America In Space

Keith Cowing is pessimistic.

I’m not. NASA isn’t able to lead, but America will continue to.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of which…

Falcon Heavy On The Pad

Launch now NET Jnuary 15th, with static engine test on Saturday. That will be impressive by itself, even without a lift off. If it’s successful, chances of a successful launch go way up. I suspect the biggest uncertainty is plume interaction between the cores, and that will resolve it.

Limiting State And Local Tax Deductions

Yes, it is a big f**king deal.

We accelerated our property tax payment to get it in this year, before the limit hits next year. This will cost us, but I hope it has the effect of finally reining in the tax-hungry politicians in Sacramento. It might even make it a useful campaign issue to get a few more Republicans into the legislature.

[Wednesday-morning update]

States trying to come up with new schemes to get around the limits.

Anything except actually reducing spending.

Polar From The Cape

A few weeks ago, the commander of Vandenberg said that he was facing competition from Florida. I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but apparently, they’ve found a southerly corridor that will allow them to get to high inclination from the Cape.

Also, though no one is talking about this yet, reusable first stages will probably allow inland spaceports with a high range of azimuths at some point.

On The Road Again

We left Denver yesterday, and drove down to Taos. Unfortunately, the galleries were closed; I guess it was considered too chilly to keep them open even on a Friday night in holiday season. But the plaza was decorated, and it was lovely. Heading to Phoenix this evening to stay with Patricia’s sister, then back to LA in time for New Year’s Even tomorrow.

The Budget “Reform” Act

Now that they’ve started to tackle taxes, it’s time for the Republicans to fix this as well:

As any student of political behavior might have predicted, both parties have learned to game these systems. Obamacare and the tax bill provide many examples.

Democrats got the CBO to count the revenue generated by Obamacare’s Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, or CLASS, Act taxes, fully aware that program’s postponed and unsustainable costs would never be incurred. Republicans likewise took some $300 billion of savings, suddenly available when CBO revised its clearly mistaken estimates of costs of repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate, to pay for tax cuts it couldn’t otherwise get.

This is not a criticism of CBO, which has remained properly nonpartisan and which was designed to estimate revenue flows, not personal choices — such as how many young people would rather pay small individual mandate penalties rather than expensive Obamacare health insurance premiums.

It’s a criticism of the notion that you can create neutral rules that will guide elected politicians to desired results. Politicians and the voters they represent have policy goals they believe important and they have their own ways — fallible, but subject to criticism and debate — to estimate the likely effects of particular policies.

My observation over the years is that systems intended to be failsafe are sure to fail. Forty years of the Budget Control Act regime and 30 years of the opaque Byrd Rule (which allows some Senate measures to pass with 50 votes while others require 60) have shown that both parties have figured out how to game the rules enough to foil those the intended purposes.

The notion that anyone, let alone the CBO, can with any accuracy predict the effects of changes in tax rates and other incentives over a decade is absurd.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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