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Guest: Dr. Greg Autry; Topics: We focused on three topics: The upcoming ISDC Conference, space budgets, spending and the US national debt, and the Chinese space and lunar policy plus US concerns about China and space and the Mon.
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We welcomed Dr. Greg Autry back to the show for a one segment 64 minute discussion regarding the NSS ISDC Conference, NASA budgets and space spending given the size of the US national debt, and China with its space, lunar plans and goals, plus US concerns about China. Please note that during our discussion, our guest suggested many websites as follow up for your added information. Regarding ISDC, all the information you need to know regarding ISDC, including making reservations, can be found at https://isdc2019.nss.org. During our economic discussion, a listener asked our guest about teaching an online economics course for members of Congress. Dr. Autry then told us about the free macro and micro economic classes available online by Dr. Peter Navarro. I posted that information with links to the blog for this show. If you want to learn more about economics, I strongly suggest taking advantage of these free courses. As part of our discussion about China and US concerns regarding Chinese behavior and space plans, Dr. Autry provided me with several supporting documents. I put the links to the documents on the blog plus I posted 2018 PDF paper regarding China and the WTO. You will find the paper on this archive site. Please let me know if you have any difficulties in accessing this information.
We started our discussion talking about the upcoming ISDC conference in Alexandria, VA (Pentagon area) June 5-9, 2019. Dr. Autry went mentioned some of the main speakers, he highlighted the space policy track on Wednesday, June 5, plus we talked conference logistics, family tours of the area, hotel reservations, student programs and more. NASA Administrator Bridenstine and Dr. Scott Pace were specifically mentioned as were the luncheon and dinner speakers. Please follow along on the ISDC website per the URL above.
Following the ISDC discussion, I asked our guest about the increasing US National debt, nearing $23 trillion and how we could afford space programs including returning to the Moon, especially since NASA is part of the discretionary budget. Dr. Autry is an economist so he had much to say on the debt issue. One point he made was that it was actually about $100 trillion worse than the number I used because he added in the unfunded debt. He told us how to find this figure by visiting the US National Debt Clock site, https://www.usdebtclock.org and looking on the bottom line for the US Unfunded Liabilities GAAP. Greg explained the significance of the unfunded liability.
Our guest took us through the a short history of Social Security and Medicare, noting the average life expectancy at the time these programs were passed into law. He also noted their expectations in growth after a few years but then he outline what really happened which was beyond all reasonable expectations at the time and even of today. This is a most interesting statistical analysis that impacts our debt and spending. Don't miss it.
Greg included infrastructure, NASA and DoD expenditures in a group of expenditures that he considered investments and stated that they return an investment to the country far more valuable than what we pay for them, even with borrowed funds. He cited several examples of this but one key example was GPS and the trucking industry. Don't miss this discussion. We did get several listener emails addressing this general line of discussion. You will want to hear how Greg responded, especially to those questions asking what happens to the NASA expense as an investment when funds continue to be borrowed regarding popularly discussed programs such as student loan debt forgiveness, universal healthcare, and universal income. Greg responded to the student loan issue and had much to say about saying everyone needed a college education and taking out huge loans to afford it. He suggested there had been misleading and possibly dishonesty in pushing the college degree over trades and other vocations. He cited several trades, electrical as an example, where people could earn very high salaries and make good livings, often more than they make with a college education with the need to pay back a large student loan. Don't miss all of what Greg had to say on these matters. Let us know what you think by posting your comments on our blog. Before we ended this economic discussion, our guest pointed out that as long as interest rates remained low, it was still profitable to borrow for space, infrastructure, and DoD as those expenditures would still produce a positive return for government. Should low interest rates cease, the return might be reduced or even eradicated. Before moving on, our gust focused on the amount of interest we pay on the debt which today is about 10% of our spending. As rates go up, so will the amount of interest we pay go us as it is variable. Depending how rising interest costs are funded, even investment programs could be put at risk.
The last topic for our discussion was China and space. As you will hear, this was and is a complicated subject. I suggest you read Greg's Foreign Policy article (see our blog for the link to it) as it clearly outlined the concerns our guest has about China, space, returning to the Moon, commercial space efforts, rocketry, rocket launchers, mobile ICBMs, conduct and behavior, low price marketing with dumping, plus espionage and hacking. During our roughly 25 minute discussion, our guest cited many examples to support his concerns, not just in space but in industry where he focused on their low price product strategy and dumping. He mentioned specific industries of concern including earth imagery, solar power panels, running higher priced businesses out of business through pricing and trade practices and then acquiring failed businesses for pennies on the dollar. He said everything was done by the government or agencies of the Chinese government. Greg talked about the Chinese Communist Party and its hold on businesses, technology, and space along with individuals. The documents Dr. Autry sent me to post on the blog support what our guest was saying and his concerns. Listeners representing different perspectives about China did send in questions for Greg. Bill sent in a note saying China signed the OST, there had been no violations so why the concerns? Don't miss what Dr. Autry said in response, citing examples of agreements that were not honored by China. Again, check out the material Dr. Autry sent me on this subject, all of which I posted on the blog.
As the segment was ending along with our show, our guest was specifically asked about the Chinese lunar goals. Greg expressed serious concern about China and the Moon so don't miss what he said. Carla sent in a note asking him about her hearing stories that Chinese students in the US were actually Chinese government agents. Greg went all out on this discussion, explaining just how many students and others were and are agents and how they are used by the Chinese governments. When asked what the US and businesses were doing about it, he said not much and that it was a very hard issue. Greg said there was much more awareness of the problem today than there was in the past. He also mentioned that not all students were agents and that many were exceptional students and very capable in the working positions Once again, listen to all of what our guest said on this subject so you don't miss anything. We would like to hear from you with your thoughts on these challenging issues.
For concluding comments, we reminded everyone about the upcoming ISDC Conference and the added material that I would be getting from our guest to upload to the blog. Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Autry on the blog for this show. You can reach Dr. Autry through me or his USC faculty page.