Posted: January 6, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homelessness, Money, Morality, Politics

Yesterday I came across an article, Next NASA Moon Mission Completes Major Milestone, on the Science Daily website. It mentioned NASA’s successful "thermal" testing of their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) – which is slated to be launched in April 2009 on an Atlas V rocket. Its mission is to search for the presence of "water ice" on the moon.  

I’m sure there must be some reason why NASA is trying to find "water ice" on the moon. And, I’m sure they feel it’s a valid reason. But I wonder why our government doesn’t seem to think that spending taxpayer dollars on such an exploration is frivolous – especially right now, with the economic situation in the U.S. the way it is?

Let’s face it; millions of jobs have been lost in the last year. The numbers of foreclosures is at record levels. Congress has recently approved the bailout of Wall Street corporations who are at least partially responsible for the economic recession. The "Big Three" automakers are wanting billions of dollars to save their butts. And the folks on "Main Street U.S.A." are finding that their hard earned dollars are buying less than ever before.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget website, for fiscal year 2009, NASA is being given a discretionary budget of $18.1 billion. Of that, $9.2 billion will be going toward Exploration and Space Operations.

There are two questions I have regarding that budget.

The first is: what does the "discretionary" part mean? Does it mean they can pretty much spend it the way they want?

The second question is: how much of NASA’s budget will actually benefit Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public? Will finding "water ice" on the moon help American’s pay their rent or mortgage? Will it put food on their tables? And what if NASA doesn’t find "water ice" on the moon? Who will repay the American taxpayer for a wasted trip?

I have to admit, years ago when NASA’s first remote rover landed on Mars I was excited. I couldn’t wait to jump on the Internet and look at the photographs which had been sent back.

But, I’m seeing things a bit differently now.

I’ve become aware of how many American’s are being afflicted by homelessness each year. In addition, I’ve also become acutely aware of how little is actually being done by our nation’s leaders to address this issue. They certainly are not adequately funding programs to help this country’s homeless. In fact, for 2009, the U.S. will be spending only $1.6 billion for "Homeless Assistance Grants." That’s less than 10 percent of NASA’s budget.

The moon may or may not have "water ice." But, to tell you the truth – I couldn’t care less because it doesn’t have the potential to do one damn bit of good right here and now on this planet.

Want to know what I do care about?

I care that everyday in this nation hundreds of thousands of American’s will end up sleeping on the streets of our communities. Yet, they are being neglected and forgotten by the very government which should be seeking a way to help them. And to make matters worse, our nation’s leaders do not seem in any rush to pass legislation to remedy it.

On the GovTrack website, you can track every bill which is created; sent to committee; voted on; and either passed or not. You can also find bills which "died" before they went to vote.

Two such bills which were left for dead were Senate Resolution 1518, Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act of 2007, and House Resolution 840, Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2008.

Both of these bills – had they made it to the floor for a vote – might have had the potential to help this nation’s homeless by amending and strengthening existing homeless assistance legislation.

S. 1518 was introduced on May 24, 2007 and "reported by Committee" on September 19, 2007. Its purpose was to re-authorize the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The bill "died" because Congress went out of session before it was "sent to the Senate floor."

H.R. 840 was introduced on February 6, 2007, and Reported by Committee on July 31, 2008. It, too, "died" before it could reach the Congressional floor for a vote. Its purpose had been to amend the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to consolidate the housing assistance programs for homeless persons under title IV of the Act.

I find it disgusting that Congress could approve a federal budget which provides NASA with taxpayer dollars to explore the moon for traces of "water ice." Yet, they couldn’t even manage to vote on two distinct bills which might have provided the potential for exploring new ways of effectively reducing homelessness in our nation.

There is, in some ways, a type of perverse symmetry to all of it.

The moon is nothing more than a dead rock in outer space. Likewise, S. 1518 and H.R. 840 have become nothing more than "dead" bills in the halls of Capitol Hill.

Perhaps what our elected leaders should explore are our national priorities.

I don’t see how members of Congress can sleep with clear consciences while so many Americans go to sleep every night without a roof over their heads.

  1. Skye says:

    Too bad we can’t blast Congress into outer space. Or better yet, make them sleep on the streets for a while to see exactly how it feels.

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