Space is the Place?

A rat done bit my sister Nell, 

With Whitey on the moon,

Her face and arms began to swell, 

And Whitey’s on the moon .  .  .

   Gil  Scott-Heron


That poem was written in the late 1960s but what it implies is just as true today as it was then — the federal budget is more focused on defense, in this case, space exploration, than enhancing the quality of life for the nation’s people.

This isn’t to say that research on outer space and space exploration aren’t important, but too many millions of dollars are devoted to it, to the detriment of other things the U.S. and its people need.

Since he has been in office, the unpresident has been pushing for the creation of a Space Force which would be the armed forces’ sixth branch.  As he envisions it, it would protect U.S. space craft and satellites from attacks, and control U.S. military operations in space. He and his supporters insist it’s needed to ward off any possible aggression in space from Russia or China. It would be created and staffed by the Air Force, and would transfer Air Force personnel to the new entity.

The un-vice president suggested that it could cost $8 billion to create the force, but the Pentagon hasn’t worked out the cost.

While the defense secretary and many Republicans in Congress support it, there are space experts who believe it’s a waste of time and money.

“This is a dumb idea,” tweeted Mark Kelly, a retired NASA astronaut, in June. “The Air Force does this already. That is their job. What’s next, we move submarines into the 7th branch and call it the ‘under-the-sea force’?”

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla) also tweeted in June that the armed forces generals don’t want a space force. “Thankfully (the unpresident) can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake.”

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted on August 20 that he is a space force supporter. “But what we really need is a Truth Force — one that defends against all enemies of accurate information, both foreign and domestic,” he wrote.

Most federal spending pie charts show that defense spending takes up more than half of the pie. Other spending categories are underfunded. Some examples of budget matters that require immediate attention more than creating a space force are:

  • Restoring Puerto Rico. Nearly everyone on the island has electricity again, but it took months after Hurricane Maria whipped through Puerto Rico, destroying roads, housing, schools, power lines businesses. Last November, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello said during a news conference that the island’s restoration could cost $94 billion or more. The unpresident offered to pay 90 percent of that cost, and leave the rest for Puerto Rico, which is bankrupt, to pay.
  •  Clean up Flint, Michigan’s drinking water. Flint is a predominantly Black city. Many children there have already suffered lasting damage to their physical and mental health  from drinking tap water contaminated with lead.   The city is still replacing the corroded water pipes with new ones which will not leech lead into the water, but the process is slow  and expensive. It could cost between $30 million and $1 trillion to complete pipe replacements, according to Science News magazine.
  • Prison reform. The U.S. has the highest prison population in the world, and most of the prisoners were convicted for drug-related crimes under mandatory minimum sentencing.  Black prisoners’ sentences are longer than white prisoners for the same crime. This year the House and Senate passed a bill to address some of the prison reform issues. The First Step Act would cost $250 million over five years. It would fund educational and vocational training programs for prisoners,  providing them the skills they would need to secure employment after being released to their communities. Both Houses of Congress passed the bill this summer, but the tunpresident postponed signing it until after the midterm elections.
  • U.S. infrastructure repairs. Fixing the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, airports, and water mains. The unpresident proposed $1.5 trillion for these repairs, but more funding than that is needed.

I could name additional programs which the House and Senate could fund instead of a space force, but it would take all night to write and for you to read. With these and other pressing issues on his plate, the unpresident should not be funding his fantasy  of becoming a guardian of the galaxy.





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