Monday, March 03, 2008

A lot of relatively little things like this are why I'm supporting Obama. He is far from perfect — I want a candidate who will halve our military budget, end the war on drugs, end DADT and support repealing DOMA, support the Kyoto protocol or something even more environmentally-friendly, reform the prison system and while I'm at it, give me a pony — he's just closer to it on almost every issue than any other serious politician I can think of.

How many billions of dollars are we spending on NASA again? Not as much as on Iraq, but still, an assload. Some of that makes sense, like launching and maintaining communications and research satellites. But what do we get with the rest, the manned missions every year or so and the planning and research for a moon station/space station/Mars expedition? Pork* for Texas and Florida. And when was the last time you heard any politician criticize pork — not just the practice in general, but a particular project that benefits people in their constituency, especially one that's fondly thought of around the country — right before a competitive election? Nothing comes to mind.

Asking for a "thorough review" merely because "some of these programs may not be moving in the right direction" and spending could be "a little more coherent than it has been" is far from ideal, while at the same time being far better than anyone else I can think of.

* To the extent that there is an official definition of "pork barrel spending," much of NASA's budget might not count. But I think that the official definition is either too restrictive or not restrictive enough. If meeting only one of those seven criteria is enough to officially be considered pork, it seems it must include a ton of items, and many of them would be good ideas. "Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding"? "Serves only a local or special interest"? Those could describe the FY 2007 funding for FEMA branch offices in Louisiana. But this vigilant watchdog group could only identify $29 billion of pork? I think they're missing something. Well, the point of this footnote is, either the idea of wasteful spending is subjective or the current objective definition of it is very flawed.

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