America, We Have A Problem

David Kerschner

With both the current national debt and the population of the United States, if every person in the country decided to split America’s tab, each of us would owe approximately $27,483. Despite this sobering fact, President Bush recently decided to unveil a project that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars, adding to our already monumental debt. This project has nothing to do with healthcare, education or even national defense, Bush’s perpetual concern; it is a plan to send humans to Mars.

The plan involves not only a trip to the Red Planet, but also returning to the moon, building a manned station on its surface, finishing the international space station and rebuilding the current spaceship fleet. It calls for a rearranging of NASA’s financing and a revamping of the space program. This will force NASA to stop its spending on current working projects in order to fund a Mars project that, according to Time magazine, has been given only a 1 in 50 chance of succeeding by British bookies. One project that NASA will have to cut funding for is the Hubble Telescope, which Time called “one of NASA’s greatest success stories.” The Hubble will become non-operational around 2007 because of the reallocation of funding within NASA to finance the president’s Mars expedition.

This plan follows the spendthrift trend of the current Bush administration. One of Bush’s first presidential actions was to lower taxes with the biggest tax cuts since the Reagan administration. His next move was to start a war that is costing the American people over 250 billion dollars. Instead of trying to make up for these costs, Bush has decided to launch a very ambitious space program that will send money and resources over 31 million miles away.

To the President, Mars is one of the most important things on which taxpayers’ money can be spent. After all, it’s not like there are over 40 million Americans without health insurance, and it’s not as if we are only slightly behind Mexico for the title of the industrialized nation with the highest rates of child poverty. The multi-billion dollar Mars program is apparently more worth the billions of taxpayer dollars to the Bush Administration then the over one million people living in the U.S. below the poverty line, and the over one million people in the U.S. infected with HIV.

Other Presidents have made similarly ambitious speeches outlining plans for space exploration. The first was John F. Kennedy, who successfully got us to the moon. Since then, however, we have seen only broken promises and wasted money. The next project was Ronald Reagan’s idea to develop the international space station. This mission was projected to cost only 18 billion dollars, but as of today it is still not completed and may reach the 100 billion dollar mark before it is. George Bush Senior introduced a proposal to go to Mars but his Mars mission has not yet come true.

The Mars program looks into the future and calls for a spending program that will see few results for 20 years, with expenditures estimated to be between 300 and 600 billion dollars. Any advantages that Mars may offer Americans are risky and expensive to acquire. We have the technology to send robots to Mars, as we have had since the 60’s. These bots are able to explore the planet and send back tons of data that can for now eliminate the need to place humans on the planet. At this time, the advances that human travel to Mars could possibly provide are trivial compared to the problems this country is facing and the debt that it is accumulating.

As we continue to drive up the national debt, it should start to concern students around the world, because it will be we who will pay the bills of this wastrel government. Each day that goes by leaves more and more Americans’ lives in worse shape, as the government spends more money overseas and now in space instead of inside our own borders, helping the people that President Bush swore to serve and protect.