The Biden Administration was sworn in on a message of “America is already great!” The forty-sixth president also promised to “believe science!” Yet, under Biden’s leadership as my colleague at the Heritage Foundation, James Carafano pointed out recently, Biden has already done immense damage to America’s energy independence, blue-collar jobs, and potentially other aspects of its national greatness that have been enhanced over the previous four years of Donald Trump’s spasmodic and unpredictable presidency.
In my Washington Times op-ed, entitled Biden Cancels Elon Musk’s Space Adventures, I wrote about the suspicious timing of the Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA) decision to cancel the necessary launch of SpaceX‘s heavy-lift prototype rocket, better known as Starship, while it was on its launchpad. As Musk tweeted afterward: the FAA’s last minute decision cost his company millions of dollars.
After several days of wondering “why” the government would do something as caustic as canceling a previously scheduled and funded launch of a major rocket–when under the previous Trump Administration such launches were not only ignored by the FAA but downright encouraged–I speculated that it had to do with three factors.
The first factor was the fact that, as evidenced by White House Press Secretary Jen Psiaki’s recent comments, the Biden Administration does not prioritize fighting and winning the new space race with China as the previous Trump Administration did (though, I’ve heard through the grapevine that there is, in fact, a true battle shaping up within the Biden Administration between those who do think we must wage the new space race against China and those who believe “Orange Man Bad.”)
As I argue in my top-selling book, Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), the space program–civilian and military alike–is a nationalistic endeavor. And Musk’s SpaceX has played a primary role in furthering that purely American endeavor…giving the United States a major advantage over the Chinese.
At present, China cannot depend on the robust innovation of private companies the way that the United States can (although, China is quite innovative and has, I believe, figured out how to deploy state capitalism to great effect against the Americans).
The second factor that I argued in the piece pertained to space sovereignty. This area of space law is highly contentious. The United States has entered into a series of treaties since 1969, notably the Outer Space Treaty, that complicates the ability for a nation or private corporation to lay claim to territory in space.
In my book, I call for a rewriting of the Outer Space Treaty to allow for the inevitable and natural human desire to lay claim to resource-rich and strategic territory. For their part, China will respect no treaty that hems them in. Nor will most other vibrant countries. It is only the United States that choses to rely so heavily on outdated and self-destructive treaties.
The Biden Administration took umbrage with Elon Musk’s statement last year that, if SpaceX did place humans on Mars before anyone else, the potential colony “would not be ruled by Earth-based laws.” As someone who has spoken with representatives with the Biden Administration on this matter recently, I know that they were concerned over the legality of Musk’s claims (especially because he just might be the first person to take humans to the Red Planet).
As per SpaceX‘s contract with the United States government, Musk is obligated to adhere to U.S. laws and preferences when operating. Thus, the idea that a SpaceX founded Martian colony wouldn’t be an explicitly American affair troubled the new administration.
The last factor, undoubtedly, was Elon Musk’s public support for the anonymous, individual activist-investors who used Reddit to coordinate a massive hit on Melvin Capital and other hedge funds attempting to short the stock price of Gamestop, the brick-and-mortar retailer that has sold video game products since I was a kid.
Had the hedge funds succeeded, they’d have likely brought the entire company down. Musk’s support for the Redditors has given them cover to begin targeting other stocks to save from the billionaire hedge funders…meaning that Musk was threatening many powerful interests–who also were huge supporters of the Biden campaign.
Imposing previously unenforced FAA launch regulations on SpaceX at the last-minute was a signal, as I argued in The Washington Times. The Biden team, I believe, is using the force of its regulatory power to ensure that Musk, a notorious Tony Stark-like wildcard, to march to their fife.
I’ve received a hilarious amount of pushback from space experts–most of whom also live by the “Orange Man Bad” creed. Again, as you can tell from previous writing at this site, I believe Trump’s presidency went off the rails in 2020 and he deserved to lose.
But there are still things he did–notably his space policy–which should not only be preserved but expanded upon by Biden’s team. Yet, I cannot help but to wonder if Trump had enforced FAA launch regulations on SpaceX as randomly and in such a brazen fashion as Biden did, how these same space experts would’ve reacted (they’d have gone apeshit, calling Orange Man a “science denier.”)
After failing to give Musk any reason for their infringement on his company’s operations (which serve the United States both economically and strategically), the FAA opted to reverse their ban on his launch. Nothing had changed in what Musk wanted to do and what the FAA wanted. What had changed is that Musk had been punished. He’d lost millions of dollars and uncertainty was injected into his operations.
Remember, those who are regulating SpaceX have never actually built anything in their lives. What’s more, as someone who has briefed FAA leaders over the last few years, I know for a fact that the same bureaucrats who struck down Musk’s launch last week emphatically told me in 2018 that they “didn’t want touch SpaceX with a ten-foot pole.” The one senior FAA administrator I spoke with at Capitol Hill back then, insisted that FAA hand off launch regulations to a new organization that better understood what Musk was doing.
Nevertheless, the FAA imposed its fickle will on a company whose leader has perpetrated an egregious Thought Crime by supporting the Redditors who threatened the financial stability of many billionaires on Wall Street. And we cannot have that!
Many of my readers still doubt me. That’s fine. But let’s go down this dangerous trail a bit further.
Not long after Musk’s support of the Redditors, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cracked down in a big way on Musk’s other major property, Tesla, demanding the recall of 135,000 Tesla Model S’s that were built between 2012-18 and some Model X’s that were built between 2016-18. The reason? Some of the touchscreens in these models that are essential for rearview mirror operations and other basic safety operations of any vehicle may be on the fritz and, if not resolved, might cause some accidents (emphasis on “might”).
Again, like the FAA’s decision to cancel the recent Starship launch out of an amorphous overabundance of caution for public safety, the Biden Administration’s NHTSA is doing the same by enforcing a major recall of 135,000 Tesla vehicles forthwith.
There is an element of serious concern that, I believe, is being enmeshed in a greater political move by the Biden team and their moneyed supporters who seek to put Musk in his place. Remember, every ding against Tesla only serves to damage a corporation that has made reducing carbon emissions and expanding America’s energy independence (while forcing modernizations to America’s ailing electrical grid) its primary mission.
Just as damaging SpaceX damages America’s overall attempt to beat China in the new space race, harming Tesla with overzealous government regulation harms the fight to innovate new energy technology.
Lastly, The Daily Wire has reported that the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice has announced a major investigation into the fact that Musk’s companies prefer to hire American workers over foreign-born workers.
Oddly enough, in 2018, the fact that Musk’s companies were American-based, with products proudly built within the United States, and built by mostly American workers, was one of the key reasons for why the Department of Defense awarded major contracts to Musk’s companies. This seems like an idiotic move by the DoJ. And it seems disingenuous, since being American-based, American-produced, and American-staffed companies has been one of Musk’s most public exhortations for why he deserves sensitive contracts over his competitors.
It’s yet another bullshit excuse from the Biden Administration to stick it to Musk’s properties. Again, there are a few reasons for why this might be the case–none of them good. The support of the Redditors is one of the most obvious reasons. Asserting control over Musk is another.
Certainly, the prospect of a company like SpaceX winning US government contracts; operating off of US taxpayer dollars, going to Mars or somewhere else in space, setting up a colony, and then refusing to have that colony be an American entity is a matter of concern.
But there is a way to handle that issue, as I told the Biden people I spoke with, that will allow for Musk to continue innovating on America’s behalf. We need Musk. Everyone know it. Each time the Biden team cracks down on Musk over these silly issues, the American people lose.
Musk is already a fabulously wealthy individual. While he doesn’t like to lose money, it’s not him who directly, financially suffers from these whimsical government crackdowns. It’s his employees. It’s the country that needs his innovation to leapfrog the Chinese and other international competitors.
There is much, much more going on behind the scenes when it comes to these overzealous government crackdowns on Musk’s operations. We need less government regulation of these dynamic industries so as to ensure that America remains competitive and can leapfrog the leap-without-looking mentality that pervades China’s high-tech research and development program.
The Biden Administration is only harming the country with these moves. And it is for the pettiest reasons imaginable. This is strange for an administration that ran on a platform of respecting science (Musk’s properties further our understanding of science) and on the notion that America is already great (our space and overall science and technology sectors are key factors in our continued national greatness and should be encouraged not diminished).
Let’s hope these silly games stop soon. Otherwise, it’ll be China’s flag we see flying on the moon and Mars.
Brandon J. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon and via Clubhouse @wethebrandon.
Be sure to purchase Brandon’s newest book, WINNING SPACE: HOW AMERICA REMAINS A SUPERPOWER on Amazon and other online retailers!