Smart Ideas: A Private Space

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei exits the International Space Station for a spacewalk on Oct. 10, 2017.
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Feb. 26, 2018, 8 p.m.

Time to partly privatize the space station

Philip H. Devoe, writing for National Review

The administration’s plan to partially privatize the International Space Station is “a welcome development, and it’s exactly the sort of plan that other overfunded, inefficient federal agencies ought to follow.” Expanding private opportunities will protect “essential NASA research while cutting the agency’s costs.” Think of the U.S. as an ISS customer: By paying for a share of operational costs, it has permission to use the vessel, the same as other governments. Placing the financial burden on private enterprise, “thereby permitting those companies to conduct research aboard the station and enabling a means by which NASA can pay to use these companies’ infrastructure in order to conduct its own research when it needs to,” will not limit the agency’s scientific work. NASA’s increasing reliance on SpaceX for transport is a model for ISS privatization; it’s one-third the cost per kilogram of cargo compared to the Space Shuttle, and the company has “far surpassed NASA’s rocket technology.”

Senate losing the power battle against executive branch

Molly E. Reynolds, writing for the Brookings Institution

There are a number of reasons the Senate is broken, but a major one is that increased partisanship over the past few decades has “made it more difficult for senators of both parties to unite as a counter-balance to executive power.” Major legislation was passed in the 1970s to combat increased executive power, including “the Congressional Budget Act and the measure creating the Senate Intelligence Committee to oversee certain executive branch activities.” The increased polarization surrounding presidents of both parties makes it hard for senators to “build support for an issue on institutional grounds.”

Hands off the libraries

Sue Halpern, writing for The Nation

The administration’s antipathy towards public libraries is clear in its desire to defund the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which is libraries’ only federal support. IMLS, with an annual budget of $230 million, is particularly crucial for “those in struggling urban neighborhoods and rural areas” that would otherwise have to fund libraries with tax increases or by cutting other services. “Libraries are not only built on the open and egalitarian promises of democracy; they exist to promote them,” and with reduced federal support this mission is compromised for those who need them most.

Will the Left look to its own Barry Goldwater?

Ryan Cooper, writing for The Week

Leftists are vocally frustrated with the Democratic Party, putting them “in a similar position to that of movement conservatives in the early 1960s.” But those movement conservatives upended the GOP in 1964 by nominating the polarizing Barry Goldwater. Leftists can do the same in 2020, and perhaps even win, since their policies are more popular than Goldwater’s were. Those conservatives developed “an ultra-detailed understanding of the nomination process” and gained control of state party committees, something leftists can do now in “vast swathes of the country” where “the Democratic Party basically does not exist. … That would allow the party to simultaneously contest many long-shot races in red states where it often doesn’t even try, and allow the left to pressure the national party committees to support actual leftists and progressives.”

Barry Goldwater AP Photo/File

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