If you get too far into the weeds on any issue or legislation, pretty soon you have entered a bizarro world, where allies become enemies and vice-versa. But friends aren't the only thing that are up for sale every day in the halls of power. Too often you find those dismal scenarios that prove a cynical axiom of Washington, D.C: There are no such things as principles in this town, only interests.
One such struggle is between a faction that champions a big government spending program that will last for a decade or more before it shows any notable results and a smaller, nimble more free market solutions that works. And it doesn't stop there, the evil Big Gubmint program will cost billions more than the free market alternative, rob other equally important programs of resources that are already in short supply, and actually codifies into law that the Big Program and all cost over runs must be paid before the more efficient ones get their funding. And if its wildly successful, at best it will succeed in repeating something that's already been done before many of you reading this were born.
Now, which party do you suppose is hoping to quietly sneak the Big Gubmit funding into an upcoming bill where it will be almost unknowingly sign? Oh, you already know don't you? But to confirm your guess, follow me below.
Meet Congressman Morris "Mo" Brooks. He comes with a great middle-class pedigree and is by all accounts a charismatic and truly likable fellow. His mother was a school teacher and his father an electrical engineer who worked in the design and production of all kinds of life saving health care technologies. But Mo represents Alabama's fight'n fifth district, which means he's a ruby red Republican.
He hates the Heritage Foundation's health care plan adapted by the ACA and better known as Obamacare. He's a big "fair tax" guy, presumably meaning cuts for everything the new pope has preached against and the 99 percent desperately need, and all for whatever ALEC and the Kochwhores of the world dictate. He wants to voucherize Medicare, defund Planned Parenthood, force women to bring unwanted pregnancies to term, and make life hard for immigrants in any way possible, only drawing the line at—in his words—lining them up and "shooting them."
He's a deficit hawk, in fact that's not a fair comparison, he's a ravenous deficit raptor who hates Big Gubmint pork and champions free market solutions to every problem, including those where it couldn't possibly work because there's no profit to be made without Big Gubmint pork kicking in. In short he's the kinda 21st century Republican deep in the heart of Dixie who fondles the tea party's pleasure zone at every opportunity. We might disagree with all this, but the man has an ideology, he walks the walk, he has principles, and he sticks by them.
There's just one problem with all that: Mo Brooks is pushing a pork laden big government on steroids bill in the Science Committee—on which he sits and the GOP anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-climate science, anti-Big Bang, etc., controls, but which is whole another depressing post—and he represents Huntsville, Alabama. Home of the primary integration site back in the glory days for the Apollo booster and present day recipient of billions to develop a heavy lift Saturn V knock-off jokingly called the Senate Launch System.
Jokingly because this thing is so underfunded it will probably never fly and if it ever does, it won't be until say, 2020 or beyond. And in that unlikely event it survives austerity and multiple elections, presidents, and God only knows what else, it will be able to maybe to loft a mission to the moon in 2025, thus replicating something we already did more than 50 years ago.
Meanwhile, we have a number of viable ground to orbit rockets, some already flying to orbit, all highly scalable, that will be available for all kinds of missions as early as next year, for a tiny fraction of the 30 billion dollar cost of Mo's pet project. And this bill not only prioritizes the funding for the costly heavy lift vehicle, it specifies the SLS has to be paid for first, including any cost over runs, before any other NASA project can be fully paid for. That means everything from climate/earth science, unmanned missions en route and scheduled, and commercial alternatives that are already available, are on the chopping block. If the tea party really understood the sweep of this proposed ledge they would kill it and primary this clown faster than you can say government shutdown.
Here's the kicker: The tricksy House Republicans are planning to attach this to a giant CR that funds the government for another few weeks, a measure that everyone wants to see passed. So it may well go through. Incidentally, if I had to guess, I'd wager the whole thing was written by traditional aerospace defense contractors who loves them some big government pork where they don't have to deliver for a decade or more and which becomes even more lucrative for shareholders the longer it takes and the more over budget it becomes.
In a sane world we'd be funding all this stuff. Just the $24 billion Republicans cost taxpayers in the last shutdown would more than double NASA's current budget. But we don't live in a sane world, we live in a world controlled by sociopaths. And if bills like this get passed quietly, with little notice, this insane word might be the only world we ever live on.