Don’t Miss the Biggest Space Launch This Week Since the First Moon Landing

With everything else going on in the world, this week’s American space launch with two astronauts aboard a private commercial space ship is a huge historical event that is getting too little attention. Let’s take a moment to soak up what is really happening here.

I was in Air Force pilot training when, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to become the first humans to set foot on the moon. Many other breakthroughs in space have flashed across worldwide news media over the 51 years since that phenomenon–Skylab, space shuttle, Mars rover missions, etc. But astronauts Doug Hurley’s and Bob Behnken’s flight to the Skylab this Wednesday crosses a historical threshold considered science fiction until recently.

Elon Musk, a South Africa born American, became a multi-billionaire from his ingenious entrepreneurial adventures with PayPal, Tesla, and other leading edge projects.

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In 2002, he founded SpaceX with the dream of becoming the first commercial transporter of people into the far reaches of space. Since the space race of the early 1960’s, all human space travel has been through the technology and funding of powerful governments, namely the US, Russia, and China. For six decades, the consensus of scientists and governments was to dismiss the idea of privately operated space travel. Meanwhile, Musk has been seriously developing a plan to travel to Mars.

With $100 million of his early fortune, the 49-year old led the SpaceX corporation in designing a family of launch vehicles and the multipurpose spacecraft, Dragon, over a span of seven years. On May 25, 2012, the unmanned Dragon docked with the Skylab in the first of 12 historic supply missions contracted by NASA after the US space shuttle retired in 2011. Space travel had become officially commercialized. However, our American astronauts shuttling to and from Skylab were still hitch-hiking on Russian spacecraft.

This Wednesday, May 27, weather permitting, NASA’s Hurley and Behnken will suit up and strap into Dragon for this unprecedented ride to Skylab. America will be back in the game with over-the-top fanfare. The two crewmen will ride from the remodeled crew quarters to the launch pad not in the typical nondescript government van but in the Elon Musk Tesla Model X electric car. Their space suits will be new one-piece Star-Wars-like fashion statements.

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Expect Musk to milk the significance of this day for all it’s worth.

America owned space travel through the latter half of the 20th century. Unfortunately, we somehow lost our ambition for leadership in the realm of space. America’s astronauts thumbing rides on Russia’s space vehicles has been shameful. In keeping with the American free market spirit, this week will mark the turning point of the reclaiming of our place in space–and rightly through non-government entrepreneurial tenacity. America is back!

Where Does This Magical Stimulus Money Come From?

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Americans have received over $2 trillion from “the government” with more to come. Since the government doesn’t earn money, but rather just redistributes the people’s earnings, this windfall is taken from somewhere that involves us. How are they doing it, how is it paid back, and what does in mean for you…and your children?

Following what is happening with the federal government’s unprecedented infusion of vast and unimaginable amounts of money into businesses and individuals is like the proverbial herding of cats. It is essentially impossible to understand every aspect of how this works, but the bottom line is we are borrowing from our future selves.

On March 27, 2020, Congress approved the expenditure of $2 trillion for businesses and individuals. Then on April 23, 2020, they passed an additional $484 billion for business and disaster relief. With more on the horizon, we will soon be approaching $3 trillion in government assistance to victims of the pandemic. In fact, Pelosi’s Democrats have just floated a proposal for yet another $3 trillion for states and local governments and another wave of individual payments. Of course, that amount is ludicrous, but a big chunk of it will probably fly. The entire 2020 federal budget is $4.7 trillion, so the stimulus already equates to over half of the annual budget. By the way, the $4.7 trillion budget is supported by only $3.6 trillion in tax revenues resulting in a $1.1 trillion planned budget deficit to be added to our national debt.

Let’s pause here for perspective. Just what does $3 trillion dollars look like? Well, if you stacked $3 trillion in $1.00 bills, it would be over 203,000 miles high or almost to the moon. Laid flat, the stack would circle around the equator 7 1/2 times. If you spent $1.00 per second, it would take you 96,000 years to spend $3 trillion.

So, where is this $3 trillion, and very likely much more, coming from? It’s complicated, but let’s look at it in general terms. The federal government sells government bonds, or IOU’s, to banks which in turn sell them to individual and corporate investors. Since these bonds have the government backing them, along with a reasonable interest rate, there is a decent market for them, especially in these uncertain times. The government will just sell more bonds that they will later have to pay for plus interest.

Now, the question is how does the government pay back the investor in principal and interest that they haven’t budgeted for. Some pundits say the US Treasury will simply print more money. That is not exactly true, although there is some sleight-of-hand here. The Federal Reserve–the government bank–creates digital dollar credits that are as good as cash. These digital dollars will of course ultimately be called for by the bond holders, but, by that time, the government will hope to have enough revenues from taxes and future bond sales to pay the debt. Eventually, any shortfall in revenues to pay off the bonds will be paid by increasing the money supply, or literally printing more money. Unfortunately, printing more money lowers the value of the dollar and hurts the economy.

If you follow this cycle, it becomes obvious that all this stimulus spending will someday come back to haunt us and our future generations. Some of the stimulus money is in the form of loan guarantees that will not have to be spent. But the Congressional Budget Office estimates the bond obligations alone has added over $2 trillion to our national debt which bumped it up to over $25 trillion. Most economists agree that, when any nation’s debt exceeds its GDP–the sum of all annual production or spending in the economy–it should raise all kinds of red flags. Last year’s GDP was $21.7 trillion. Some financial analysts calculate the national debt as $19 trillion, since $6 trillion of it is what the government owes itself. Either way, we must ensure that our long-term position of debt is well below GDP.

I don’t disagree that the stimulus was absolutely necessary to rescue and resuscitate our economy. Perhaps some more is needed. The idiom, drastic times call for  drastic measures, applies here. However, we must be very cautious about future stimulus packages and very conscious of the inevitable payback. I would like to see your thoughts on this.

 

The Unprecedented Melded Families of Eisenhower and Nixon: Where Are They Now?

Eisonhower and Nixon

INTRODUCTORY NOTE: Every blogger who has posted for some years has a few “sugar plum” posts that have been a big hit among his or her readers. I have a few, but one has risen far above any other. This one, from exactly three years ago, was somewhat outside my normal theme but continues to garner readers every day as they discover it in the archives. There has never been a day in three years that my stats didn’t show several views of this post. So, I thought I would re-post it in case you missed it.

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A seemingly nondescript millennial nurse in Ambler, Pennsylvania, has a distinction, shared by his two sisters, unmatched by anyone else in the history of America. He is the grandson and great-grandson of two unrelated U.S. Presidents. He and his two children are in-line descendants of not one, but two of the most powerful men in the history of the world in their day. Yet, Alex Eisenhower, 37, lives a quiet, shift-work life caring for behaviorally challenged children at a psychiatric clinic. Below is a wedding picture of Alex and his bride, Tara, and a recent picture of Alex.

Alexander and Tara Eisenhower's weddingAlexander Eisnehower now

During a visit to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library recently, I was intrigued by this president’s accomplished, but conflicted, presidency. My interest was also stirred by the bond between the Nixon family and the family of the man he served as VP, President Dwight Eisenhower. That bond was forged through an unprecedented marriage. When President Eisenhower’s grandson, David, married President Nixon’s daughter, Julie, in 1968, they started a blood line that would forever bring distinction to their descendants.

Eisenhower Family Tree (2)

As the family tree above shows, the marriage of David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon produce three children, Jennie, Alex (actually Alexander), and Melanie. Melanie just recently married. Christopher Cox is a cousin in their generation from the marriage of President Nixon’s other daughter, Tricia, to Edward Cox.  However, Alex is the only grandchild/great-grandchild of the two presidents who continues the Eisenhower name. His father, David, born in 1948, was in the Navy Reserve and is now a professor of public policy at the University of Pennsylvania. His grandfather, John, born in 1922, was a brigadier general in the Army Reserve, an author, and a political appointee. John died in 2013. Pictured below are David and Julie (left) and John and second wife, Joanne (right).

David and Julie Eisenhower nowJohn and Barbara Eisenhower

President Eisenhower’s son, John, had a successful military and political career, and I believe both David and Alex could have easily lived in the limelight as well. With even average intelligence and reasonable people skills, they could have ridden the heritage of the Eisenhower name into the flag ranks of the military or the top seats in Washington, D.C. Alex, with both presidents in his recent ancestry could have written his own ticket to fame and fortune. Instead, he cares for children whose parents likely don’t even know who he is in Pennsylvania’s Horsham Clinic that few have ever heard of. You know, there is just something really classy about that. If your heart doesn’t match the expectations of  everyone else, follow your heart.

Oh, but remember there is yet another generation. Alex and Tara have two little Eisenhowers–a daughter, Kaia, 10, and a son, Kaeden, 4. Who knows, 30 years from now America might hear the breaking news, “Congressman Kaeden Eisenhower, great-great-grandson of President Dwight Eisenhower and great-grandson of President Richard Nixon, has just announced his candidacy for President. His sister, Kaia Eisenhower, just recently became the youngest general officer in the U.S. Army.”

 

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