In the award-winning Tom Hanks classic Forrest Gump, Jenny Curran was attracted to scores of bad guys — alcoholics, abusers, and mentally unstable individuals. Jenny’s poor decisionmaking forged her a tough life, plain and simple. But at least she was smart enough to call it quits on each toxic relationship and move on. Shortly before her death, Jenny managed to finally right the ship of her chaotic life by settling down with Forrest, her longtime best friend.
Unfortunately, government bureaucrats aren’t as smart as Jenny. They thrive on poisonous situations and even propagate them. They simply don’t know how to walk away.
Case in point: Washington’s love and support for Elon Musk despite his continuous mishandling of taxpayer dollars.
Last week, Musk’s SpaceX won a new $112 million dollar NASA contract, and conservative groups across the country are scratching their heads wondering what the company to deserve these funds.
After all, SpaceX did just completely destroy its Falcon 9 rocket, burning up a $195 million dollar Facebook satellite and trashing the Cape Canaveral launch pad. NASA’s Inspector General’s office has brought to light that as a result of this massive failure, NASA was forced to buy additional seats on Russian rockets, costing $490 million dollars. But worse is that the damage has caused future launches for all commercial crews to be delayed until 2018. And yes — despite this, Musk was again rewarded with a massive government contract.
What is interesting is that this story has seemed to have gone full circle. Looking at the history of SpaceX, is one that heavily involves Russian engines, politics, Elon Musk, and persuasion. Currently 85% of SpaceX’s contracts, and more that 85% of its revenue, comes from government contracts. It has been granted $5.5 billion in federal grants, not to mention the up to $200 million dollars in special favors it receives from year to year. Yet, it still can’t seem to get its rockets off the ground in a reliable fashion.
The reason that SpaceX has been such a government favorite is because of Elon Musk’s crafty lobbying and effective cronyism. Last year, after donating tens of thousands to various elected officials, Elon Musk managed to get a bill introduced that banned the U.S. from Russian-made rockets.
At a first glance, it seems great that the U.S. is looking to break away from Russia, but that is not the case whatsoever. Not including the mere .4% of imports from engine and rockets, the other 99.6% rises to a whopping $27 billion annually.
To say that we should stop importing Russian engines because we do not “ideologically believe” is complete bologna, based on nothing but charged rhetoric. If politicians truly wanted to stop Russian imports, (and whether or not that is a good or bad thing is another debate), rocket engines would be last on the list.
The charged rhetoric was based on one fact – Elon Musk wants to artificially boost his market share by eliminating the United Launch Alliance (ULA)’s government contracts, effectively halting his competition. The United Launch Alliance just happened to use Russian engines for virtually all of its rockets, so the move was a no-brainer.
By cornering the market and regulating competitors, Elon Musk has successfully managed to convince the government to buy the “lesser” and ‘cheaper” product. Comparing the numbers, SpaceX has seen three failures in the course of three years, while ULA has not seen a single failure in the ten years it has been launching rockets into orbit. Although the price tag on ULA’s rockets is a bit higher, it’s clear that you get what you pay for — after all, the input and clean-up costs that come with Musk’s massive failures level the price level comparison.
It’s obvious why Elon Musk feels the need to wring out his competition through the government. As the whole fiasco has made a full circle, it has proven that regulation and cronyism does nothing but pile up billion dollars in failures and wasted expenditures. The fact that the U.S is forced to return to Russian rockets proves the point that the ridiculous idea to ban Russian rockets was plain ill-thought and driven by obvious corruption.
But the ones who passed the legislation need not worry about paying the hefty price of failure — American taxpayers get to pick up the fees.
Politicians must be held responsible for what they do and should not be affected by crafty men like Elon Musk, who try to corner markets through cronyism, instead of through producing a laudable product. The result of such tactics only creates a stagnant market for spaceflight and aerospace.
Imagine what could have been done with that SpaceX money had it been spent elsewhere? Perhaps we would already be sending our first commercial crew to space. But instead we are stuck with a CEO who continues to blame the recent Falcon 9 explosion on a “UFO attack,” and we just rewarded his childish antics with another $100+ million contract.
It’s time to wake up, Washington, D.C.
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