Our socialist president has taken on the demeanor of a CEO in dealing with NASA.
Barack Obama wants to stop this silly notion of flying Buck Rogers around the solar system, and turn a bloated manned spaceflight program at least partially over to the private sector.
You might think the Republicans would cheer him. Instead, many have joined with Democrats in howling like wolves on a full moon.
Ideology comes in second to the politics of dispensing dollars from Washington.
Our editorial last week put this in perfect perspective. "We are painfully aware that debt is piling up at an alarming rate in Washington, D.C, and that makes federal money scarce,'' it said.
Then comes the inevitable "but.''
"But" the Buck Rogers money "matches what Congress and the administration spent on the cash-for-clunkers program last year.''
And we could get the money by "cutting wasteful programs such as farm subsidies," says the editorial.
Of course, the editorial writers in Iowa might argue that at least their corn comes in on time and on budget, which is more than you can say for anything grown at NASA.
The classic Washington compromise is to pay for the corn, the clunkers and Buck Rogers.
Wasting one dollar becomes a rationale for wasting another one.
Our new U.S. senator, George LeMieux, catches on fast. So far, he has decried Obama's proposed NASA cuts, attacked Obama's spending, lobbied for a $2.5 billion boondoggle train nobody will ride, and filed for a balanced-budget amendment. He has the Republican gig down pat.
Perhaps the biggest intergalactic hypocrite is Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, home to the Marshall Space Flight Center. Shelby led the charge against government bailouts of failed enterprises. No money for banks, he argued. No money for automakers.
But he doesn't apply the same standard to failed government enterprises. He just throws more good money after bad, sticking ever-more billions in the floundering Ares moon rocket because that puts money into his constituents' pockets.
Obama wants private rocket companies to take over the business of sending astronauts into low-Earth orbit. Shelby's response: "Now is not the time to turn human space flight over to inexperience and hopeful aspirations.''
We've been launching astronauts for almost 50 years. I think the private guys can figure it out.
If Shelby were in charge of air travel, the government would be flying airliners — that is, if the National Association of Airline Administration were in Alabama.
You have to love this. The darling of fiscal conservatives is arguing the government can do a better job than the private sector.
Take away the rhetoric, and Republicans are no more interested in cutting spending than the Democrats, which was painfully obvious when they ran the country under President George W. Bush.
NASA's entire Constellation program is nothing more than one of Bush's many unfunded mandates.
Politicians like Shelby know that when you privatize an enterprise, you reduce the ability to control where the government spends money. This isn't about who can build better rockets — NASA or the private sector. It's about Shelby's ability to steer billions into Alabama and Bill Nelson's ability to steer billions into Florida and Kay Bailey Hutchison's ability to steer billions into Texas.
But look at the result down the road in Brevard County.
Fifty years of manned spaceflight and hundreds of billions of dollars has created little sustainable development. When the government money goes, the economy crashes, creating a demand for more government money.
It happened with Apollo. It is happening with the shuttle. And if Ares continues, it would happen with Ares.
Obama has produced the only common-sense plan I've seen for NASA . He would dump Constellation before the $9 billion we have wasted becomes the $500 billion we can't afford to waste.
He would not let NASA simply dump the space station because NASA sees an opportunity to rake in more bucks with Constellation.
NASA's science and research budgets would jump considerably. For years, NASA has plundered projects such as Earth-observatory satellites to fund Ares, leaving them in sorry shape. Let NASA focus more on learning things of real value.
Facilities at the space center would be upgraded. The move to private launchers would bring in entrepreneurs, laying the groundwork for space tourism and private space stations.
But politicians don't think long-term. They think about dollars appropriated in this year's budget that will get them re-elected.
NASA is a massive, entrenched bureaucracy backed by entrenched politicians. They were here before Obama and will be here after he leaves. So they will stall and delay and wait him out.
And that's unfortunate, because the bigger the NASA stranglehold on space, the less real progress we will make.
Mike Thomas can be reached at 407-420-5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun