WHITTINGTON: If America Elects A Democrat in 2020, Forget About Returning To The Moon


Mark Whittington Contributor
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Space as a political issue is usually second tier in American politics. However, that fact doesn’t mean that it is unimportant or that it doesn’t come up during presidential campaigns. With the 2020 presidential season starting in full swing just 11 months before the actual year begins, the time is ripe to start thinking about how the U.S. space program’s course will be affected by the election’s outcome.

However one feels about President Trump, even a die-hard never-Trumper has to concede that he has been pretty good for America’s space efforts. He has refocused NASA on a return to the moon. He has embarked on a policy of encouraging commercial space development, both by involving private companies in the moon effort and by regulation reform. Trump has even proposed a United States Space Force to help keep the peace on the high frontier.

What about the countless Democrats who are in the race or are contemplating getting in? Most have not been very forthcoming about what they wish to do with NASA or what their commercial space policy would be. However, we have a hint of things to come courtesy of Bernie Sanders, who is thinking of another run.

Back in 2016, when Sanders was embarking on his first presidential run, he posted his views about NASA funding on his campaign website.

“Bernie believes space exploration is beneficial and exciting, and is generally supportive of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but when it comes to a limited federal budget, Bernie’s vote is to take care of the needs of struggling Americans on this planet first.”

The reason that Sanders’ views on space, which he has not changed in the past three years, are significant is that virtually every Democrat, with the possible exception of Joe Biden, intends to run as a Bernie-clone.

For example, Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, has a great many proposals she would like to pursue were she to be elected president. She is in favor of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Neither proposal is desirable or could actually be achieved in the physical universe which we occupy and would be terrible if they were possible. The point is that even an attempt to create a Canada-style socialized healthcare system and end the use of fossil fuels will cost a lot of money, money that will not be spent going back to the moon or much else.

Ironically, as has been noted, the Green New Deal will be especially impossible to execute without accessing rare earth minerals on the moon. One doubts that Sen. Harris has even thought about this. Neither have any of the other candidates, actual or potential, ranging from Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke to Elizabeth Warren.

If NASA is to be knee-capped and, perhaps, turned into a climate-change-study agency, won’t the private sector take up the slack? SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos are doing remarkable things, after all.

The problem is, a growing desire to get rid of billionaires like Musk and Bezos is rising in leftist circles. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat from Massachusetts, has proposed a so-called wealth tax to seize the assets of rich people, the better to pay for schemes like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Reason notes that in an interview, the Democratic Party’s new intellectual leader, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, agreed that allowing billionaires to exist is fundamentally immoral.

The idea is not about “paying your fair share” but owning your fair share. No more billionaires means no more private space efforts such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. Indeed, a lot of businesses will not get created if a future Democratic president cuts off the amount of assets one can own at just below $1 billion.

So, if a Democrat is elected president in 2020, America will retreat once again from the moon, ceding the future to other countries, particularly China. The end of the third return-to-the-moon effort in 30 years would be a public policy disaster on an epic scale. Such a decision would be the end of the United States as a significant country.

Mark Whittington (@MarkWhittington) is the author of Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? and The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He also operates his own blog, Curmudgeons Corner. 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.