Planet Katrina? Asteroids, World Destruction, and Tax Cuts For the Wealthy

6 03 2007



Here’s a sentence a guy just hates to read over morning coffee: “NASA officials say the space agency is capable of finding almost every asteroid that might pose a devastating threat to Earth, but because it lacks the money to do it, the job will not get done.”

Democrats should run with this astonishing, yet strangely unsurprising, revelation: Even the possible extinction of all life on the planet isn’t enough to persuade the Administration to moderate its fiscal policies – policies founded on greed and hostility toward government.

What this story does, however, is encapsulate the downside of their entire approach toward governance in one anecdote. We’re somehow wealthy enough to provide tax breaks to the richest 2% of Americans, but not to find funding to protect us from planetary danger.

I’m not saying they knew Katrina was going to happen when it did. We never know these things – especially not the timing. We deal in probabilities. What the levees of Katrina and the mismanagement of FEMA should have taught them – and us is the importance of managing risk.

Wise leaders determine which risks are acceptable and which are not by weighing the potential damage caused by a disaster against the likelihood that it will occur. Low risk plus low damage = not urgent. Low risk plus very high damage = urgent.

A category 5 hurricane was inevitable in the Gulf at some point, so we were reckless not to plan for it. An asteroid strike may not be inevitable, at least in the next few years, but the damage and loss of life could range from the destruction of an entire state or country to worldwide mass extinction.

It could be Katrina, or far worse, and on a planetary scale.

That warrants a prudent program of observation and tracking, which is why the NASA asteroid project was approved in the first place. If the program were to identify an asteroid headed toward us, we would (hopefully) have time to figure out how to divert it. Allowing the project to languish is so negligent as to be, in a moral sense, nearly criminal.

What this story illustrates is that their lack of discipline and desire for short-term financial gain is now so strong that they’re willing to endanger their own lives, as well as others. They’ve become like Jack Benny in the old “your money or your life” routine: When it comes to avoiding the potential loss of all life (including theirs) … they’re thinking, they’re thinking.

It could actually happen. They’re not bad people, but their judgement is seriously impaired.

Still, I don’t want to be Mr. Doom and Gloom. So here’s some good news that’s directly traceable to the same tax cuts:

The luxury pleasure boat sector continues to expand dramatically… Surging luxury boat sales have, in turn, generated massive demand for mooring facilities. Regional seafront developers have responded by building one luxury marina after another.

I can picture the alien visitors now as they orbit a dead planet, then swoop low over a barren and lifeless coastline – only to see a fleet of empty yachts bobbing lazily in the marina next to the ruins of a once-great city.

Could intelligent life – truly intelligent life – possibly understand the decisions we made in Earth’s final years?

But, hey, that’s enough from me. Have a nice day!




2 responses

12 04 2007
ana sterisk

Vonnegut said the villains in his books were never individuals, but culture, society and history, which he said were making a mess of the planet.

“We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard … and too damn cheap,” he once suggested carving into a wall on the Grand Canyon, as a message for flying-saucer creatures.

20 05 2007
Did Comets Kill Off the First Americans? « Future While-U-Wait

[…] confirmation that the decision to underfund NASA’s asteroid threat detection program is a profoundly unwise […]

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