One of the places where I tend to disagree with other liberals is the defense budget. Attacking defense spending is a common hobby for many liberals. I get the appeal. I don’t like spending astronomical sums of money for the purpose of killing people. It doesn’t sit well with me. But what I’ve come to realize is that the defense budget is so much more than a killing budget. It’s a convenient way for Congress to allocate money to things we need, as a nation, but can’t convince many voters (or even Members of Congress) to support otherwise. How do some countries fight unemployment? They hire lots of people to work for the government. We do that too, through the military. Want to provide education and job training and healthcare for millions of Americans…put money for education and job training and healthcare into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done. Want to spend money on biomedical research, on materials research, on computing research, on all kinds of research…put money into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done.
Of course, this isn’t my perfect solution. The Department of Education is probably a better place for money devoted to education. The National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation are probably better places for money devoted to research. But money is money, and if we recognize the need for research on post-traumatic stress disorder, do we care if the money comes from the Department of Defense or from the National Institute of Mental Health. I’ve personally applied for research grants from both the NIH and DoD, for the exact same projects. Neither got funded, but I would have been just as happy with either source, and the work would have been done the same. The only difference would have been the grant number cited in the published papers.
All this to talk about Space Force. I understand the discomfort with militarizing space. I get that. I don’t like the idea of weapons systems floating around out there, looking down at us. But that happens already. I don’t know enough to understand who’s paying for this now. NASA? Air Force? Some other appropriated funds? But it’s easy to imagine that Space Force will just continue that work under a new name. NASA has been woefully underfunded in the past decade or two. Research on space exploration has slowed to a crawl, and much of what NASA used to do has moved to the private sector. Along comes Space Force. Under the guise of national defense (or offense), we create a new entity that fiscal conservatives won’t oppose, and we get to spend all kinds of money on researching space exploration again. Sure, in my perfect world, that money would go to NASA, but I’m sure as sure can be that there are many projects that NASA would love to fund, but can’t afford, that will now be done with Space Force dollars. It’s hard for me to get upset about that.
It’s still smells as sweet, even if we don’t call it a rose.