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Space The Almighty Buck

Can Manned Spaceflight Save the Economy? 224

Posted by Cliff
from the space-race-of-the-21st-century dept.
Barry asks: "Driving home last night I was listening to a particularly goofy AM talk station. Just before the syndicated UFO talk show 'Strange Days... Indeed' came on, the discussion turned to the Mars Rovers and George Bush's newfound love of space exploration. The interesting thought was that a large number of American political leaders were about to join Bush in endorsing a new manned space program because it would generate 'millions of jobs'. Given that manufacturing jobs are being shipped offshore, and high tech jobs are following, this almost made sense. A primarily unemployed population could mean big trouble. So I am wondering how many people were employed during the height of NASA's glory days, and what kind of economic impact would we expect if a similar program - a Mars mission for example - were launched today?"
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Can Manned Spaceflight Save the Economy?

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  • ummm flawed logic? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BFedRec (257522) on Monday January 12, 2004 @11:46PM (#7959481) Homepage
    Is it just me or is that the most crazy financial logic heard in a long time. You're going to have a government agency employing people so they have jobs? Their money coming from tax dollars... which would be coming from the population at large. You're not going to save an economy by employing MORE people from the tax dollars. It just won't work. Basically you're just recycling money, quickly the funding would dry up. Build up the deficit even quicker than it is now.

    CharlesP

    CharlesP
    • Actually, your definition of "saving the economy" is probably very different from GW's and the economists who love him. Nevertheless, since space exploration is where the money is going to be, might as well transition into that career change :)
      • OP: Your answer (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Glonoinha (587375)
        Manned space flight (ie, the government spending MAD DOLLARS) is not going to save the economy if the government doesn't do something about outsourcing the jobs. Not just the fancy new space jobs, ALL JOBS.

        http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK2003031 6 S0 003
        In New Mexico, the unemployment insurance department recently paid (some offshore (India) outsourcing company) $6 million for an online unemployment-claims system. How ironic is that, spending taxpayer money on a system to handle the growing number
    • by Your_Mom (94238) <slashdot@@@innismir...net> on Monday January 12, 2004 @11:57PM (#7959556) Homepage
      Oooh! Oooh! I get to use my macroeconomics course! My professor would be so proud.

      There is always a finite amount of money in the system, not everyone has it at one time. NASA give out a $1e9 contract. Company A wins it. Company A subcontracts certain aspects of the contract to companies B and C. Now, companies B + C buy frobs and gizmos from company D, E, and F. Now, what happens here? Companies A-F all prosper as they have people needing their goods and services, and the employees of said companies prosper, as they have jobs. Life is good. *waves little flag*

      If you ever have a chance, take a course in macroeconomics, take it, really interesting stuff.
      • by El (94934)
        It's called "the multiplyer effect". As near as I can tell, it implies that in a truely frictionless economy, where money is loaned or spent instantaneously as soon as it is available, there is an INFINITE money supply! Something about the multiplyer effect always smelled like bullshit to me...

        • "Something about the multiplayer effect always smelled like bullshit to me..."

          Any lie to get re-elected.

          Borrowing money from our children may be a good strategy in times of extreme emergency. Borrowing money to explore dirt and rocks in space is not an extreme emergency.
          • "Borrowing money from our children may be a good strategy in times of extreme emergency."

            Humm...

            My children are to young to work, thus they have no money. That being the case then there is no way for me, or anybody else to borrow money from them.
            • My children are to young to work, thus they have no money. That being the case then there is no way for me, or anybody else to borrow money from them.

              Not quite literally true, but truer than you assume..

              To raise money, governments can sell bonds to investors for a given price, which are redeemable for a certain greater price at some given future date. When they come due, the difference has to be paid back - if your generation is retired by then, the next generation will be paying for that through taxe

        • by AllUsernamesAreGone (688381) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @10:08AM (#7962046)
          The one reliable thing I learnt from my economics course: to economists the real world is a special case.
      • by Fat Cow (13247)
        The money that NASA gives out didn't come from the air, it came out of the pockets of the citizens. If NASA hadn't taken the money, they would have spent/invested it in something else. If you're measuring economic benefits, you have to compare the Mars mission to the alternatives.

        I don't think it will be beneficial economically - at root, economic growth comes from using and accessing raw materials in a more efficient way. You actually have to come up with better ways of doing things and making things.
        • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @02:23AM (#7960393)
          I don't think it will be beneficial economically - at root, economic growth comes from using and accessing raw materials in a more efficient way. You actually have to come up with better ways of doing things and making things.

          Actually NASA in the 60's and 70's at the height of their spending was great for the economy...Lots of cool stuff was developed that has found it's way into YOUR house. Everything from ink pens, to velcro, to advanced methods of metallurgy [which you don't see, but companies that make your stuff do] Another real push for a space program would do wonders for US technology...as long as it was prevented from being outsourced!

          • What about microcomputers? I read somewhere that some of the technology for modern microprocessors was developed for the space program (and for missiles). Solar power was also implemented (but not invented) for the space program. Your reference to metallurgy is valid and also ceramics, propulsion systems, high density batteries, scratch-proof lenses, advances in hydroponics, radiation insulation, etc. The list goes on and on.

            Then there's the intangible benefits of a national research and exploratory mi
      • Why not just print more money? A politician here in Australia suggested this so it must be possible.

        Of course, she did jail time not long afterwards so maybe her comments should be taken with a bucket of salt.
      • Oooh! Oooh! I get to use my macroeconomics course! My professor would be so proud.

        No, they wouldn't.

        In any standard macro model, the size of the economy is the sum of all goods and services produced, not the size of the money supply. Production requires labor and capital, both of which may be enhanced by "technology" (which doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to an economist that it does to an engineer). Money is a convenient medium of exchange, and a nice way to measure things, but has value on

    • Going back to the moon certainly won't help all portions of the economy. Think of that all that green cheese [uncoveror.com] Bush wants to bring ack will do to Wisconsin!
    • OF course don't tell Bush that FDR and JFK were DEMOCRATS! and the republicans at the time tore them a new one for such policies. That's how we got such wonders as the Hover Dam...inventing needs to make jobs.

      I wonder if the Egyptians had these problems building the pyramids?

    • That was my immediate thought. But then the money paid to the new employees gets spent on all kinds of goods and services - houses, cars, food, whatever. The money paid to the people selling that stuff gets spent on other stuff, offered by other people who go on to do the same. And so on. And everyone pays taxes, so that money eventually comes back to the goverment, who pay and employ more people. It's a loop. It only fails when people stop spending the money and hang on to it. So how "good" the economy is
      • You seem to have a much better understanding of econ than most people. I am not an expert per se, but I took a hell of a lot of econ for an engineering major (easiest social science for me to fill requirements with).

        An issue which compounds the effect you speak of is that the government spends all of it's tax revenue, where almost all consumers have a marginal propensity to save, meaning that most consumers save roughly the same percentage of their income (not meaning from person to person variations are
    • by fingusernames (695699) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:17PM (#7963839) Homepage
      Has nobody here read about the proposals? This is Slashdot, but I would expect at least a few people to inject some accurate information.

      Bush hasn't proposed raising the NASA budget by 100% or something. He has proposed raising it by about 5%, and REDIRECTING funds internally toward the GOAL of returning to the moon, and later going to Mars. He has proposed replacing the shuttle with an Apollo-like capsule system and an upper stage payload system, like Saturn provided, freeing up the 3.5 BILLION spent per year on the shuttles. That money would be used toward development of NEW technology, rather than maintaining and refitting the 1970 era shuttles.

      So, we are talking about 5% growth in the NASA budget, which already is pretty small in the overal federal budget, and moving existing funds around to more productive uses, uses which would promote research and development of new technology.

      Sounds QUITE reasonable to me, and it actually gives NASA a MISSION again, as opposed to being some low orbit trucking company.

      Larry
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Perhaps Bush has just figured out that the moon is an even better place to house those he doesn't like than Guantanamo -- after all, NONE of Terran laws apply there! Plus, there are endless hours of entertainment watching them try to figure out how to face Mecca when they pray!
    • Plus, there are endless hours of entertainment watching them try to figure out how to face Mecca when they pray!

      Actually that makes it easier. Consider that all of earth is less than 15 degrees wide when seen from the moon, that makes less error than many muslims probably have when facing Mecca today!
      • Yes, but Mecca is constantly moving in 3 dimensions relative to where you are on the moon, as opposed to earth, where it is fixed and you only have to worry about 2 dimensions. So unless you can see the Earth (not likely they'll have a lot of picture windows), you're never quite sure where it is. On earth, all you need is a decent GPS with a compass and you should be accurate to within a few degrees.
        • by jtev (133871)
          not realy, the earth is always on the same vector to the same spot on the moon, so it's very easy for them. if they can see the arabian pennesula, it makes it even easier.
        • The Thuraya satilite phones have GPS built in and have this service avalible.

          http://www.thuraya.com/products/prayertime_marke ti ng.htm
    • One year later after Moonbase X-Ray starts to fill with prisoners:

      Tom Ridge: "You know, we forgot to supply oxygen to that prison camp on the moon."

      Bush: "Oxygen? Why would they want to watch Oprah Winfrey?"
  • Well, sounds like they're getting ready for it, whether it'll fix the economy or not.

    On the other hand, if it fails to do anything, they could just use the newly developed technology to shoot the unemployed into space!
  • rediculous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pizza_milkshake (580452) on Monday January 12, 2004 @11:55PM (#7959544)
    I am not a chronic bush-hater, but this is fucking rediculous. The man's legacy will be stupid quotes and mediocre examples of the 3 easiest popularity boosting projects possible: a tax cut, a war and astronauts. For however many 100s of billion of $ all this will cost in the end, he could have done a whole lot more.
    • Re:rediculous (Score:2, Flamebait)

      The fact is that it'll work It's a good move for Bush. Specially if this mission finds Martians. Specially if these Martians have WMDs. Specially if we declare war against Mars. Specially if we conquer Mars, exploiting its natural resources, therefore boosting Earth's economy, allowing a tax cut.

      This way, Lord Bush will still be ruling by 2050.
    • Re:rediculous (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shadowbearer (554144)
      The Bush PR engine strikes again.

      So far I've just seen rhetoric; not any solid plans, nor any way to prevent this getting eaten by the scum-sucking administrative hordes.

      For some reason, it reminds me of Reagan and the ISS announcement.

      Sigh.

      SB
      • It may not help the overall economy, but I expect Halliburton will get a big boost from it.

        To say nothing of Florida (home of NASA's launch facility and Gov. Jeb Bush) and Texas (home of Mission Control and the rest of the Bush clan).

    • You're a little slanted by Slashdot here. The space program is not something that the average American cares a great deal about. There are probably a hundred projects that rate higher in terms of popularity. So if that's all Bush cares about, it makes no sense for him to latch onto the space program. Especially considering his timetable, even if everything goes exactly as planned, he'll be long gone by the time man sets foot on Mars - all the kudos will go to whatever president is in office at the time,
      • Re:rediculous (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @02:22AM (#7960388) Homepage Journal
        At best he'll get a footnote.

        I disagree. I think Kennedy got the credit he deserved for establishing his challenge to put a man on the Moon in the 1960's. I don't ever recall hearing Nixon being the Moonshot President because he happened to be in office when the event finally occurred.

        There is no doubt that there could be a political motivation for doing this, but the potential for applied science and engineering is incredible... far more than anyone who doesn't follow the Space Program closely would ever realize.

        However, to suggest that Bush is doing this to score points with the electorate is pretty naive. Hell, I would bet a majority of people believe that silly Fox TV show calling into question that the original Moon landings ever happened.

        Remember, a large portion of the population still believes in things like horoscopes, the psychic hotline, and the daVinci code. We are not, as a whole, very good at critical thinking.

        • That's becouse Kennedy could give a speach.

          Listen to Bush, I'm sure that every English teacher is hating him/her self.
  • I don't have any concrete information on this at all, but would comparing NASA funding with defence spending be useful as a first estimate?

    Both seem to have similar requirements as regards research and specialised engineering. Both historically have a reputation for a lot of bureaucractic overhead and paying inflated prices for equipment. Indeed, I believe they use many of the same subcontractors.

    So, making the possibly unjustified assumption that the relation of spending to jobs created is linear, and us
    • I don't have any concrete information on this at all, but would comparing NASA funding with defence spending be useful as a first estimate?

      Well, not quite. Remember that the vast majority of military spending goes to mundane things like salaries, fuel, food, and the like. This doesn't affect the economy any differently than anyone else spending money on those things, and it's actually worse for the economy if it's the government doing the spending, since the tax rate effectively reduces the mean return

  • by toolz (2119) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @12:11AM (#7959648) Homepage Journal
    It should be

    Can Manned Spaceflight Save George Bush?

  • sure, why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ajagci (737734) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @12:14AM (#7959671)
    Large amounts of government spending can do wonders for the economy, if citizens are willing to make the sacrifices (i. e. pay the taxes). And manned space travel, useless as it is, is at least less destructive to foreign relations and industry than wars, Bush's other favorite economic activity.

    However, tax cuts and massive spending don't work. And private industry is unlikely to go into space anytime soon--it's not profitable.
    • Large amounts of government spending can do wonders for the economy

      Yeah, like welfare spending has. Or the massive expenditures on the "War Against Drugs".

      I do agree with you about the Bush admin and war spending, tho.

      SB
    • Instead of spending money on research to find life on mars, Bush should spend money on research that creates environmentally friendly technology (low energy consumption, low amount of waste, reuse of waste). This type of research can also be very high-tech and can provide a boost to the economy in several ways:
      - reduce industry spending on energy and resources
      - gain an advantage in low resource use over other countries.
      - stimulate the economy with gouvernment spending

      Beter to save millions of species on ea
      • But Bush is environmentally friendly! Only by repealing all environmental regulations can we enable corporations to self-police and enhance the environment. You just have to learn to trust people and not the government.

        Or something to that effect.

    • Re:sure, why not? (Score:5, Informative)

      by sql*kitten (1359) * on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @07:14AM (#7961341)
      Large amounts of government spending can do wonders for the economy, if citizens are willing to make the sacrifices (i. e. pay the taxes).

      Only if you can make the assumption that an individual in his or her capacity as a government official is a near-perfect economic decision maker, yet that same individual in the capacity of a private citizen is nearly entirely incompetent to make economic decisions. Otherwise, there's no basis for not leaving the money in the hands of the taxpayers and letting them spend it how they please.

      Governments are nearly always massively inefficient. After all, they have no incentive to improve. A company that is profligate with its resources will quickly go bankrupt, a government merely has to ratchet the taxes up a little higher. Now you say "if the citizens are willing" but that's very elastic: a citizen prepared to pay say 30% of income in taxes for the "greater good" might well feel very differently if the government decided it wanted 60% or 90%*. But the government is fully incentivized to increase taxes, not to spend the money better.

      We see a similar problem in the UK at the moment. There is a lot of fuss over private (fee-paying) versus State (taxpayer-funded) schools - the quality of the former so outstrips the latter that the government is even artificially making university admissions harder for the privately-educated (rather than improving its own schools). But it turns out, if you do the accounting, that State schools actually cost the same or more per student than a private school! The money is just soaked up in government inefficiency. The same is true for the NHS, where the present government has managed to increase the number of medical staff by 15% and the number of managers by 45%.

      The way to economic prosperity is to cut both taxes and governemnt spending, so those that earned the money directly control how its spent. This has worked in every economy that has tried it.

      And private industry is unlikely to go into space anytime soon--it's not profitable.

      I'm sure the same was said of expeditions to explore the world's oceans.

      * This is not unheard of - in 1979 in the UK the top rate of income tax was 83%, with an extra 15% charge if the money was from investments rather than salary. That's a total of 98% tax! No wonder that economy collapsed in the "Winter of Discontent" and a new service-based economy emerged!
      • You are aware that they looked into the relative efficiency of the NHS and private hospitals, aren't you? And found that the government-run healthcare had around a 4% admin overhead, and the private nearer 12%?

        Government isn't perfect but it's perfectly capable of doing things well.

        How about we take a different perspective on tax. The economy runs best when its components are all running as close to maximum utilisation as possible and there's minimal slack. So how do we account for poor people who would c
        • So how do we account for poor people who would consume vastly more and help stimulate the economy in all sorts of ways if only they had a little more cash floating around?

          The level of welfare spending in the UK at the moment is such that you could just give every man, woman and child in the country GBP 3000 (USD 5400 approx) every year, no questions asked. That works out as very nearly the current average household income! There is a vast amount of cash floating around, but it's not being spent on creatin
          • The level of welfare spending in the UK at the moment is such that you could just give every man, woman and child in the country GBP 3000 (USD 5400 approx) every year, no questions asked. That works out as very nearly the current average household income!

            GBP 3,000 is much smaller than the average income in the UK, which was GBP 23,607 [guardian.co.uk] in 2002, somewhat above the GBP 3,000 you quote. (This is an average, but given that the minimum wage [dti.gov.uk] is at least GBP 3.80 per hour (GBP 4.50 for those over 21), and as

            • Re:sure, why not? (Score:3, Informative)

              by sql*kitten (1359) *
              GBP 3,000 is much smaller than the average income in the UK, which was GBP 23,607 in 2002, somewhat above the GBP 3,000 you quote.

              Let's say 2 adults, 2 children that's GBP 12,000. The figure of approx GBP 23,000 you quote is before income tax, national insurance, council tax and all the other various taxes levied by various parts of the government. They can easily eat up half of your income.

              Surely, that depends whether you are unemployed, sick, disabled, mentally ill or living in poor accommodation, do
              • As I say, perhaps we would all be better off if everyone got their GBP 3000 without wasting money on all the bureaucracy in the middle. Remember that's not GBP 3000/household but per person, including children.

                What you suggest is extreme right-wing economics. The government would no almost nothing, and people would use their own money. What would occur is companies providing services (including education, healthcare, etc) instead of the government. Sure you get competition in the services but if you ha

              • Re:sure, why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

                by CompVisGuy (587118)

                Let's say 2 adults, 2 children that's GBP 12,000.

                You are assuming one earner per household. While this might have been true in the 1970s, it certainly isn't true today.

                The figure of approx GBP 23,000 you quote is before income tax, national insurance, council tax and all the other various taxes levied by various parts of the government. They can easily eat up half of your income.

                I agree, but the proportion of income paid in tax by a low income earner is smaller than that paid by a high income earn

      • Re:sure, why not? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by m_evanchik (398143)
        Government inefficiency is a canard. Government is usually fairly efficient. Just like private enterprise, sometimes public enterprise does the job well, sometimes it does it poorly.

        One reason that public enterprise sometimes seems more inefficient is because unlike private enterprise, it cannot choose to service only profitable customers. This is evident in the schol systems, where publicly-run or -subsidized schools must deal with the hardest educational cases, such as children with disabilities. Ano
        • Re:sure, why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sql*kitten (1359) *
          Another problem is that, by requiring payments, private schools necessarily only enroll students whose parents take an active interest in their education.

          Actually, that's not generally true; typically students at private schools are enrolled there as boarders because their rich parents want to be rid of them until they're adults and hopefully have something interesting to say. Maybe that's different outside the UK.

          The rich often pay less a percentage of their incomes than the poor or middle class, when
  • Just more pigs at the trough. Someone has to pay the bill and that will be the rest of us. Better to provide a useful product or service than suck down government money.
  • by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @12:36AM (#7959832) Journal
    This could be a gigantic boon for the economy, in theory. Anybody who's interested in space has read about the resources and the possibilities in space, and if we could tap that such that space exploration could become self-sustaining, there's no practical upper limit to the wealth this could generate.

    If the US intends to maintain its lead, rather then "sink" into a parity position with many countries (by staying relatively stagnant while other countries catch up), this is probably the biggest win that is feasible. (Note that everybody really ought to be rooting for this, even non-Americans, because if the US is rising, so is everybody else in absolute terms; without somebody leading the way I'm fearful we could all end up stagnating together. Yes, some other country could take over but the US could take over more quickly; for a real-life tech example of this, note how quickly IBM because the largest Linux company.) It's worth a try.

    In this sense, its utility as an economy saver will be directly related to how deliberately it is run with this idea in mind, to be bold, to deliberately ask private companies to produce technologies and benefit from them, etc.

    To the extent that this is run like NASA, it may not be a waste but it will not be an "economy saving" gain.

    So, it depends on how its run. As is too often the case, if it is run too "selfishly" (too much focus on the short-term gain), it will be useless. But if it is run well, it could be an amazing boon for the entire human race.

    I know which one I'd bet on if I had too... but I can still hope...
    • you say all of that as if the US was the only country that could lead. Patriotism at it's blissful best!
      • You clearly missed "Yes, some other country could take over but the US could take over more quickly; for a real-life tech example of this, note how quickly IBM because the largest Linux company." As the wealthiest nation on the world... unless you care to dispute that point?... this is more-or-less objectively true and not open to political opinions (unless you are so blinded by politics you've become incapable of seeing objective facts).

        Speed is time is money is life; the faster we get into space the bett
    • This could be a gigantic boon for the economy, in theory. Anybody who's interested in space has read about the resources and the possibilities in space[...]

      That we have read about them does not mean they exist.

      If you know of any, why have you not shown the evidence to the men in suits and got yourself a few billion in venture capital to go get them? These people were willing to fund .coms for KaTe's sake.

      There may be payback from space exploration in a few generations, even Vinland turned out to be us

  • It's a bad idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WolfWithoutAClause (162946) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @12:52AM (#7959938) Homepage
    Keynes studied this kind of 'make work' and generally reckoned it's a distinctly bad idea. Most economists agree.

    That aside, socialistic space programs like NASA (sorry, but that's pretty much what a government funded program like NASA amounts to) are unable to grow, and being a monopoly, NASA has very little incentive to become more cost-effective. The historical record shows that the inflation adjusted NASA budget is roughly fixed (within a factor of 2). That's a political reality-no huge growth is likely; business atleast has the chance to grow; and often has a much bigger incentive to reduce costs, which allows growth also; via lower prices.

    This analysis suggest that the US government should ramp down NASA, and encourage private industry to take up the slack. It's the only thing that makes any sense in the long run; it's the only way to get to Space in any big way.

    • Maybe they should instead encourage NASA to do something ambitious, and throw enough money at it to actually get it done. But, I'm no economist.

      What I am is sure that empire building is not economically feasible in the long run any more. If the choices are go to war, or to go Mars, I think it's pretty clear which most slashdotters will pick. (Unless the fed gov't is declaring war on SCO and/or Microsoft, but that would be over too quick to generate any jobs.)

      It's true that spending money on the military

  • by FFFish (7567) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:13AM (#7960044) Homepage
    Space exploration is not a revenue-generator, and there is little hope for revenue generation in the foreseeable future.

    This means it must be entirely bankrolled by the government.

    Which, in turn, means it must be entirely bankrolled by the public taxpayer.

    Government efficiency being what it is, I hardly imagine my dollar of tax is going to pay a dollar worth of economic improvement. Most of that dollar -- like 99 cents of it -- will go to administration overhead, corporate looting, and general waste.

    Which means, basically, that I'll lose a dollar, some rich corporate bastard at McDonnel Douglas will gain 99 cents, and Joe Frontline Worker might make a penny.

    Thanks, George, but I'd prefer to give my dollar to Joe directly.
  • by gregwbrooks (512319) * <gregb@noSPaM.west-third.com> on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:15AM (#7960053)
    The question isn't whether another Apollo Project-esque endeavor will create jobs -- of course it will.

    The question is: Are those the jobs the best way to go about goosing the economy, and is this the way we want to develop them?

    Unless President Bush plans to privatize the whole effort, we're talking about jobs paid for with federal contracting funds, and those are some of the most inefficient jobs you can release into the economy.

    There's nothing inherently wrong with jobs generated by federal spending -- after all, the government needs to buy stuff just like any company. However (and this is the important part) jobs that grow out of federal spending programs aren't the most efficient way to translate capital into work.. First, the money has to come from somewhere (i.e., taxes). Then, it goes through an inefficient bureaucracy that needs some off the top to perpetuate and grow itself. Then, it goes back into the economy in the form of federal spending, but the spending is often uncompetitive because of pork set-asides or

    Bottom line: If you put a few billion dollars into federal spending in the private sector and compared the economic impact with simply leaving the capital in individual and business hands to figure out what their highest and best uses were, you'd see more efficient use of the capital (read: more net benefit) from the latter.

    Oh, and although everyone likes the high-tech aspects of the space program, the fact is that there would be many, many old-economy manufacturing jobs created or sustained for every engineer or scientist.

  • Burn the straw men (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrRobahtsu (8620)

    Well duh, of course government spending on anything to create government jobs isn't going to improve the economy. Only democrats believe that.

    But since similar space programs have been done before, perhaps one should (gasp!) look at past performance and ROI before setting up straw men to knock down.

    Ever wonder why the US leads the world in many areas of computers, electronics, manufacturing, matereials, etc.? The space program isn't the only reason, but it's a big one.

    Ever wonder what the real ROI is,

    • Now, I love space development as much as anybody (check my journal if you doubt it) but this utter bullshit of claiming that NASA still creates a tidal wave of spinoffs is a grotesque exaggeration that decreases the credibility of a once-true claim.

      Let's take the first dozen or so alleged spinoffs from the first article linked above [thespaceplace.com].

      GROUND PROCESSING SCHEDULING SYSTEM - Computer-based scheduling system that uses artificial intelligence to manage thousands of overlapping activities involved in launch
      • VIRTUAL REALITY - NASA-developed research allows a user, with assistance from advanced technology devices, to figuratively project oneself into a computer-generated environment, matching the user's head motion, and, when coupled with a stereo viewing device and appropriate software, creates a telepresence experience.

        Oh, sure, NASA is the home of all VR technology.

        Come on! Can't you people even TRY to be credible? Do you wanna tell me that the developers of Battle Zone were secretly working for the s

        • Cool link and good point. But as a bunch of us discussed in a JE this past summer [slashdot.org] much of the hot and heavy VR work was done in random places all over the world and, incidently was done by '94, while his team were still denying the very term "VR".
          He makes a good point about near-space interaction, but again, much of this was also being worked on in other places.
          Even he refers back to Ivan Sutherland's work back in 1968!

          VIEW was seminal. Just as VPL was. Just as Warnock's work was. Just as was the work b
          • Did the space program contribute "something"? Certainly.

            Is VR something that "came from the space program"? I think not.

            Agreed. The space program was just one of the industries interested in exploiting and expanding upon the technology. There were plenty of others.

            For instance, medicine was another big application area at the time. People liked the idea of using virtual cadavers for some instructional purposes as an alternative to real ones. Real cadavers are expensive, bulky, unique, difficult to ob

  • A primarily unemployed population could mean big trouble

    That's a pretty bold claim there, professor ;-)

  • Insanity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dffuller (200455)
    This reminds me of a Winston Churchill quote I recently read:
    "For a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle."
    There is absolutely no way that government jobs are going to improve our economic situation; even the wackiest Keynsian economist can tell you that.
  • We're a bunch of geeks for crying out loud. We should be rejoicing at the thought of space exploration. A rejuvination of the space program could push forward technology faster than anything else we can think of. The race for the moon back in the 60's resulted in countless benefits to our society. Education, technology, synthetics, manufacturing, and many more all benefited from the Apollo program. This is another chance to reap those same benefits again.
  • by JGski (537049) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @06:01AM (#7961130) Journal
    There are two "sustainable" sources of GDP growth: population growth and technology innovation. By that I mean, sources that have any chance of ongoing exponential growth, aka the definition of a "healthy economy".

    Government spending can contribute to growth but it's a degenerative feedback loop - government "expenses" like taxes tend to eat up a portion of the economic kick each time money flows back through the goverment since most income is taxed. Thus government spending creates a blip which dissipates - if other growth sources aren't on the edge of recovery, the economy won't catch "fire" and start growing.

    A space mission would eventually create technological innovation to fuel growth but it takes time to develop new technologies in the first place, more time for a critical mass of technology portfolios that are cross-purposeable outside of government/military to accumulate, and even more time for those technologies to finally take root. The rule of thumb is 15-25 years from the first scientific discovery/creation to the point when noticeable economic benefit results. Consider the Internet. Consider transistors. Consider integrated circuits. Of course you may not pick the correct newly discovered technology to bet on today.

    It's not entirely clear how cost effective a Space Program would be. Sure there have been "homeruns" like semiconductors, computers and integrated circuits which never would of existed with the Cold War and the Space Race, but what's in the pipeline that would apply to a space mission, and then be applicable to a broader. The next "Velcro" won't power a major economic burst. Another internet or transistor might. Unfortunately computers and semiconductors themselves are mostly in evolution mode, rather than revolution mode. The "next big things" like nanotechnology and biotechnology are either just entering their 20-year obligatory incubation period or have industrio-technological structural impediments that will prevent revolutionary advances, and neither would seem to have a major role in a space program anyway.

    My net-net is: don't assume a new space program will fix anything economically. If Bush thinks it will, he's, again, deluded. The time-constants are all wrong. If you use economics as a justification for a space program you are perpetrating an improbability. There are other good reasons to have a program. Jobs mean stability even if you don't have net growth. A space program, done right, can inspire a nation which is not a trivial thing. If you allow a economic window of 10-30 years, by then a space program will almost certain contribute to technology - the Net Present Value is still debateable. We certainly don't think that far ahead often enough though.

  • by Gadzinka (256729) <rrw@hell.pl> on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @07:06AM (#7961317) Journal
    Hey, I don't like Dubya as much as the next guy, but big projects finansed from public budget fuel all the economy. Just look at what Iraq war did to American economy.

    It's all the same, no matter if government spends it on bombs or space rockets. When they spend money big time, the main agency gets money and spends it. Its contractors get money and spend it.

    And finally: their empoyees get money and spend it. On food, homes, cars, hi-tech gizmos (in any order). But suddenly all the people that produce those goods have money to spend it, and...

    This is called macroeconomy, as someone down the page said it. It's better when it's fueled by space program than by another war.

    Just my .02pln

    Robert
    • Hey, I don't like Dubya as much as the next guy, but big projects finansed from public budget fuel all the economy. Just look at what Iraq war did to American economy.

      Huh? I don't live in the US, so maybe my take on this is uninformed, but I do know that the US dollar has been falling ever since the start of the war and the deficit is sky rocketing, largely because of the war in combination with tax cuts. Are you actually implying that the US economy is healthier now than before the war?

      • Why why why does everyone assume that a falling dollar is BAD for the US?

        It's great news for the US economy, just like the rising euro is a big pain for that economy. It means your imports are more expensive, and need to be substituted with internal production, and you're exports are cheaper, which means they'll sell better.

        Oh, and all those bloody foreigners that hold US Treasuries have just lost 20% of their value ;)

        Seriously, though, falling dollar within reason is good for the US; deficit spending
    • It's all the same, no matter if government spends it on bombs or space rockets.

      There is a difference. In the latter, not quite so many people die.
    • This is just a rah-rah re-election ploy, with such short notice they can maybe award a few billion in contracts to friends, but no spending on the scale required to accomplish the goals.
      I think this will last about 13 months.

      Now on my economic rant.

      Government contracts don't make money, they redistribute your tax money.

      They can create jobs, but these aren't real free market jobs, it's just taxpayer funded job subsidization, when the gov spending stops, so do the jobs.

      The real benefit is when they can st
  • The short answer is no. It may create millions of jobs temporarily, but there is no profit to be made from space exploration, so it is therefore unrealistic to expect that those jobs would be permanent. It is not like we going to pan for gold on Mars and our Moon, we are going there to poke around. The only profits will be made by Aerospace companies, and the taxpayers will foot the bill for all the jobs and working capital to get this thing off the ground. (Pun intended!)
  • Short Bus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ratbert42 (452340) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @10:50AM (#7962341)
    It's exactly this retarded logic that works so well with most Americans. I actually sat in a United Way campaign meeting last month and listened to how wonderful it is that if I just donate a dollar, often an agency can get matching federal funds, sometimes up to 13:1 matching. I was the only one going "wait a second. Those $13 matching dollars are mine!"

    I wish I could run my business by taking 40% of people's incomes, wasting 75% of that, and "giving" the rest back to them in crap they don't really need.

  • by Linux_ho (205887) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @11:34AM (#7962703) Homepage
    It's about developing new technologies. Don't ask how many people NASA and their contractors (and subcontractors, etc. etc) employed. Ask how our society has benefitted from advances in science that come as a direct result of funding NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. How many jobs today aren't affected by advances in materials science or other technologies that can be traced back to NASA?
  • by mc6809e (214243) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:05PM (#7963713)
    What jobs are lost because taxpayers have less to spend in the private economy?

    What government spending can do is redirect jobs from one part of the economy to another part. Of course, it's hard to know what jobs exactly are lost in other parts of the economy because of this.

    What ends up being really important is this: are those jobs being used to produce things that people want? If the money stays in the taxpayers pocket, they are very likely to make their wishes known in the market place and they are very likely to get what they want.

    If it is taxed away for a space program, it's less obvious that they'll be getting what they want. I have to admit, though, I love looking at hubble pictures all day. I think the government has given me my monies worth, at least.

    The other important thing to ask is whether or not the jobs being moved from one sector of the economy to another are going to improve efficiency. If people are creating as part of their job technology that makes the production of goods and services more efficient, then it might be a win overall because people get more for their money. A lot of military spending has this effect. How much technology was developed that later made production more efficent? Certainly the investment in computer technology has paid off in all sorts of ways.

    There are also situations where spending tax money acts a simple transfer of goods and services and this can actually be a real burden on the economy if the recipients don't help improve production or don't recipricate.

    Imagine a hamburger-flipper that is taxed at a 15% rate (payroll taxes for example). Now if that money is simply given to another group of people (retirees for example), when this group shows up at the hamburger joint with that tax money, they are in effect collecting free hamburgers and the taxpayer is unknowling giving them away because all the money he sees looks the same.

    Now after getting back this money, it will of course be taxed again and some of it will go right back to that group to collect more hamburgers and the cycle will repeat, with 15% of the hamburgers being made for free for some group.

    So the question becomes, how much are people willing to put up with this burden before it starts impacting their own production? No hamburger stand ever stayed in business by giving all it's hamburgers away for free.
  • Bush and his pork programs are bankrupting the country. He's trying to buy re-election, and like the lousy businessman he was, he's overpaying.

    NASA "spinoffs" are mostly vaporware. NASA has, over the years, tried to claim credit for everything from Teflon to computers. The only real NASA innovation that's had significant market penetration is NASTRAN, the structural analysis program.

    Cutting NASA's PR and "education" budget by 80% would be a good start. They try to do the NSF's job, badly. And they

  • I think, for the most part, the responses here have been determined by the writer's political bent, not actual, objective thought about the benefits of space exploration.

    A major poll yesterday said that roughly half of all Democrats thought Bush's proposal was a good thing when asked if they were told it was a "U.S. Goverment" proposal. When the question was changed to say it was Bush's proposal, then the results changed to 2 to 1 against.

    Clearly, the country's future and the benefits of the program were

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