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My grudging support for Newt Gingrich

January 27, 2012

Let me start by saying I’m not happy with either of the frontrunners in the Republican primaries. I think they have been spending too much time playing gotcha with each other when they should be focusing on the issues. One of the best reasons for having all these debates is that more of the public is exposed to ideas about government other than what the current Administration want us to hear. That’s why even having Ron Paul in the debates is good. (I’m not sure I believe I said that.)

But I’ve not watched even one of the debates. I knew from the outset that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich had the wrong idea about this, or their handlers did. Instead of trying to show us the differences in philosophy between them, they have focused too much on tearing each other down. All this does is breed mistrust in the public about the character of both men – and provide the Obama team with a great collection of sound bites for the summer and fall. (And he has the hundreds of millions of dollars to get them out there.)

That said, I have to say that Newt seems to have a vision for the future of America that Mitt doesn’t show. The other day Newt did a speech in Cocoa Beach, Florida. It could be said that he was pandering to a group that is facing high unemployment – the space launch infrastructure industry. Sure, many of those jobs are going away, or have already. (Although NASA cut a deal with the United Launch Alliance that saved some.) But I think he took the opportunity to use the location to talk about something that he really does believe in – space exploration. The boldness of saying that we should have a lunar colony by the end of his second term – nine years from now – is not “typical Newt craziness.” The only reason the development of new hardware for space flight is taking so long right now is because the amount of money available to hire the people needed to do the work is so limited. An Apollo-style push may not be in the cards, but it’s not needed; just a larger, and consistent amount of money. (During the Apollo push, about 4% of the Federal budget was devoted to space exploration; today it’s about 0.6%!)

Am I being a hypocrite by saying the government should spend more money on space, while advocating as I do for reduced government and lower taxes? The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not just how much money we spend but where we spend it.

Let’s look at the Department of Education for a minute. Yes, I believe we don’t need it at all, and that education should be a responsibility of the several states. It’s not constitutional and it has proven to be of nearly no help in providing a better education for the students of the US. The budget for the US Department of Education for FY2012 is somewhere around $ 68 billion…NASA gets about $ 18 billion on a good day. Let’s just cut the DepEd to 50% – give ’em $ 35 billion, rounded up. Then give another $ 6 billion to NASA specifically for manned space flight and lunar colonization. That would increase the budget of NASA’s  space exploration division to  250% of what it is today. (It’s about $ 4 billion today; another $ 4 billion goes to maintenance of the ISS.)

It might even inspire students to learn subjects that are used in technical fields like engineering and physics, just like it did in the 1960s. It might provide more positive benefits to education than the Department of Education does…but don’t you just hate intangibles like “inspiration”?

I’ve not heard another Presidential candidate, including the Present Occupant of the White House, say anything positive or inspiring about space exploration.

Yep, it’s my pet issue. Everybody has one, right? Well, it’s mine, and I’ll vote for the candidate I believe will do the best for my pet issue. I just wish it was more people’s pet issue.

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