Almost a year ago, in February 2012, Zero Hedge decided to "think outside the box" and take Keynesianism and post-Chartalism (or whatever three letter acronym it is better known as these days) to their absurd, thought-experimental limits with "A Modest Proposal To Boost US GDP By $852 Quadrillion: Build The Imperial Death Star" - a suggestion that instead of growing US debt in dribs and drabs (because as any Ivy league tenured econ Ph.D will tell you, "debt is wealth"), that the US should go the whole hog and just splurge some $852 quadrillion in new debt (don't worry, MMT says that's just a token, no pun intended, amount) to build an Imperial Death Star, a project that would immediately hike US GDP by a factor of 56,000 and create several trillion new jobs, ensuring economic utopia in perpetuity, not to mention galactic dominance. We were mostly joking. We also assume that the creator of a White House petition launched in November to "Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016" was also mostly joking. However, as that petition promptly accumulated well over 34,000 signatures, the White House had no choice but to respond. Here are the White House's thoughts on becoming the next iteration of the Galactic Empire (and, by implication, Barack Obama becoming Emperor Palpatine reincarnated).
This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For
By Paul Shawcross
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
- The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
- The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
- Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?
However, look carefully (here's how) and you'll notice something already floating in the sky -- that's no Moon, it's a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We've also got two robot science labs -- one wielding a laser -- roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo -- and soon, crew -- to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.
Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we've got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we're building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.
We don't have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.
We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country's future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.
If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget