austerity when the economy is good not when it's bad. Keynes was right. The problem is, we don't actually follow Keynes. We spend in bad and spend in good when he said we should spend in bad and save in good. You want us to cut in bad times which would surely help demand! If no one has money they'll spend a crap load! Except the rich. If they don't get huge tax cuts, huge government subsidies, and hugely beneficial corporate laws shielding personal assets they won't spend. But poor people. Watch out! Take all their money and they'll spend like gangbusters.

    Your logic and republican logic (the same thing) sucks. Your extreme shortsightedness will doom us all. But that's what you and your republican buddies want right? Ruin America then blame it on the black guy.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:52PM (#42916383)

    If you add up the total debt — state, local, the works — every man, woman, and child in this country owes 200 grand (which is rather more than the average Greek does).

    This is both false, and, even if you reform it to deal with the outright false part, misleading. Its false because governments aren't conventional partnerships, so the government debt isn't individual debt of the current residents. Just as you can't add up the liabilities of a corporation and attribute them as personal liabilities of the stockholders, you can't do the same thing if you swap "government" for "corporation" and "resident" for "stockholder". That aside, measuring per capita external debt is pretty meaningless. Sure, the external debt per capita is higher in the US than in Greece. So is the rate of wealth production available to pay off the debt (e.g., the GDP). Greece's external debt per GDP, the more important measure, is much higher than that in the US.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:57PM (#42916431)

    That's because the President keeps spending money. You can't spend your way out of debt, it's ludicrous

    If it was ludicrous to spend more money in the short term to expand the long-term ability to earn revenue for all purposes, including paying down debt, businesses would never issue bonds (and if they tried to issue them, no one would ever buy them; and even if the businesses issued them and gullible fools bought them, both the issuing businesses and the foolish investors would collapse.)

    In the real world, businesses use deficit spending to grow their ability to earn revenue all the time.

  • Re:Mr. President (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lendrick (314723) on Friday February 15, 2013 @05:05PM (#42916521) Homepage Journal

    That sounded suspect, so I thought I'd take a quick look at some real numbers, which probably aren't of interest to you, but should be seen by other people so they don't take your statement at face value.

    • The combined income of everyone in America is roughly 13 trillion dollars (http://bber.unm.edu/econ/us-tpi.htm)
    • This year's projected deficit is about $850 billion (http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/12/3230392/growth-in-us-budget-deficit-slows.html)
    • The top 10% of earners account for about 22% of the total income (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/10/30/nyregion/where-the-one-percent-fit-in-the-hierarchy-of-income.html), or just under 3 trillion dollars per year.

    A 100% tax on their income would close the deficit twice over, even if no spending cuts were made, and that's assuming that they're already paying the maximum marginal tax rate of 39 percent (hint: many extremely wealthy people are making money from capital gains, and are taxed at 15% on that income).

    Your statement is demonstrably false.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Friday February 15, 2013 @05:09PM (#42916567) Journal

    but then it changed.

    How about we stop the stupid war in the middle east, spend that money on some good old space programs? How about we stop bullying other nations and instead work with them with a common goal, like space travel/colonies?

  • by SydShamino (547793) on Friday February 15, 2013 @05:13PM (#42916623)

    You really need to differentiate between government spending and government investment. The government should be able to keep investing in areas that will enable the new and continued markets of the future, creating the basis for continued employment. The government needs to provide some level of spending helping people who are stumbling get back on their feet, too, but right now we do way too little of the first compared to the second. The solution isn't to slash the first further.

  • by wiggles (30088) on Friday February 15, 2013 @05:18PM (#42916699)

    The National Debt goes up for two main reasons: Social Security and the Trade Deficit.

    The Social Security "trust fund" is a bunch of T-bills, and represents the second largest chunk of the National Debt - $2.72 Trillion. Whenever they take in more social security payroll taxes than they pay out in benefits, they put the surplus into T-bills. Those T-bills are then counted as part of the National Debt.

    In other words,

    1. We owe this chunk of the National Debt to ourselves - to old people and sick people

    2. The Social Security Payroll Tax is not really used for Social Security - it just goes right back into the general fund, and even worse, the general fund has to pay interest to Social Security, which means we're even more screwed than you thought.

    The other reason the national debt keeps going up is due to the trade deficit.

    We buy Chinese goods in Dollars. We pay them in Dollars. They can't use dollars in their domestic economy for anything - worthless paper to them. They'd have to plow the dollars into American goods to make use of them, but they don't do that. They don't buy enough of our stuff, so instead of stuffing that cash in a vault somewhere, they buy a bunch of T-bills so they can collect interest. That accounts for the largest chunk of the national debt, over 5 Trillion.

    Important to note that, no matter what happens with spending, the national debt will continue to grow because of these two things. Blaming the national debt on spending alone is not accurate.

    More reading and sources for my numbers are here. [about.com]

  • by SydShamino (547793) on Friday February 15, 2013 @05:19PM (#42916719)

    You can't spend your way out of debt, it's ludicrous

    Isn't this what every start-up company that accepts venture capital is trying to do?

    This article isn't talking about spending on food stamps or fallacious broken windows. It's talking about spending on fundamental research - the kind chase-the-quarter capitalism doesn't do very well - so as to yield a return in new industries to create employment years and decades from now. This isn't that much different than what start-ups are trying to do, except the government can think on a much longer scale - something that I'm glad a government can take time to do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @05:20PM (#42916725)

    There's a little problem with that: Social Security exists for a reason. It was started in the Great Depression to get old people to retire so younger people could get jobs to reduce unemployment. The alternative is letting our impoverished elderly (i.e. those who never had the ability to save for retirement) die of starvation or exposure; I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a country that does that. (Your plan of lump sum payouts might save those who receive them, but in the long term, poverty and low wages aren't going away.)

    The regressiveness of the social security tax is not good, and maybe there is some way to reform social security that wouldn't be a disaster, but eliminating social security entirely would not be good.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Friday February 15, 2013 @05:20PM (#42916739)

    So as an insult you call me a nobel prize winner? I wish everyone disagreed with me like that.

    The fact is we have plenty of takers for our debt at ridiculously low rates. That means it isn't a short term problem. It may become one in the future, but for now we're perfectly fine.

  • Won't Ever Happen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by organgtool (966989) on Friday February 15, 2013 @05:22PM (#42916761)
    I've been saying this for a while. The last space race we had allowed 440,000 engineers to make advances in almost every sector of industry. From materials that could withstand the cold of space and the heat of re-entry to the computer and hardware that controlled the spacecraft, that decade was one of the most productive periods of technical advancement in human history. And we don't stand a chance of doing it again, not because there's a shortage of big technological problems, but because of the fact that there is a large segment of the population that believes that the government should not be involved in such technological advancements - the private sector should do it alone. And here we stand, at the sunset of the American empire, and many Americans are too ideological to see the value in having the government work in cooperation with the private sector to make another technological push that will propel us further out into the lead. We've already reduced government's role in technology quite a bit and yet we seem to be losing ground to the Chinese who are using a combination of the public and private sector to push forward. I know many people are rightly concerned about our national debt, but you have to spend money to make money. We just have to be a LOT better at taking the money we make and actually paying off our debt for once.
  • by tiqui (1024021) on Friday February 15, 2013 @05:50PM (#42917111)

    Obama was the one who created the "sequestration" plan (Liberal-favorite and Watergate hero journalists Bob Woodward reported this) and Obama signed it into law. Now he is demanding the GOP violate their principles as the price for avoiding sequestration... so the only way Obama will NOT chop NASA's funds is if the GOP caves-in on their principles and this might not happen; too many house Republicans have already outraged their base supporters by raising the limits on Obama's credit card over and over again (allowing him to drive-up nearly $7,000,000,000.000.00 in new debts). Obama is also the guy who tried to kill NASA's manned spaceflight capabilities; first he killed the bi-partisan Constellation program, then he shut-down shuttle operations (and ripped-up the infrastructure and tore the guts out of the orbiters (they all now have fake engines, gutted OMS pods and gutted FRCS modules) so they could never fly again). Sure, he has funded commercial cargo to ISS (this is the Bush "COTS" program, not an Obama program). Sure, he claims to be pushing "commercial" manned spaceflight (by tossing a little cash at 3 different companies), but [a] none of these companies has any firm commitment from the government (possibly why none has firm scheduled for manned flights) [b] they're not being given enough for a real program and [c] These programs are being run so slowly that none will carry anybody into orbit while Obama is in office. Congress (bi-partisan effort) forced Obama to plan to build the new SLS rocket and to keep working on the Orion capsule, but he has had his people slow-walk these programs in the apparent hope that dragging them out will frustrate congress and cause congress to cancel them (to such an extreme that the senate had to threaten legal action to get him to stop foot-dragging); there are no planned manned American space flights currently in any official NASA plan other than 1 possible flight around the moon (no landing) many yeas from now, possibly. maybe.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @06:41PM (#42917615)

    Warning. the above post is misleading.

    Military Budget [wikipedia.org]

    He listed it in a way to make you think DOD spending was $1.3 Trillion, it was $700 Billion, only half of what he claimed. The above link shows the "other programs" that have to be included to reach his $1.3 Trillion and I'll leave it up to you to decided if they should be included.

    If people can't be honest, there can be no movement forward in figuring out how to fix things.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @06:44PM (#42917637)

    I don't get why anyone is modding these down. The options really are "more debt on top of existing debt and higher taxes" or "lots more debt on top of existing debt".

    Nobody is going to stop feeding the beast in any other way to make room in the budget for NASA.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday February 15, 2013 @07:53PM (#42918369)

    Except, a corporations sole source of wealth is not its stockholders.

    A governments sole source of revenue isn't its residents either (for most governments, the primary source of revenue is taxpayers, but that's rarely the only source, and the entities that pay tax and the individuals that reside in the country aren't the same sets, though they overlap), but even that's not the point. The point is explicitly stated: a government isn't a pass-through entity whose debts are attributable to any other group (whether "citizens", "residents", "taxpayers", or "revenue contributors", none of which are equivalent groups.) A government's debts are the government's debts, full stop.

    The ONLY way the federal government can get money is from its citizens.

    Wrong. The federal government, even now, collects revenue (tax revenue, even) from non-citizens every day.

    They are the ones that will have to pay that debt off, where-as shareholders in a corporation have nothing to do with it's dept or profits.

    Well, since they have a legal claim on the assets of the corporation in the event of dissolution, and collectively have the power to force dissolution to collect those assets if they don't like what management is doing and don't feel like replacing the management, they certainly have something to do with its profits (though, in practice, if they don't like what management is doing they'll replace the management.) Since they are generally immune to claims for its debts outside of exceptional circumstances, you are mostly right when it comes to debts.

    A corporation can use borrowed money to generate more money.

    So can a government.

    When the government borrows money, its to cover expenses that they couldn't pay for with tax revenues. There's no way to turn that borrowed money into more money.

    Wrong. The government can get money in ways exactly equivalent to some of the ways a corporation can (e.g., by spending money to directly to improve the returns of its own revenue-generating activities, or by purchasing assets and reselling them later for a profit), and in other ways that analogous to ways that a corporation can though strictly different (e.g., any spending that improves the overall economy increases the pool from which the government raises taxes, and can increase revenue in the long-run; this is loosely analogous to corporate ability to invest in various activities that either make it more attractive to consumers or which grow the market for its industry in general, though generally only loosely analogous.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @11:29PM (#42919527)
    Fuck you whitey! I gots my Obama phone!
  • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@ n e tzero.net> on Saturday February 16, 2013 @01:22AM (#42919943) Homepage Journal

    Social Security could get to something like actual bank accounts where you save money over your employment lifetime.

    The problem with Social Security is that it has been spent as quickly as it came in, and the whole notion of a trust fund is a complete lie. In fact, the trust fund ceased to be an actual reserve when Thomas "Tip" O'Neil was Speaker of the House (during Ronald Reagan's administration) due to some budget changes on how the trust fund was actually administered or misappropriated as it were. Changing it back would expose just how horribly broke the whole system has become.

    It should also be pointed out that it was over the past couple of years that more money has been leaving the supposed trust fund than has been collected through payroll taxes. It is already unsustainable and will be more directly impacting the budget in a negative manner soon enough. That is presuming Congress will actually pass a federal budget any time in the next four to sixteen years.

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