Today we consider the political economics of establishing a permanent colony on the moon, the price offered by disgraced former Congressman and rehabilitated presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in exchange for victory in Tuesday's Florida Republican primary.
In his quest to convince us he is the best man to return our nation to fiscal sanity, Newt made the astute observation that space exploration is to Florida what ethanol is to Iowa. Recognizing a good deal when he sees one, the handsomely-paid Freddie Mac historian promised the rump space-industrial complex, moldering in its misty memories of federal largesse, a return to glory along with a permanent seat at the federal budget smorgasbord.
Given the suicidal inclinations of the Republican base, this kind of shameless pandering might just tip the balance.
I'd like to make a counter-offer that will better serve the American people, while incidentally protecting the Republican Party from self-immolation. It's an unusual proposition but I bet we could get Mitt Romney to sign off on the deal despite the need to compromise his principles, as if he had any. Let's agree to establish a moon colony provided Gingrich agrees to drop out of the Presidential race. In return, we can appoint Newt the first Emperor of the Moon, a job for which he is manifestly suited.
Psychohistorically satisfying but far too expensive, you say? Nonsense. We can get Hollywood to underwrite the entire expedition.
Manned exploration of space was initially sold to the American people as a way to prove that American Capitalism was superior to Soviet Communism. Why we needed to go to the moon rather than to any supermarket to make that point is one of the great mysteries of history. Yet even critics have to admit, it was good fun until NASA ran out of other people's money.
Given the rapidly vanishing solvency of the U.S. government, there is only one sustainable source of financing for future manned space missions, and it isn't Uncle Sam. Once Hollywood gets over its disappointment that their favorite unelectable caricature was not selected to lead Republicans into the wilderness, assuring us four more years of Barack Obama's stewardship, the smart media money will line up behind a plan to create the largest, most expensive, and potentially most successful reality TV program ever conceived.
Title it - Megalomaniac on the Moon.
Donald Trump might object to being passed over for the leading role, and can be expected to cause trouble by threatening to launch a rival show. So Newt would be wise to name The Donald to be his HR manager, putting him in charge of recruiting volunteers, as well as firing any that get out of line. To save money while permanently solving the festering Newt problem, all flights can be made one-way. After all, why would anyone want to return to the intractable mess we've created here on earth given the opportunity to live under the wise leadership of Emperor Gingrich the First, unencumbered by silly inconveniences like a legislature, a Supreme Court, or the Constitution?
Just think of the entertainment possibilities. Season One: The Fundraising, where Newt sells shares in the nascent production to the millionaires and billionaires that have already bought shares in his presidential campaign. Wouldn't it be fun to wire the great debater for sound and go behind the scenes to learn more about the kind of people that actually give him money?
Season Two: The Design, where Newt instructs the assembled engineers and scientists hired to build the spaceship cum orbital studio to his specifications. Watch them put the set of the Jersey Shore to shame.
Season Three: The Voyage, keeping viewers around the world glued to their TVs soaking up every detail from liftoff to landing - one small step for a man, one giant leap for the man who would be king.
Season Four: The Resupply, where a national online plebiscite is held to determine whether the colonists should be sent fresh provisions or be left to fend for themselves.
Last Season: When the Oxygen Runs Out, a fitting finale for the improbable Gingrich comeback.
There are, of course, many details to consider. The United Nations has already lodged a protest against Newt's intentions to make his new moon colony the 51st state, complaining that this violates international law. Perhaps these esteemed diplomats from the world's great kleptocracies can be mollified by offering their relatives lifetime free parking in New York City, along with the first condemnation of Israel from the moon. And, of course, Congressional Democrats that might object would have to be log-rolled, perhaps by agreeing to let NPR broadcast pledge marathons from the lunar surface. But have no fear, once the broad outline is settled, a price can surely be found to convince every holdout politician.
So stay tuned for the next episode of the lunar adventures of Newt, coming soon to a pay-per-view station near you. Who says America can't innovate?