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NASA Government The Almighty Buck

Support For NASA Spending Depends On Perception of Size of Space Agency Budget 205

Posted by samzenpus
from the paying-the-cost dept.
MarkWhittington writes "Alan Steinberg, a post doctorate fellow in political science at Sam Houston State University, conducted a study surrounding the vexing problem of how to motivate more people to support increased levels of funding for NASA. In an October 14, 2013 piece in The Space Review, Steinberg announced the results of a study conducted with a group of college students. Steinberg's approach was based on the findings of a study by Roger Launius conducted in the late 1990s that suggested that the American public believe that NASA spending takes up about 20 percent of the federal budget. It has in fact never exceeded four percent, which it enjoyed at the height of the Apollo program, and is currently about .5 percent. Steinberg was testing a notion advanced by Neil deGrasse Tyson that if people knew the true size of NASA's budget they would be more likely to support increasing it."
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Support For NASA Spending Depends On Perception of Size of Space Agency Budget

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  • Too cool for NASA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Monday October 14, 2013 @05:08PM (#45126531)

    The public has no idea about the level of US spending. They need to know things like Air Conditioning The Military Costs More Than NASA's Entire Budget [huffingtonpost.com]. Until they understand that NASA does so much for so little they will never want to expand its budget.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14, 2013 @05:31PM (#45126783)

      The public has no idea about the level of US spending.

      Here is a breakdown on where out money goes. [cbpp.org]Defense, SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP - where 2/3rds goes to Medicare.

      The perception is that our tax money is wasted on Space, Welfare Queen's Pink Cadillacs and other entitlement programs which I take to be code words for giving money to "lazy (Black) poor people" from folks who want to appear to be PC.

      When the truth is we are wasting money on wars and transferring wealth to the old.

      And I find it laughable and sad that the Teapartiers are mostly old white people and if they REALLY wanted what they think they wanted, they'd have to shoot themselves in the pocketbook and give up this notion the the US of A has to have a superior military and go off fighting "evil".

      Cut military spending to post WWII levels. Stop this one man show when containing roque nations - we need more UN involvement; which is a whole other bugaboo with the Teaparty people and most conservatives.

      • That pie chart should be a linear bar graph, and international assistance should be separated from military. That would make the point a lot stronger.

        Then again, many people still wouldn't believe it...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's not really fair to describe Social Security as transferring "wealth to the old". By this point in time, almost everyone collecting SS paid into it their entire working life. Most people won't collect more than they paid. You're just paying into the fun what you will later withdraw (...if our idiot government didn't treat SS as a piggybank that they can dip into whenever they want).

        Because SS is regressive, you could call it "transferring wealth to the wealthy", as the wealthy are more likely to also co

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          It's not really fair to describe Social Security as transferring "wealth to the old". By this point in time, almost everyone collecting SS paid into it their entire working life.

          Indeed, my uncle died at age 60 after paying in for 40 years and didn't collect a penny. Another uncle collected for 20 after paying in for 40 so probably broke even. This is NOT funded from the general revenue; it's a tax you pay in all your life specifically for SS. Medicare shouldn't be part of the budget, either, since it's also

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday October 14, 2013 @06:13PM (#45127121)

        And I find it laughable and sad that the Teapartiers are mostly old white people and if they REALLY wanted what they think they wanted, they'd have to shoot themselves in the pocketbook and give up this notion the the US of A has to have a superior military and go off fighting "evil".

        The people you are referring to aren't the real TeaPartiers. They are the Republicans who usurped the Tea Party banner.

        Not the same thing. They may think of themselves as Tea Party but they bear little resemblance to the actual, original, Tea Party. Which did in fact want to stop the money wasting and "wealth redistribution".

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          I thought the original tea party people were all about stealing a country away from the people they originally stole it for ie ultra super massive wealth redistribution a whole bloody countries worth. Realistically today's modern conservative can't see anything but their own ego, greed and selfishness. NASA is meaningless to them if they can't earn any money out of it, roads and footpaths on the other side of the block are meaningless because they are not in front of their house and that future generations

          • This mainly reads like an incoherent rant to me.

            "I thought the original tea party people were all about stealing a country away from the people they originally stole it for ie ultra super massive wealth redistribution a whole bloody countries worth."

            The original modern Tea Party was all about smaller government. T.E.A. stood for "Taxed Enough ALREADY". And they were a group of mostly conservatives, but there was a relatively large sprinkle of liberals there as well.

            "Realistically today's modern conservative can't see anything but their own ego, greed and selfishness."

            I can say exactly the same about the modern political Left. And mean it seriously, and even provide examples.

            "NASA is meaningless to them if they can't earn any money out of it, roads and footpaths on the other side of the block are meaningless because they are not in front of their house and that future generations choke on pollution out of control is meaningless as long as the tea baggers of today can profit on it today."

            The only recent example I can think of where "conservatives" held any money back from NASA was in the recent funding vote, and that was

            • by rtb61 (674572)

              I seem to remember the first batch of tea baggers (until they could laughingly exposed to the harsh realities of the name) pointing at the Boston Tea Party participants as being the 'original' Tea Partiers. It being launched on some lame arse financial program, with the whole billionaire funded PR scam by Freedom works (hence the marketing reference to the 'Founding Fathers') to push it in the public eye and it went all over the place as various individuals tried to gain control over for personal for profi

        • by jfengel (409917)

          I've been hearing this since practically the day the term "teabagger" was coined: they were co-opted so fast that they hardly had a moment to define themselves at all.

          Being opposed to "money wasting" and "wealth redistribution" is easy. Deciding what programs you want to keep and which ones are actually harmful or insufficiently beneficial is far, far harder. Nobody likes wasting money, and opposing "wealth redistribution" frequently means "opposing the programs that distribute money away from me while sup

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          No true TeaPartier would...

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday October 14, 2013 @07:51PM (#45127971)

        You don't even need to cut the military that much. Cutting back 1/3 would cover the US debt interest payments.

        We actually had a balanced budget when Clinton was president (and Republicans controlled congress). That was thrown out the window in order to fund two wars for which the American populace have been told to not worry about or sacrifice for.

        The military however is the largest jobs program we have. Since it's an all volunteer army it seems most recruits may be joining in order to get a job or to get the resulting benefits . If you join you get the job training, you get the job, you get benefits. If there just happens to be a war that occurs while you're enlisted then you can get veteran's benefits as well. It's a pretty sweet deal if your local economy is bad and you have no hope of qualifying for or paying for higher education.

        • You don't even need to cut the military that much. Cutting back 1/3 would cover the US debt interest payments.

          For reference, cutting 1/3 of US military spending would move the US from second place (behind Saudi Arabia) to third (also behind Russia) in terms of defence spending as a percentage of GDP, and still leave them top in absolute terms (spending three times as much as the PRC, in second place) and top in per-capita spending.

          It's not entirely clear, however, that reducing military spending would help the US economy. A lot of R&D is subsidised from the military budget, which helps drive US high tech e

          • It's not entirely clear, however, that reducing military spending would help the US economy.

            If this is a reason to keep spending so much on the military, then we just need to accept that capitalism has failed & that a federally-managed economy is what we're doing.

      • by argStyopa (232550)

        You haven't apparently been listening.

        It's a foundational point of politics that Conservatives have opposed Social Security forever.

    • Ask the average tea partier how much of the federal budget is spent individually on nasa, welfare, foreign aid, food stamps, obama phones, free abortions and qurans for terrorists and their numbers will add up to about 400%. The other half is spent on obamacare.

  • And if you want to know the results, you'll have to RTFA. Submitter must be new here.

  • by sighted (851500) on Monday October 14, 2013 @05:13PM (#45126589) Homepage
    In the hope that the principles in this study are correct, I made this little micro-site to quickly answer the question: "Why spend money on space when there are problems here at home?" http://www.ridingwithrobots.org/earth [ridingwithrobots.org]
  • Almost every federal project is a tiny fraction of the budget, and the same study can be performed on all of them, and since we want clean air, clean water, nice federal parks, more knowledge of the ocean, fewer turtles poached, etc, etc, etc, the results will come out just the same no matter what agency you look at.

    • Let me introduce you to a small part of the budget labeled "Defense".... :)
      • by Nutria (679911)

        Let me introduce you to a little word named "almost".

      • by Kohath (38547)

        Every individual defense program is a tiny fraction of the whole budget. You can slice anything up enough so it's a tiny fraction. We should stop spending so many tiny fractions.

        Funding for space exploration may be good for a country that isn't $17 Trillion in debt. Or a country with a balanced budget. Or a rich country with a healthy economy. For a country like the US, it's just part of the problem -- albeit only a tiny fraction of the problem.

        • Re:Blah, blah, blah. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by green is the enemy (3021751) on Monday October 14, 2013 @06:33PM (#45127295)
          The US economy has never been stronger or more productive. The government debt issues are mostly due to the unwillingness to raise taxes. We have plenty of room for large, ambitious, high-risk, high-payoff projects. We just have to decide to do them! We gotta hurry up already. Life is getting boring! The best and brightest minds are working on web advertising and stock trading.
          • by Rockoon (1252108)

            The US economy has never been stronger or more productive. The government debt issues are mostly due to the unwillingness to raise taxes.

            Taxes naturally go up when the economy improves.. you seem to be ignoring that entirely, that in spite of growing revenue the deficit grows even faster.

            The wealth of a nation is the goods and services that its people enjoy, so its no surprise that with the sheer volume of inefficient resource allocation that the government is instigating that we are all poorer for it. Its not the taxes that cost us, its the inefficient spending that costs us.

            If the government took in the same quantity of money that it

            • You're right on many points. There is inefficiency in the way government spends money. Private companies are more efficient when they have to compete. However, private companies are incapable of investing in high-risk science and technology that may benefit us all 50 years from now. What I'm trying to get at is that we got bogged down in trying to improve the efficiency of mundane economic activity, but at the same time are failing to invest in our long-term prosperity. This is a path to eventual stagnation
        • The fundamental problem is that as productivity and population grows so should the money supply. Unfortunately we grow the money supply with debt. We owe $17 trillion in a currency that we create. Look into how the money supply works and you'll understand why from individuals, to companies, to the government we are almost universally in debt. Oddly, it would probably work better if the government printed the money instead of letting the fed do it and then borrowing it.

          At the end of the day, what does
    • Re:Blah, blah, blah. (Score:4, Informative)

      by timeOday (582209) on Monday October 14, 2013 @05:29PM (#45126763)
      You took the words out of my mouth, in particular let us not forget the debate over PBS [usatoday.com] in the most recent Presidential election. When quizzed on PBS funding [politico.com]:

      A majority of poll respondents think the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a non-profit created by Congress that helps fund NPR and PBS as well as other public media, receives a share of 1 percent or more of the federal governmentâ(TM)s budget.

      In the financial year for 2010, the CPB reported receiving $506 million in federal appropriations. According to the White Houseâ(TM)s Office of Management and Budget, the federal budget for 2010 was $3.456 trillion. Using those numbers, the CPB receives about .00014 percent of the federal budget. Of course, poll respondents are way off in other areas, assigning a median of 137 percent of the federal governmentâ(TM)s budget to various government programs, suggesting Americans think the government simply spends more than it actually does as a general rule.

      Poll respondents always favor nonspecific measures like "cutting government spending." Then it reverses when you ask about specific programs, especially the ones that actually cost a lot, like DoD and Social Security.

    • by quenda (644621)

      So if you ask the people how much to fund each item, it will add up to well over 100% of revenue?

      Of course it is inconceivable for the federal government to spend more than they receive.

      • by Nutria (679911)

        it will add up to well over 100%

        of current spending.

        of revenue?

        The Kobayashi Maru ploy only works when the other guy doesn't notice what you're doing.

  • by coyote_oww (749758) on Monday October 14, 2013 @05:21PM (#45126675)
    The problem is NASA's obsession with manned spaceflight. The best work is done unmanned, and it's way less expensive. Toss the astronaut suits and use the whole budget for unmanned missions.

    Manned spaceflight only makes sense with a huge breakthrough in propulsion. Otherwise, there is no where to go where a human being would be useful enough to make it worthwhile. As it stands, manned flight serves only to fulfill fanboy Star Trek fantasies.

    Until then, I will be a techie steadfastly against more NASA spending. Its not just the general public you need to convince, its at least some of the STEM people too.
    • by Nutria (679911)

      The best work is done unmanned

      For the first 30 years of NASA, though, computers weren't small and powerful enough. Thus the focus on manned flight.

      Now they have to change that mindset, but it's an incredibly deep way of thinking, and government agencies aren't that well known for their ability to change... :(

      • For the first 30 years of NASA, though, computers weren't small and powerful enough. Thus the focus on manned flight.

        Nonsense. Pioneer, Mariner, Voyager, etc. All the Earth-observation sats. Even Apollo sample return was within reach of an unmanned program, given the Luna 16 sample return that occurred during the Apollo program. Humans did nothing in the first 30 years that unmanned missions couldn't, except being "humans in space".

        The only things humans are better than robots is in-orbit construction and fixing the robots. Two things that NASA is now avoiding like the plague in mission planning.

    • There is a pragmatic reason for continuing manned space flight: It is easier to get funding for it from the general public. It could even be that most robotic NASA missions are piggybacking on the manned space program for their funding.

      Having said this, is it really that bad that we spend money on manned space flight? Sure, some of it is wasted, but so is much of the money spent on defense, for example. We still get some scientific and technological benefit. The losses are a normal part of the way humans fu

    • Hello fool. If you want to see space funding, you must get Joe 6-pack interested. That means putting people in space. Additionally, all the tech that will solve the problems of manned space exploration will improve life here. Finally: ARE YOU EVEN SENTIENT?! Look, if you were sentient you'd know your chance of extinction is 100% unless you get off that cozy little wet rock. You're hundreds of thousands of years OVER DUE for a mass extinction event.

      How can anyone sentient be against manned space flight

  • It's never been about spending or how much - it's always about value, plain and simple ROI. NASA has always appeared needy, these days more than ever, and when someone gets noisy about needing funding, people get suspicious.

    Why is it NASA always wants just a bit more and their promised discovery is right around the corner? They get used to being funded and hate updating resumes for the private sector. No surprise there and no surprise tax payers mistrust funding them without end.
    • by Teancum (67324)

      Since you bring up ROI, I would have to agree that the money spent on Apollo has ultimately resulted in more money going into the American economy and in the long run far more economic activity from the resulting technology developed than if the money had simply been refunded to the tax payers for them to spend on Super Bowl tickets and other frivolous things. That said, how much of that kind of extreme cutting edge technology is being developed at NASA at the moment?

      Computer technology for NASA missions i

    • Nobody cares about ROI either (I'm sure NASA has a better than average ROI as government agencies go). Regardless of ROI or how much is spent, people are either for more or for less. Same thing with every other political topic. Ask someone if we should spend more or less on education and they will give you an answer. Ask them specifically, how much we should spend per child, or if we should spend the same on gifted, average, or special needs per child, and they have no idea. Ask them how much the milit
  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Monday October 14, 2013 @07:29PM (#45127785) Homepage

    20%? They're probably confusing it with the NSA.

    • NSA's budget is $10b. Less than NASA's $17b.

      Supposedly, the unpublished "black budget", for NSA/CIA/etc combined, is around $50b. But that's still only 1.5% of the Federal budget.

  • A repost of a Google+ post I wrote a year and some change ago [google.com]:

    ---

    From today forward, all federal government expenditures will be priced in "Iraq War Days" (IWD) or "Iraq War Years" (IWY). For quick reference:

    • - MSL mission w/ Curiosity rover: 3.5 IWD
    • - Cost of giving $10 to all 312M US citizens: 4.33 IWD
    • - 2012 "General Science, Space and Technology" budget: 43.04 IWD
    • - Cost of giving $100 to all 312M US citizens: 43.3 IWD
    • - 2012 Welfare budget: 210.3 IWD (0.6 IWY)
      • ~ Computed as 26% of the 2012 "Income Security" budget
      • ~ Includes TANF (22%) welfare, SNAP (70%) and WIC (8%) food stamps
      • ~ All ratios from 3rd party analysis of 2010 data; see "How much do we REALLY spend on Welfare? [snowcow.com]"
    • - 2012 "Medicare" budget: 672.9 IWD (1.8 IWY)
    • - Cost of giving $2250 to all 312M US citizens: 975 IWD (2.7 IWY)
    • - 2012 "National Defense" budget: 994.9 IWD (2.7 IWY)
    • - 2012 "Social Security" budget: 1081 IWD (3.0 IWY)
    • - 2012 Total budget: 4986 IWD (13 IWY)

    Source: "United States Federal budget, 2012" and "Mars Science Laboratory" pages on Wikipedia for budgets, google.com/publicdata [google.com] for US population, National Priorities Project via "Cost of War" Wikipedia page for IWD exchange rate.

    ---

    Something I didn't note in my original post that's probably worth mentioning in passing: Social Security is huge, "bigger than the National Defense budget" huge, but it's basically self-funding because it's a retirement investment paid for by payroll taxes (modulo population bumps, e.g. the post-WW2 "baby boom"). Person A pays in, person A cashes out, theoretical net cost to taxpayers $0.

  • by hibji (966961) on Tuesday October 15, 2013 @01:56AM (#45129631)

    If people knew the budget for the military, would they support it less?

  • by greggman (102198) on Tuesday October 15, 2013 @05:33AM (#45130405) Homepage

    I'd really like to see someone start OSSEA, the Open Source Space Exploration Association. Get Neil Degrasse Tyson as the spokesperson and a few other space and science luminaries and use kickstarter or similar to find each project. Accept volunteers. Put all data collected online.

    No idea if it would work but I use would be neat to see them try. I'd donate money and possibly donate time as well being open source

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