Here's Richard Stevenson of The New York Times on the State of the Union address (emphasis added):
[President Obama was] building a broader argument that the nation needs to shift away from the focus on shrinking the government that has dominated politics for the past several years and toward a modestly more activist agenda aimed at tackling persistent inequality and the dislocating forces of a globalized, technology-driven economy.I think the president really should have proposed a mission to Mars last night -- a big, wasteful, pork-filled multi-year boondoggle of a mission to Mars, or to Mars and far beyond. Protecting Medicare, raising the minimum wage, increasing funding for early childhood education? Liberal, liberal, liberal; easy for the right to sneer at. But a big, expensive renewal of the space program? The arrested development cases who turned to Ayn Rand in adolescence because Rand seemed sort of like a sci-fi writer, and who never grew up afterward, would have a hard time denouncing something like that as liberal, hippy-dippy Big Government.
At the same time, Mr. Obama explicitly recognized the political and policy limitations of his stance after four years of budget deficits in excess of $1 trillion and broad public unease about saddling future generations with a crippling debt burden. There was no new stimulus plan, no mission to Mars, no ambitious plan to address the hangover from the housing market crash.
A massive pork-filled space mission would function exactly like the alien invasion Paul Krugman has long said would lift us out of our economic doldrums: we'd spend money and employ people getting stuff designed, built, and deployed in order to get the mission accomplished. The difference between these scenarios and the conventional liberal ones outlined by Obama is that quasi-militaristic scenarios involving outer space make overgrown eleven-year-old boys feel cool and tough and manly and heroic. And that pretty much covers most of the GOP and the Beltway establishment, right?
I don't think they'd oppose it. I don't think they'd even demand offsets for it.
So, yeah, let's go for it.