Billionaires are so on Earth

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former lawyer, is the host of the daily SiriusXM radio show “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow it @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers. See more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN) – Another day, another billionaire in space. At least that’s what it feels like. On Saturday, we saw billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX spacecraft collapse after a three-day trip personally funded by Jared Isaacman, a billionaire who was joined on the flight by three other civilians. Prior to the trip, the estimated cost was $ 55 million per seat.

In July, we saw two more billionaires heading for the clouds aboard their own rockets: Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic flight was closely followed by billionaire Jeff Bezos on his Blue Origin spacecraft.

Billionaires are apparently so bored with planet Earth that they need to fly into space for fun. In the meantime, there are still parts of New Jersey that I haven’t visited yet!

Fueling today’s “space race” among the ultra-rich seems to be a combination of ego and potential profit. Branson’s Virgin Galactic has already sold around 600 tickets to people willing to pay the cost of a house to be passengers on future flights. I’m serious: the price per Virgin Galactic ticket is between $ 200,000 and $ 250,000, which is not much less than the median price of a house in the United States.

To be frank, before Covid-19, maybe these billionaires fighting over building future space colonies or Mars naming rights wouldn’t have bothered me so much. But as Americans suffered from a deadly pandemic with shortages of basic needs, billionaires are said to have increased their fortunes by 54%.

Bezos, according to an analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies’ Inequalities Program, saw his wealth grow from $ 113 billion to $ 178 billion between March 2020 and March 2021. And even worse, a recent report from ProPublica has revealed that the richest among us weren’t paying. close to their fair share of taxes. Bezos, according to ProPublica, paid a “true tax rate” of 0.98% between 2014 and 2018, while Musk paid only 3.27% in taxes during the same period. All of this really makes this selfish space race even harder to encourage.

What a contrast to the original “space race” that began in the 1950s, which pitted the United States against its Cold War rival, the Soviet Union. In 1957, the Soviets made history by launching the first satellite into space. They quickly got past that in 1961 when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit the Earth.

The United States responded by creating its own space program in 1958, when President Dwight Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Then, on September 12, 1962, the race between the two Cold War warriors really took off when President John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech on America’s goal to send astronauts to the moon. here the end of this decade.

Kennedy told Americans that “we choose to go to the moon” not because it is “easy” but because it is “difficult”. Kennedy vowed “to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills” as the Americans embarked on “the most dangerous, the most dangerous and the greatest adventure that man has ever known” . Seven years later, that dream came true when American astronaut Neil Armstrong made history by stepping on the moon. It was a moment of great national pride.

Our country’s commitment to space travel, however, went far beyond competition with a Cold War enemy. In fact, it has benefited us all with groundbreaking discoveries in health and science. For example, space shuttle missions have helped develop better techniques for monitoring the heart as well as instruments for measuring bone strength. And for the past 20 years, astronauts aboard the International Space Station – orbiting some 250 miles above our planet – have worked for our good on Earth, including using cameras developed by NASA in the space station to support the response to natural disasters. both in the United States and abroad.

Compare that to the current “moon race” going on in federal court, pitting Jeff Bezos against Elon Musk. The two richest people on this planet (and I’m betting all the planets in our solar system) are fighting over a contract with NASA to send astronauts back to the moon. These two wealthy titans wanted their respective companies to get the contract, but NASA chose Musk’s SpaceX. This did not suit Bezos, which led his company to file a federal lawsuit in August, claiming that the contract was unfairly awarded to Musk’s company. There is currently an October 12 deadline for the court to respond to the allegations.

Maybe there will be benefits of the billionaire space race that trickle down to the rest of us. But the current battle of the billionaire boy’s club just makes us more aware that the gap between the rich and the rest of us is growing as wide as the distance between our planet and a billionaire’s flying spaceship. And that cannot be good for our society in the long run.

This story first appeared on CNN.com ‘Billionaires are so on Earth


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