Andrew Sullivan is mad at the Administration, and it has nothing to do with gay marriage or the New York Times:

I’m talking about this $170 billion foray into space. After all, the next generation will be paying for a collapsed social security system, a bankrupted Medicare program, soaring interest on the public debt, as well as coughing up far higher taxes to keep some semblance of a government in operation. But, hey, the president needed another major distraction the week before the Iowa caucuses, and since he won’t be around to pick up the bill, why the hell not? Deficits don’t matter, after all. And what’s a few hundred billion dollars over the next few decades anyway? Chickenfeed for the big and bigger government now championed by the Republicans. This space initiative is, for me, the last fiscal straw. There comes a point at which the excuses for fiscal recklessness run out. The president campaigned in favor of the responsibility ethic. He has governed – in terms of guarding the nation’s finances – according to the motto: “If it feels good, do it.” I give up. Can’t they even pretend to give a damn?

I’m not particularly excited about this initiative and have not been persuaded that it’s a worthy priority right now. But the idea that this is some sort of diversionary tactic to take attention away from the Iowa caucus is rather silly. Indeed, one would think it would be in Bush’s best interest to get as much media coverage of his potential challengers denouncing one another as possible.

And big public works projects like this are a legitimate function of the federal government. Glenn Reynolds’ “space cowboys” idea notwithstanding, it’s unlikely that these sort of advances will happen through private action.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I guess Bush has been planning to divert attention from the Iowa caucus since early December of last year, huh? That’s gotta be the longest distraction in history 🙂

  2. pietro says:

    This $170 billion sounds like a lot – but remember, it’s going to be spread out over as many as 30-40 years, and it’s going to use all of what NASA already gets from the government right now. Don’t you think that actually accomplishing something beyond our own planetary orbit is worth scrapping the outdated, redundant shuttle program and starting anew? This is going to be quite a bargain.

  3. SwampWoman says:

    I’ve always been enthusiastic about the space program.

  4. Dave says:

    Almost anything is worth it if it means a commitment to replacing the Shuttle fleet.

  5. Paul says:

    I’m one of the biggest NASA supporters out there but… (there’s always a but)

    Either do something with NASA or shut the whole thing down. We are pissing money away on the shuttle and the space station and getting no science or innovation. The benefits of NASA are incomparable so shutting it down is a bad idea. As noted, the dollars are not that much more than the existing NASA budget.

    So, let’s freaking do something impressive.

  6. Kevin Drum says:

    James, you’re picking on one offhand comment and not addressing Sully’s substance. No, this probably wasn’t meant to detract from the Iowa caucuses, but it was a very calculated and political attempt to look “visionary.”

    And Sully is wrong on the costs: this is almost certainly a trillion dollar program if we go all the way with it.

    So what’s your position? Are you in favor or not? If you are, how do you propose we pay for it? Higher taxes? Or do you, like Dick Cheney, just think that deficits don’t matter?

  7. James Joyner says:


    Fair enough on the first point.

    I’m still open to persuasion on this one but leaning strongly against right now. I basically agree with Sully here but disagree with the motivation angle.

  8. Cybrludite says:

    You want motivation for this? I forget the exact year, but it was while I was in college. (1988-93) A Near Earth Asteroid about the size of Manhattan passed within about 100,000 miles of Earth, or about half-way between here & Luna. It wasn’t detected until two weeks after it had passed. This thing was big enough to be a dinosaur-killer, and we had no idea it came so close to hitting us until a fortnight after it passed. THAT is why we need to colonize Luna & Mars. And even beyond the confines of our home system, even if we have to use generation ships that melt down Kupier Belt Objects for fuel. The dinosaurs are extinct because they had no space program.

  9. Arvin says:


    The burden of proving your 1 Billion dollar price tag is on you now.. Just as the burden of proof is now on Sully to show that this new space vision is a petty distraction from Iowa..

    I do hope you haven’t descended into the same cynical hole that Sullivan has slipped into the last few months..

    Not one dime has been spent.. And you have already pronounced this to be a billion dollar boondoggle.. If so, then over how many years? If so, what are the possible tech-discovery-returns on investment such ambitious space initiatives might bring?

    Sad to say it, but there’s a bitchy little cat blog now in the place of where Andrew Sullivan’s blog used to be..