observations from a slightly mad german-american

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Neo-Con Agenda (or Bush on Mars)

A few weeks ago, Tim asked what I thought of Bush's announcements about the future of NASA, in particular his stated desire to send humans to Mars.

My reply? "It is Bush's second step in the neocon plans to kill the agency and other areas of government. The first step was his tax cuts."

Huh? By announcing a planned spending increase on the agency, he's gonna kill it?

Here's the deal: We have a sluggish economy that, because there are fewer dollars floating around to tax, resulted in lower revenues for the US Government. In addition, the 2001/2002 "Bush tax cuts" reduced 5 (or was it 10?) year inflows by an additional $1 trillion dollars.

We also are looking at Medicare's expensive new prescription-benefits program (the cost of which, it was announced recently, will be 33% higher than estimated before getting Congress' approval). We also have double-digit annual increases in military spending.

The result: Record-level budget deficit of HALF-A-TRILLION dollars. And it appears that the deficit is going to grow.

As for NASA, it will require a LOT of money to pull off the Mars stunt. It will have to re-prioritize. Some of this has already occured: Bush announced that the USA will out of the International Space Station project, and that shuttle program will soon come to an end. A number of planned exploration projects also have to go. It might also be worth noting that the announced budget increases are planned for some time in the future.

In the meantime, the US' debt situation will have to be faced. At that point, the conservatives will pull out their chopping list. NASA will be a target. "Can we really afford to be spending money on trying to send people to Mars? Of what possible value is that?" It's a reasonable question, and the project will probably be hard to defend.

So, the project goes. The promised budget increases never materialize. In the meantime, we've already axed the other aforementioned agency efforts. Result: NASA is a shell of its former self. (And there are many conservatives who would argue that is a good thing.)

It won't stop with NASA. Educational programs, medical assistance, veterans benefits, infrastructure support, and many other programs will be on the hit list.

Does this sound kooky? It's not. It's called "Starve the Beast".

Check out this opinion piece on the Guardian.

More on "Starve the Beast" tomorrow....


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