Smart Ideas: A New Way Forward in Space

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer spacecraft lifts off from launch complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in September 2016.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)
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Jan. 2, 2018, 8 p.m.

NASA must embrace public-private partnerships

Andy Pasztor, writing for The Wall Street Journal

With its current funding and acquisition procedures, NASA’s space-exploration plans won’t be affordable and probably won’t produce long-term economic benefits. The agency should work with “emerging commercial alternatives” in “the most extensive public-private cooperation in the history of space exploration” to return to the moon and move towards Mars. A recent internal study suggests shifting to commercial practices championed by the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who are planning to send manned missions to space for significantly less than NASA. The agency needs to break the “cycle of increasing costs” if it wants to meet the expedition goals of the Trump administration. Additionally, the report suggests “in-space refueling” with asteroids. This method, combined with commercial cooperation, could lead to affordable space exploration and even make using space resources into a self-sustaining business.

New tax law will make state and local bonds more costly to issue

Aaron Klein, writing for the Brookings Institution

The recent tax bill will lower infrastructure investment, pushing investment costs to state and local governments. The “largest immediate impact” will be that municipal debt will be more expensive to issue; so-called muni debt features interest payments that are not subject to federal taxes, making it attractive to the wealthy, but “when the top marginal tax rate is cut, the value of debt being tax-free falls. This decline in value from cutting taxes for the top marginal rates will ripple through and make the bonds worth less,” leading to higher interest rates and less money available for infrastructure. The same principle applies to the corporate-rate cut as well, because “the Federal Reserve estimates that banks and insurance companies together own almost 30 percent of all municipal debt.”

Under Trump, the U.S. is willingly withdrawing from the world

Richard Haass, writing for The Atlantic

Throughout history, nations’ influence has tended to wane due to “overreach abroad,” or the ascendance of other powers. Under President Trump, the United States is pioneering “a third means by which a major power forfeits international advantage. It is abdication, the voluntary relinquishing of power and responsibility.” To be clear, this is not isolationism—not given our military actions against ISIS and Syria, threats against North Korea, and the specter of trade wars ever looming. Rather, “the United States is no longer taking the lead in maintaining alliances, or in building regional and global institutions that set the rules for how international relations are conducted. It is abdication from what has been a position of leadership in developing the rules and arrangements at the heart of any world order.”

President Trump talks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Donald Tusk during a working session at the G-20 summit in Germany in July. AP Photo/Michael Sohn
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