Ross: Convincing billionaires that Earth is more exciting than space

Sep 20, 2021, 5:58 AM | Updated: 10:04 am
In this image provided by SpaceX, a capsule carrying four people parachutes into the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast on Sept. 18, 2021. The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut. (SpaceX via AP)
(SpaceX via AP)

Congratulations on another successful spaceflight for SpaceX. This time, four non-professional astronauts successfully splashed down after being sent into Earth’s orbit in a previously used space capsule set on top of a previously used rocket booster, which kept the cost of the flight below $200 million, less than half the cost of a space shuttle flight.

While you have every right to question whether this is a socially responsible way to spend money, Elon Musk is proving that it’s possible for a private company to build a space-worthy rocket for less money than the government could – and that his capsule can fly higher than Bezos’ capsule.

It’s only fair to acknowledge that what makes this possible is America’s tax system, which allows people like Musk and Bezos to get rich enough to do things that once upon a time only governments could do.

I know there are people who think it’s gone way too far; they want to impose higher taxes on the rich to pay for infrastructure.

But maybe there’s an easier way to achieve that goal. There has to be. Because, if you saw the New York Times story over the weekend about who actually writes the tax loopholes, you know that accounting firms have figured out how to plant sympathetic accountants in the Treasury Department to make sure their client’s wealth is protected from the wolves.

So instead of trying to tax billionaires, why not find a way to motivate them to want to spend their money on something besides just space? We have to excite them with something shinier.

I have the three words that will do just that: Competitive. Freeway. Repair.

It’s a freeway smackdown. Jeff Bezos doing the northbound lanes of I-5 versus Elon Musk on the southbound lanes.

They could develop self-healing concrete that never cracks, glow-in-the rain highway paint, bridges that snap together like Legos …

If we could just persuade them that Earth travel can be just as exciting as space travel, they would voluntarily unleash those billions on projects that would speed up the commutes of millions of people, and earn the undying love of a once-resentful middle class.

Once that’s done? Competitive Affordable Housing.

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Ross: Convincing billionaires that Earth is more exciting than space