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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Privatization could be giant leap for space program

    Social Security and Medicare, despite their success, have faced the threat of privatization since their conception. Look no further than the transcripts of the last two presidential debates if you need proof that the future of these two time-tested programs has yet to be determined.

    From the point of view of many “bleeding-heart” liberals, the privatization of social services is a disastrous idea fraught with ethical and moral dilemmas.

    Those who have targeted programs like Social Security and Medicare are usually bent on shrinking the size of government, and anyone who stands in the way of this is labeled a tax-and-spend socialist, or some clever variation of the term.

    But believe it or not, there is one publicly financed government program that just about everyone agrees should be privatized. In fact, those leading the push for its entry into the private sector are the same ones who have fought the hardest to stave off Medicare vouchers and private Social Security savings accounts.

    NASA, which marked the end of its iconic space shuttle program by flying the shuttle Endeavour over the UA Mall, has made an agreement with four privately operated space flight firms — Sierra Nevada, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Boeing — as part of the second phase of its ambitious Commercial Crew and Cargo program.

    Contrary to popular belief, NASA will not abandon human space flight entirely. This collaboration between the agency and the private sector is meant to stimulate technological advancement in space flight and space tourism in low Earth orbit.

    The effort will not only save NASA millions of dollars in the long run, but will also allow the agency to focus its attention on exploring the airfield in our solar system.

    NASA’s space shuttle program is a perfect example of a government program ripe for privatization.

    Although responsible for launching America into the space age, NASA’s space shuttle program has become increasingly costly and inefficient. The failure of the Constellation program — NASA’s next mission to the moon was canceled due to being over budget and behind schedule — is a testament to both the program’s ballooning costs and innovative bankruptcy.

    The government, through investment in research and engineering, was able to get space flight off its feet. Now it’s time for the program to be handed over to the private sector where its exorbitant cost can be managed more effectively and competition and profit motive can foster necessary innovation.

    But while space travel is almost guaranteed to flourish under market pressures, social welfare programs would not.

    The assertion that Medicare and Social Security should be privatized like a space shuttle program is rooted in the frighteningly flawed notion that the health and well-being of society is a tangible good that can be bartered and sold. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, the architects of America’s social safety net, would surely roll in their graves if such a falsehood became conventional wisdom.

    An elderly couple’s monthly income should not be susceptible to the ebb and flow of market forces and a disabled mother’s breast cancer treatment should not come with an outrageous price tag. Social Security and Medicare were, in part, created to prevent private sector from capitalizing off the misfortune of the masses. It is this social insurance that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan wish to end with their Medicare voucher scheme.

    Privatization, in some cases, is an option that some industries would do well to consider. Space flight is clearly a case in point. Social welfare programs, on the other hand, should remain publicly financed and readily accessible to all.

    — Nyles Kendall is a political science senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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