Is NASA a Financial Drain on America?

by Tim on March 15, 2011

Imagine that you have $14,000 in credit card debt.  Pretty hefty amount right?  I mean, you consistently spend more than you make every month, and this figure just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year.

As you think of ways to cut your spending, you say to yourself, I think it would be fun to go to the movies tonight.  It’s just $19 and in the big scheme of things, $19 won’t make a dent in my $14,000 credit card debt.

Is that smart?  (ok, I’m leading here)  No, not in my opinion.  You might see where I’m going with this.

You = America
Credit Card Debt =  US Budget Deficit
Movie Tickets = NASA’s Cost

America is in $14 trillion of debt, with the big-ticket items including Medicare/Medicaid, social security, defense/wars, and the interest on the debt itself.  NASA is just a really small piece of the pie, costing only $19 billion dollars for 2011.  This might sound like a lot, but it’s less than one percent of the Federal Budget.  In fact, if you applied the $19 billion to the $14 trillion, it wouldn’t put a dent in it (just like the example of you going to the movies with $14,000 in credit card debt).

nasabudgetNow I’m not suggesting that we cut NASA, but that’s just it…what do you cut when you’re trying to get out of debt?  Wouldn’t you cut back on your entertainment, eating out, or other activities that keep adding up?

I know there are plenty of other things to cut (see a few of the big ticket items above) and that a lot of jobs would be lost if we cut NASA.  Unfortunately, when cuts are made, people will be affected and no one likes to suffer because of change or a cut in the budget.

I’d love to hear your opinion about areas that would be better to cut.  Most importantly I wanted to emphasize how you can’t be successful in paying down debt if you’re not able to cut the small things. That’s really the bottom line when you’re getting out of debt.  If you’re faithful in managing the small ticket items, the big ticket items will come more naturally.


So what do you think?  Is NASA and other small budget items something that should be nixed from the budget, or should we focus on the big ticket items?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Doug Weathers April 6, 2011

I think your assumption that NASA is like a national movie ticket is flawed.

Consider this question:

- Should America spend money on developing and maintaining expertise in aerospace technology and industry?

Many people (including myself) believe that this is an unqualified YES. National defense, international competitiveness, inspiring young people to enter technical fields, economic development, basic research … the list goes on.

Now, consider THIS question:

- Should America spend money on NASA?

This is actually a very different question from the first one! In fact, Pres. Obama commissioned a panel of industry experts to try to figure out what should be done about NASA. It was called the Augustine Commission.

Their opinion on this: NASA has both very good and very bad points. The good points (basic research and technology development) are worth keeping, and the bad points (human spaceflight) are not.

My opinion: As far as human spaceflight goes, NASA has been coasting on the success of the Apollo project for 40 years. They have created exactly one manned spaceflight system since then (the Space Shuttle). Four attempts to create a replacement system have failed. NASA’s human spaceflight program is wasting taxpayer dollars and getting us nowhere, and we should take this function away from them and give it to someone else. This means that NASA should pay commercial companies to fly their astronauts to the Space Station, and focus on basic research and unmanned space missions (at which they have been spectacularly successful for decades).

The conclusion:

America should refocus NASA to doing what it’s really good at, and shift some of NASA’s budget towards paying commercial companies like SpaceX so we can get human spaceflight done for a reasonable price, while simultaneously building up our aerospace industrial capacity.


Tim April 6, 2011

Doug – your comment was very well put together and I can’t help but agree with you! There is a difference between spending money and spending money in a smart way. I think you’d agree that we need to pursue scientific advancements, which cost money. But, spending money to send people to space is probably not a good use of gov’t funds. To be honest, I have never heard of SpaceX but it sounds fascinating! Thanks again for your detailed input!


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