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Taxing Sci-Fi Products to Fund NASA? 608

LordNimon writes "According to an article in the Huntsville (AL) Times, Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for Congress, is proposing a 1% tax on any science fiction- or space-related products (e.g. books, toys, and games) and using that money to fund NASA. At first I thought this guy was crazy, considering the administrative nightmare of determining which products should be taxed. But then I realized something - this tax would make those who are most interested in space the primary source of space development funding. Instead of making everyone pay for NASA, those who care most about it also fund it the most. Maybe if the guy didn't work in a supermarket, he'd be taken more seriously."
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Taxing Sci-Fi Products to Fund NASA?

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  • Wrong! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:41AM (#3407198) Homepage Journal
    I read practically nothing but one sort of SF or another, and I'm not even vaguely interested in the space program. So why should *I* be taxed for it??

    • Agreed. Also, this is extremely vague. What do you do to books bordering on science fiction? Defining genres is almost never that exact. I am all for more funding for NASA, but this doesn't seem like a very well thought out way of doing it- too much ambiguity.
      • "Defining genres is almost never that exact." In fact our local library agrees with you so much on that that their sci-fi section is called sci-fi/ fantasy.
        • Bzzt- try again. Point is, the library is the entity that made the decision to place it in scifi. The problem is, the ambiguity lies in who decides how to classify the book? The government? The publisher? Obviously the government and the publisher are going to have different views here, so how do you settle this?
      • Re:Wrong! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:08AM (#3407316) Homepage Journal
        Exactly. Frex, what I read (and write) is mainly space opera. It takes place in space, or at least occasionally in space, but it really has nothing to do with space other than as a handy environment in which to set the story.

        George Clayton Johnson (co-author of LOGAN'S RUN) once asked me "What makes your books SF?" And my honest answer was: "Nothing. With a few tweaks, they could just as easily be medieval fantasy." Someday I may even rewrite 'em that way, just to see how it turns out.

        So.. which version gets taxed? the original? only the parts that take place in space? all derivative works (such as a fantasy reworking)??

        It's a dumb idea for a vague tax,and clear evidence that this guy hasn't seen enough of the Real World[tm] to have any business in public office, making decisions that impact other people's lives.

    • Re:Wrong! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Reziac ( 43301 )
      Equating an interest in SF with an interest in *FUNDING the space program* is at best specious, and since the article is based on a presumably serious candidate's notions, I have a hard time taking it as "funny".

      Let's turn it around: Geeky stuff should be taxed 1% per year and the funds thus collected should be paid to GeekPAC. Lessee, what to tax.. computers and components, software (let's tax free software by the byte) and interent access all fall under "geeky stuff".

      Oh, so the RIAA buys lots of computers and net access for their office workers, but doesn't appreciate being FORCED to support someone else's special interest group? Too bad.

      And as to starving geeks who can't afford yet another tax? Tough shit. Do without.

      [/sarcasm]

      As to the, um, freethinker who rated my initial comment as "flamebait" -- I wrote nothing but the exact truth. If you've got a convincing argument as to why I should be penalized with a special-interest tax, I want to hear it.

      Tellya what.. when I see Jerry Pournelle again (probably tomorrow, in fact) I'll ask him what HE thinks of such ideas. That oughta be good for a laugh.

      Taxes, once instituted, ALWAYS creep upward. Very much like erosions of civil liberties. Foot in the door, and all that.

    • Re:Wrong! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BrianGa ( 536442 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:22AM (#3407356)
      By your logic: "I work for a living and pay income tax, and am not even
      vaguely interested in the welfare program. So why should *I* be taxed for it??"
      Same could be applied for nearly every government program.
      • Well (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HanzoSan ( 251665 )
        The solution is to fund all government programslike that.

        Why should we be forced to have our money sent to airport companies for a bailout? We spent 20 billion dollars bailing them out!

        You are right, interest should decide how much is spent on where, however we dont have a true democracy, we are a republic and thats going against the nature of the government itself.

        You allow US to decide where the money goes, and most of the people in the government and congress will be out of a job.
        • Re:Well (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Reziac ( 43301 )
          What you're proposing is more like a use tax, except that with something that's not precisely tangible (such as the boundaries of SF), you also have to be the thought police to enforce it.

          And what if someone is rabidly interested in the space program, but NEVER has anything to do with SF? I know several folk of that bent. Are they tax evasionists who should be forced to buy SF to support their special interest?

          As to putting most of the gov't out of a job.. hmmmmm!!!

        • Re:Well (Score:2, Interesting)

          by sweetwayne ( 514359 )
          Yeah, so when you file every year, your W2 or whatever can have little checkboxes for line-item veto kind of thing. You check what you want to fund. Maybe someone doesn't want to fund national defense but would rather fund medicare, or whatever. Something like that should definitely be in place for social security IMHO. But like you said, thats too democratic.
          • Exactly!

            I'd rather have a complete democracy than a republic

            Republic is exactly the problem with government, if it is a democracy, then its no longer big brother, its us.
          • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:53AM (#3407485) Homepage Journal
            That makes much more sense -- same as the current checkbox to give an extra couple bucks to political campaigns. Why not add stuff like "Give $2 to NASA" or "Give $2 to local schools" or the like? that way anyone who wants to can do it, and those who don't, or can't afford it, don't get dinged.

            Ooops, did we mention sense and gov't together? Silly citizens, thinking they have a say in the gov't!

            • Re:Well (Score:3, Interesting)

              by hyrdra ( 260687 )
              That's not how it works. Checking that box doesn't cause you to get a lower return or increase the taxes you owe. It only affects the statistical percentage of tax allocation in the IRS -- more boxes equals more percentage of money going to the campaign. The $1 is a cap to make sure it doesn't get too large.

              Personally, I would like to see such a thing. Heck, I would like to see something like custom taxes, where you have a base of required stuff to pay, and then you have electives where you can have your say in the balancing of funds. Such a thing would actually encourage people to pay more taxes, because they would be more directly in control of where their money actually goes and what it's used for. This would encourage competition between government programs because they would literally be fighting for their funding. If we (the public) hear about the military buying more of the $500 toilet seats, less people will allocate a lot of money to them. If Medicare is beating up on the elderly again, less money to them. Eventually, they'll fail and be replaced by a new program. And so on the process of evolution...

              Doesn't that sound like a democratic way of taxing?
      • Re:Wrong! (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Reziac ( 43301 )
        But the average gov't program isn't funded as a special interest tax, with a logic of "just because you MIGHT be interested in the program."

        By this proposal's logic.. hmm, let's find a really broad example: Let's tax nonwhites to fund "Equal Opportunity" programs.

        Ooops, that'll really get 'em going :)

        • Re:Wrong! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by HanzoSan ( 251665 )
          No because that would be stupid

          If whites are the oppressors whites should pay for programs to solve problems THEY have caused.

          Its almost like the RIAAs idea of making IT industry solve their problem of piracy.
  • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:42AM (#3407201)
    Take 1% of Lucas et al's income from the Star Wars movies over the years.

    Probably end up about 15X NASA's budget :)

    • by MousePotato ( 124958 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:49AM (#3407238) Homepage Journal
      I agree. I always thought it would be cool to set up something like movie theaters charging a buck extra and kicking it out to NASA when showing a flick like Apollo 13, Star Wars, ET... I would do that, heck a few bucks that way would make for more scifi/sci history flicks at the box office. $0.25 would be cool on the rentals of this genre too.

      Only problem with this kind of thing is that once it gets started we'll be seeing a condom tax for sex flicks, needy kids tax for disney flicks, church reparations for demonic flicks, stoner tax on jay and silent bob flicks for drug rehab programs... where do you draw the line?
    • by John Miles ( 108215 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:03AM (#3407291) Homepage Journal
      ... you're closer to the truth than you probably realize. The budget on Brian de Palma's awful Mission to Mars [imdb.com] was US $90 million... more than 75% of the budget [nasa.gov] of an equally-flawed but substantially better-intended real-life mission.

      When Hollywood drops a bomb, nobody cares. When NASA loses a similar amount of money trying to advance human knowledge, it's practically the end of the world. Congressional inquiries are launched, indignant editorials are published, and modern-day Great Society pundits bemoan the tragic waste of funding that could have gone to their own pet causes.

      This is the unfortunate reality of publicly-funded space exploration. It's perhaps the ultimate embodiment of the "bread and circuses" social phenomenon that attended the fall of Rome. Never mind the urban myths -- think of the money NASA could have saved if they actually had hired Stanley Kubrick to stage the Apollo missions in the Nevada desert. Apparently, that would have been good enough for us.
      • No. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by DarkHelmet ( 120004 )
        Your reasoning here is flawed. Whenever Hollywood releases a movie that costs millions upon millions of dollars, the money doesn't come out of the taxpayer. It comes out of Corperations that finance the creation of the movie.

        If the movie flops, big deal. It's their loss of money. Nothing to cry over.

        On the other hand, if a Nasa mission fails, the millions of dollars that we, as taxpayers, have poured into the project has gone down the drain.

        Yes, you could argue that we ourselves finance Corperations that make lousy movies. But then, not only is this voluntary, but it they also happen to give us something back the moment we pour money into our cause. We get... Scarface (Brian De Palma isn't all bad)!

        On the other hand, it takes years for the money that we pour into the government to somehow trickle back to us. And when we do get part of that money, it hardly seems worth highway robbery we face each and every tax period. After millions spent on aid to other countries and welfare, what do we get back from the government that seems satisfying? A sex scandal now and then. That's it.

        That's why people get pissed every time something from NASA blows up.

        • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @06:12AM (#3408006) Homepage Journal
          Blockquoth the poster:

          And when we do get part of that money, it hardly seems worth highway robbery we face each and every tax period.

          You know, I guess I'm the last of the rubes, and proud of it. I don't feel "robbed" every April 15th. Yes, I'd love it if my tax bill could be (responsibly!) lowered, and yes, I cringe hearing about all the spending misfires and pork projects. But I am still proud to contribute to the "general welfare" of the United Stated. Government serves a noble purpose and government, like other things in this society, costs money. As Justice Holmes says, taxes are the price you pay for civilization. I look at the civilization we have built and I think the price is still low -- a few thousand dollars a year in exchange for personal liberty and the rule of law? A bargain by any measure.

          After millions spent on aid to other countries and welfare, what do we get back from the government that seems satisfying?

          Is this something out of Life of Brian? We get roads, and hospitals, and police protection. And emergency rescue teams and fire stations and national defense. And schools and universities and libraries. And agricultural development and city planning and trade deals. And of course the highest-quality scientific and technological research anywhere, ever, producing and funding such things as the Internet through which you post your screed and through which we suffer to read it.

          A sex scandal now and then. That's it.

          Well, now we get to the main cause of the trouble. If that's what you find "satisfying", then I am absolutely ecstatic that our government disappoints you. See beyond the animal and perhaps you won't be quite so dismissive.
          • Our society appears to be like Rome, but who exactly is running Rome? The Romans? Check this site out to see who is putting the horses in the Senate.

            www.opensecrets.org

            Yes. I totally agree with you about the world we live in. The rich and powerful will always run the current society, and pass that power on to their heirs... that is ALWAYS going to happen. If you check the website above carefully, you will see who is in charge of the henhouse. But the more the rich control society, the fewer opinions rule, and the more upset everyone becomes. If one person is a king and rules absolutely? Say hello to Mr. War. If you look at ALL wars, they are started by totalitarian regimes or totalitarian rulers.

            I am all too happy to pay taxes too, to live in this society. Call me nuts, but I am very happy that my offspring are not going to have a Kalashnikov against their head for a dissenting opinion.

            But at the same time I do not see taxes as being "the liberator." Like Rome, our society is peaceful because it is "ruled by the rabble," as the Romans would say. All great civilizations share this trait, even the Greeks. Fuck with the people because you're all powerful? We'll hang your ass or stab you out in front of the Senate. Get your ego involved and send our children to war because you have to prove you're a big dog? Then we'll kill you too. Take away our bread, movies, entertainment of choice, or anything we want for ourselves for your religious or personal motives? Say hello to the Guillotine.

            Taxes just levy the government. I have no problem with them, if they actually pay for some service. I would seriously resent giving the coffers of some Emir who spends it on polo ponies, breaking every religious law that put them in power, chasing international models, and then tells us we "need to kill" infidels (but obviously not after they have shagged all the hot infidels).

            Did you know that Saudi Arabia's diplomat to the USA has published poetry that speaks of the glorious suicide bombers on September 11th? Did you know that Saudi Arabia is so backwards that they let 12+ girls burn in a school fire because they didn't let the girls outside without proper coverings? They wouldn't let the fire department in because they might see girls without their "correct" garments on. Little girls screaming and burning alive, but you couldn't save them because of "the big God rules."

            I'm sorry, but I have only one thing to say about a society that praises killing innocents and enforces its dress code with lethal consequences. You can guess what that is.

            Those bastards are our real enemy, not just Osama. We should be taking those bastards out too. Why do I hate Saudi Arabia? One word: king.

            As you can tell, I have a definite opinion about how a king should be treated.

            I don't worry about the taxes so much as I worry about who's in charge.
    • Yeah, it's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure I like it as a precedent.

      Let's take this a step or two further and see how it could be applied in other areas.

      Taxing copies of 2000 Leagues Under the Sea to fund deep sea research.

      Taxing Rambo movies to fund military programs.

      Taxing copies of the Bible to fund christian charities.

      Taxing snow sports to fund research in Antarctica.

      It's just too contrived. Of course, it doesn't sound like it will get anywhere near Washington anyway.
  • Well, another idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by usermilk ( 149572 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:44AM (#3407211)
    Why not just take a portion of the sales tax used on Science Fiction products and move that towards NASA? Instead of 8.25% sales tax going torwards my state, 7.25% gets to them and 1% gets to NASA?
    This could work for all products, 1% of food taxes (junk food, sodas) can go towards the FDA, 1% of medical taxes can go towards hospitals. I think it would be nice, the State and Gov't still get their taxes and we are sure some of it goes to those who might need it.
    • Here's another idea: Instead of having a plethora of specified taxes on various products going to a multitude of different agencies, why not have a unified sales tax. This allows the government to redistribute the money to different organizations as needed, with a minimum amount of hassle. Oh wait, that's already how it works. I think it's fine then.
  • by valdezjuan ( 83925 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:50AM (#3407239)
    This guy has a masters (political science) and a bachelor's (business management) degree. Yet he works at the local supermarket? Unless he owns the place the going to college was not worth it for this guy (even then perhaps not).

    • Publix Supermarkets has a really strange retirement plan where you're vested in a short amount of time. He's could have held that job during his school years and just be hanging on trying to cash in on the pension. Or he could actually be a total nutcase and can't hold a regular job.
      • How is working at a supermarket an "iregular" job that only a "total nutcase" would take? Because it is "unskilled labor" and doesn't require an education? That may be true, but that does not mean it is idle, easy work that doesn't require some work and dedication. Because it is low paying? Not really. Safeway cashiers make up to like $19/hour. That's not too shabby, and is a lot more than many office workers make. My friend was an assistant manager at Safeway and he was making about $23/hour plus overtime. That's more than I make working on a helpdesk. And I have heard that store managers at large supermarkets can make up to $80k/yr. That's more than many IT jobs pay. Don't think you are all high and mighty because you work in an office doing "skilled work" or whatever.
      • uhh (Score:3, Insightful)

        by inKubus ( 199753 )
        Why does someone who works in a grocery store have to be a "nutcase" and why isn't it a "normal job"? Plenty of smart people work jobs like that; in fact, I would bet that the managers of those stores probably all have college degrees.

        A store manager is not some shitty job. These people are in charge of hundreds of employees, millions in merchandise and millions in cash. Not to mention an entire giant building which needs electricity, HVAC, the floors and bathrooms need to be clean all the time, plus all of the tools like meat slicers, ovens, freezers, cash registers, accounting, payroll, scheduling, sales, bitchy customers, etc etc. I can go on, but I think you get the point.

        Yes, working at a grocery store is not a regular job. It is much more challenging. So get a life you unwise person.
        • Re:uhh (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ooblek ( 544753 )
          I used to work at a grocery store. I moved around to stores in the chain and had the opportunity to experience many people. Many of them had extremely deep personal issues that would allow them to be considered abnormal.

          Many of them were in their mid-30s to early 40s. A lot suffered with alcoholism, most were single or divorced, and I've never seen such politics in any other place that I've worked. The union controlled where people went when promoted, so everyone would bitch about how much they worked and how little others did. Many considered their job right up there with saving the world.

          The job pretty much boiled down to this: you go there, put shit on shelves, put price tags on them, repeat until shift is over. Many of the issues you stated (like payroll) were all handled by computers and the corporate office. All it took was a little bit of data entry. Sure, the people weren't morons, but I wouldn't exactly call it a job where the sky is the limit.

    • Personally I'd rate Political Science lower on the rung than working at a supermarket. In my university days I had a flatmate who was heavily involved with political science and also politics itself (he was high up in one of my Countries youth-party movements).

      I had never met such a bunch of idiots in my life, they would spend the whole fucking day arguing over and over the most inane things. As an example when I left for uni and work one morning, they were having a discussion about whether or not taking a cell-phone on a camping trip was a good idea. When I came home 6 hours later they were still arguing over it! It was like this for the entire year! To top things off, he couldn't afford to pay his rent but thought nothing of using the flat bank account for buying fresh basil plants. Yes basil. At least I know why Governments are so slow to get things done.

      I won't say anything about business management as my girlfriend has an MBA :-/
    • Read the article: .. a member of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce and the North Alabama African-American Chamber of Commerce.
      What would you say are the chances that the person collecting the shopping carts from the parking lot is a member of the CoC? This guy may be nuts, but he probably holds a decent job.
    • It may seem strange to you, but even some college educated people LIKE working easy jobs. He probably has time to go home and work on his campaigning or brilliant ideas like the Space Tax Act. Sure, he's not making big bucks, but there is more to life than working all the time.

      Besides, don't most PoliSci master's become politicians? So, it looks like he's getting plenty out of his education--he's just working at the grocery store also. That could be good for his political career--he is in touch with his constituents.

      Anyway, you must not be a college graduate.
  • the church of Scientology--then we're talking! They already have two people that want to be the first actors launched into space--Travolta and Cruise.
  • NASA has produced a lot of stuff that has benefited the entire country, not just the 'geeks' that are interested in it - I'm thinking nylon off the top of my head. Saying that the 'geeks' who want space exploration outght to be taxed for it is somewhat analagous to saying the people who want some other benefit seen specific to them (low-cost housing, riparian rights people) should foot the bill for those agencies. It just doesn't seem right.
    • I'd rather pay Nasa directly than try to vote for the right politicians to make sure Nasa stays afloat. I think it's a step in the right direction. What I really want is my tax form to have checkboxes for what programs I'm interested in my tax money funding. Not only would that be a true democracy, but it'd help get rid of those stupid "Dont vote for this guy because he is pro abortion" commericals around election time.
  • a portion of drug money can be used for various social causes, like federal elections
  • by tony_gardner ( 533494 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:56AM (#3407264) Homepage
    So how will he define science fiction?
    Will LOTR be taxed? (Aliens)
    Will Bond be taxed? (Gismos)
    Would Shrek/Monsters inc/Toy story be taxed?
    Would stories featuring missiles or fighter planes have the space tax?

    I personally favour the idiot tax. All politicians favouring new and innovative taxes will give 50% of their earnings to NASA. That oughta fix it.
    • "I personally favour the idiot tax. All politicians favouring new and innovative taxes will give 50% of their earnings to NASA. That oughta fix it."

      I think you should take that one step further with the 'Techlogist Pain and Suffering' tax, where those /certain/ politicians who favour technology bills about which they have NO clue have to give the entire funding for their next 5 political campaigs to the technology sector for all the headaches they cause us. We will also get the right to beat them senseless at every opportunity and at our leisure. And just to set an example, we'll make this bill retroactive until... the DMCA. :)
    • Will LOTR be taxed? (Aliens)

      Ermmm, aliens, yeah...

      I personally favour the idiot tax

      I think you just qualified for that yourself buddy.
    • Anything promulgated by Disney, Sony, Warner, etc will be "Future Fantasy" and hence not taxed. Anything release by anybody else that's even remotely scifi will be. :-(
  • by merkel ( 219826 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:57AM (#3407271)
    That's a great idea - we should only tax the people who care about NASA for NASA!!

    And while we're at it, we'll pay for police protection with a tax on handguns, alarms and mace (after all, those are the people interested in protection); fire protection with a tax on smoke alarms and extinguishers; cleaning up the environment by taxing granola and birkenstocks; and welfare by taxing Volvos!

    Aside from certain use fees and excise taxes where consumption is generally related to some gov't service (e.g., gasoline consumption is generally related to highway use), the gov't taxes us generally and then allocates the monies according to priorities.

    I don't see a decent rationale for why scifi consumers should fund NASA when the population at large reaps the benefits of the scientific and techological discoveries. It's not just the kids with Jar-Jar dolls who drink Tang...
  • Well, in my plan to become President I want to put a 2% tax on all murder mysteries to pay for crime prevention, a 3% tax on all adventure books to pay for the army, and a 5% tax on all romance books to take care of unwanted children.

    We can fund the whole planet on book sales!!!!!

    kd [y-intercept.com]
  • There is no one who utilizes all functions of the government. That's the idea. We all pay for everything, and then use these things disproportionately. If we broke the system down into things along the lines of "pay for what you use," we would have an administrative nightmare.

    There is also a great deal of overlap within government projects. For example, much NASA research would be applied to a missile shield, but many science aficionados are strictly against such a project. If you operate under the idea that we should pay only for what we support, then I most certainly will not pay for a shield, which thus means not paying for NASA in the first place.

    ~Kumomancer
  • Should we also fund the military with sales from Sylvester Stallone movies? Fund highways with sales for movies with more than 8.6 seconds of car chase scenes?

    Here's an idea: fund the space program with a tax on organizations that USE the space program. Want to launch a satellite? Pay your NASA tax, they paved the way. Your satellite needs a repair? Call NASA, and have your checkbook ready.

    Why should sci-fi readers foot the bill for a program that greases the wheels for telecom companies, DirecTV, spaceimaging.com et al? Why can't they (and their customers) pay their own freakin' way?

  • by tester13 ( 186772 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:08AM (#3407313) Homepage
    Just because the guy has a stupid idea does not make it cool to take shots at people that work at supermarkets. We do not know what he does in his work capacity. Maybe he is an executive.

    It is sad for me to see it when "educated" people ridicule others for what they do for a living.

    Next time just keep it on topic
  • by tester13 ( 186772 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:13AM (#3407331) Homepage
    Ok I gotta ask, what happens if I write a book that is not exactly science fiction but sort of "stretches" science a little bit? Is that tax evasion?

    Is Kurzweil's book SciFi?

    What about fantasy genre? Is that taxable, or are the flying dragons taxes exempt?
    • It Depends. Can your flying dragons take people to other planets? That makes them space vehicles, thus subject to the NASA tax.

      Me, I'm gonna be trimming the wings on my next dragon, to keep him strictly suborbital. Wouldn't want to get hit with a tax for some interplanetary route I never use.

  • I think other posters are right when they call this unfair. (Not all sci-fi fans care about NASA, many people would benefit from technology developed by NASA, whether they payed or not).

    So if you want to create an incentive, just pass a law making contributions to NASA be tax free and let people contribute as much (or as little) as they want. Maybe NASA could put advertisements in sci-fi products encouraging people to donate (the product manufacturers could then write off some promotional expense or whatever). Maybe theaters could show a brief promotional trailer (put together by NASA) during the trailers in sci-fi movies. Afterall, their doing so could be a TAX DEDUCTIBLE contribution to NASA, even though it doesn't really cost them anything and would likely not anger customers at all.

    Maybe this could usher in an era where we see a whole new class of quasi-governmental organizations with tax-exempt status.

    I'm not sure this is a good idea, but it is an idea.

    MM
    --
  • So, who wants to lay odds on how long it'll be before this guy makes the Daily Show?

    In any event, the idea isn't so great. Making the unfortunate people without social lives pay for space exploration would only be fair if they introduced a ton of other user fees -- for example, introducing more toll roads for drivers or taxing people who buy copies of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" for the cost of educating the children which result.

    And for those of you who say NASA's money should go to social programs, I ask you this: Where would America's poor be without Tang? Huh? Smart guy?

  • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:21AM (#3407353) Homepage
    Politicians are scum but they are smarter than the typical slashdotter. A SciFi tax will accomplish nothing. If an extra billion comes in from a SciFi tax then the politicians will reduce traditional NASA funding by a billion so they can spend that money elsewhere. This is an old trick and you should have recognized the pattern, "state lottery income will increase funding for schools", "a slight increase in the gasoline tax will increase highway funding", etc.

    intelligence != common sense
    intelligence != good judgement
  • by Riktov ( 632 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:21AM (#3407355) Journal
    It's only the location of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. The guy's just trying to funnel taxes to his home district.

    Oh, and he does sound like a freak-o dweeb.
  • by KurdtX ( 207196 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:23AM (#3407361)
    • Taxing air travelers to fund our diplomats, because they're the only ones who would be interested in our diplomacy with other countries
    • Adding a tax based on age to fund health care, because the elderly are more likely to get sick
    • Taxing students to fund the RIAA, because they're the ones most likely to be pirating music
    • Taxing the unemployed to fund Social Security, because they're the ones who would be most interested in it
    • Taxing beurocrats to fund recycling, because they're the only ones who waste paper in the volumes they do
    • Don't forget taxing the homeless to pay for shelters and soup kitchens.
      • How about taxing the politicians to fund the government?

        So here's the problem in a nutshell: The people that are interested tend to get benefits from the programs. Thus the programs are funded by those who get the benefits. This sounds an awful lot like the private sector....which leads to why don't we just privatize all these programs to begin with?

        Or, we could just leave it the way it is, where public sector research benefits everyone. Yes, NASA is generally pretty interested in space, but the output of the space missions has brought us all sorts of other side benefits. Satellite television. Bar codes. Smoke detectors. Invisible orthodontic braces. Edible toothpaste!

        Tang!
        Where the hell would we be without Tang?

        whoa. digression
        Anyhow, as long as the benefits of the programs, even edible toothpaste, are spread far and wide, then the general public can pay for them, not just those dreaming of having a pet dragon that will someday grok them in fullness.

        -transiit
    • and tax the poor for wellfare...

      wait a minute I think I'm on to something. We could give wellfare to everyone. As long as you pay for it yourself.

    • ...a 1 cent/pack tax on ramen to pay for higher education...
  • Everytime you buy army toy figures you fund a bomb made to blow people up.

    I'm ok with funding NASA like this but only if everything else was funded like this too.

    If NASA is the only thing thats funded like this it seems like another trick to redirect resources.

    Bush used that trick, trillion dollar tax cut yet an increased military budget, increased spending, putting us in debt, oh and we lose out on stuff like social security.

    Tax cuts are fine if we learn to use the money we have more efficiently. If not, tax cuts end up hurting us.
    • There would be plenty of violent movies to fund the army and criminal behaviour could fund the police force... But to make the policy clear the money from war-movies should really go to the UN.

      It hurts to know that where I live we have reduced tax on hollywood movies to support culture.

    • fine.. cut social security... at the rate it's going I'll never see it.

      and while their at it, cut, or seriously limit medicare. 85% of medicare spending goes to patients in the last months of their life. 90yr old women DO NOT need total hip replacements.
  • Can Congress actually leverage a sales tax?

    I know that Congress has jurisdiction over interstate commerce, but if I buy a locally-produced sci-fi product, well, Congress doesn't have the Constitutional right to tax me on that.

    Remember, boys and girls, they had to get an amendment just to do that silly income tax.

    • Really. And what about states that don't have a sales tax currently, like Delaware? Now all of a sudden, these businesses would have to set up the infrastructure to handle it, besides the hassles of it.

      You all have no idea how nice it is to walk into a store, buy something for 99 cents and not have to dig around for a bit of pocket change along with that dollar bill.

      --- a delaware resident

  • by Tony ( 765 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:34AM (#3407411) Journal
    Let's see... we spend $125B a year in corporate welfare. NASA is asking for a little over $15B. Which one is most likely to see cuts?

    The economic benefits of the space program go far beyond Tang and Hubble calendars. The space race is second only to war for causing advances in technology. (Not that it's a race anymore.) Sure, a lot of the funding goes to dog-and-pony type operations, and things that count more towards PR than knowledge; but considering the return rate for the knowledge we *do* glean, why the *HElL* are we so tight with funding?????

    Taxing SF to fund NASA is like taxing full-contact sports to fund war, or taxing Big Wheels to fund roads. Everyone reaps the benefits (except those who die in the war, I guess); everyone should pay. Hell, they didn't ask if I wanted to help fund the S&L bailout; why should they ask short-sighted tight-fisted bastards if they want to fund space research?

    If they want to use opt-in funding, they should do that for everything. I don't want to bail out Enron and Boeing and the airlines; send my money to NASA and university research, instead.
    • Interesting you should mention war and space in one posting. Because there was a study done in the 60's by a commission to determine what, if any, are the possible ramifications of, well, total peace on Earth (disarmament). It examined the functions of war, and possible substitutes.

      Besides the visible, military function of war, there are several nonmilitary functions; those critical to transition (to peace) can be summarized in five principal groupings:

      ECONOMIC. War has provided both ancient and modern societies with a dependable system for stabilizing and controlling national economies. No alternate method of control has yet been tested in a complex modern economy that has shown itself remotely comparable in scope or effectiveness. A large space program, however, could possibly provide the same effect, provided it used enough resources.

      POLITICAL. The permanent possibility of war is the foundation for stable government; it supplies the basis for general acceptance of political authority. It has enabled societies to maintain necessary class distinctions, and it has ensured the subordination of the citizen to the state, by virtue of the residual war powers inherent in the concept of nationhood. No modern political ruling group has successfully controlled its constituency after failing to sustain the continuing credibility of an external threat of war. But under one world government, a political system could be built soley around the exploration and mapping of space.

      SOCIOLOGICAL. War, through the medium of military institutions, has uniquely served societies, throughout the course of known history, as an indispensible controller of dangerous social dissidence and destructive antisocial tendencies. As the most formidable of threats to life itself, and as the only one susceptible to mitigation by social organization alone, it has played another equally fundamental role: the war system has provided the machinery through which the motivational forces governing human behavior have been translated into binding social allegiance. It has thus ensured the degree of social cohesion necessary to the viability of nations. No other institution, or groups of institutions, in modern societies, has successfully served these functions. Except space travel.

      ECOLOGICAL. War has been the principal evolutionary device for maintaining a satisfactory ecological balance between gross human population and supplies available for its survival. It is unique to the human species.

      CULTURAL AND SCIENTIFIC. War-orientation has determined the basic standards of value in the creative arts, and has provided the fundamental motivational source of scientific and technological progress. The concepts that the arts express values independent of their own forms and that the successful pursuit of knowledge has intrinsic social value have long been accepted in modern societies; the development of the arts and sciences during this period has been corollary to the parallel development of weaponry. Since the space race, space travel has been driving forward technology even faster than war; communications satellites, computers, nutrition, the list is endless.

      Obviously, war is very important to society. So, in a society without war, a suitable replacement for these "non-military" functions of war must be found.

      One of the best possible substitute institutions is a large space program.
  • First Amendment? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikeplokta ( 223052 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @01:46AM (#3407461)
    I rather doubt that it's constitutional to tax speech based on its content. Coming next, 1000% tax on publications supporting the Democratic party?
  • Yes, NASA patents sci-fi. Does it also read in NASAs sci-fi EULA that no free (no tax incomes for NASA) products may not use any space related material ?
  • The real issue isn't the funding of NASA, it's the funding and managing of Space initiatives.

    When the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite, the US government felt challenged to respond. The result was NASA receiving about 1% of US government revenue to land the first men on the Moon.

    But there was another way that was overlooked. A consortium of Bechtel Engineering (builders of the Hoover Dam and other massive projects) and Disney (Walt was in charge in those days) could have done the Apollo Project without government funding -- and made money by doing so.

    I applaud this as an attempt to come up with an imaginative approach to Space funding. That said, I'd suggest folks keep looking.

    Science fiction has been subsidizing Space development for years by giving it ideas. Consider then extreme case of Arthur C. Clarke, who gave the world the concept of telecommunication satellites. Rather than patent the idea, Clarke included the idea in a science fiction story. By putting the concept into public domain in this way, Clarke personally subsidized the Space sector to the tune of billions of dollars by not requiring royalties from everyone who uses them.
  • Like the whole semiconductor industry.

    They should really be paying, as the stuff that NASA develops eventually filters down to the high-tech companies to use in new products.

    Now, I'd sure like to do my part in adding to NASA's budget, since I think NASA is doing a fantastic job and gets little or no recognition. So if a "scifi" tax got implemented I don't think I'd be against it.

    What bothers me is people often find it hard to give NASA money (eg, politicians), because of the "oh, we've been to the moon, and walked in space, what else is there?" mentality.

    But that's exactly the point! What else is there, and what can we learn?

    Just look at history... limiting space budget only hurts us. We could already have had a colony on Mars for 10 years if it wasn't for cutbacks after we went to the moon.
  • Another problem with this scheme is that more people benefit from NASA than are interested in it. Pure science research pays off (low-gravity manufacturing, tang, etc...) But what fraction of people that use perfectly round ball-bearings are really interested in space science and research?

    This type of tax unfairly burdens those who are interested in a subject with paying for it, when everyone reaps the rewards.
  • Everyone benefits from NASA, whether they realize it or not. These types of "targeted" taxes never work anyway. Politicians always figure out a way to steal money for their other interests. Example? Social Security.

    Don't worry, in 10 or so more years, China's space program will be enough of a threat to make American rise up the only way we know how. In a competition of "mine's bigger than your's" and then we'll spend some money on NASA again.
  • It's that everyone benefits. If they only let us Sci-Fi geeks reap the rewards then sure, tax only us 1%. But if I see a none Sci-Fi person using the next great intellectual property to come out of NASA, I'm going to be pissed.

    "Hey, the Sci-Fi people paid for that space age coating on that pan! Hand it over!"

    That's why responsible targeted taxes are used to pay for the costs of the tax payer, in theory at least. Such as taxing cigarettes to pay for health costs.

  • At first I thought this guy was crazy, considering the administrative nightmare of determining which products should be taxed. But then I realized something - this tax would make those who are most interested in space the primary source of space development funding.

    "But then I thought about the administrative nightmare some more, and I realized something - I was right the first time. My mistake, sorry."

  • It's a government monopoly on space travel. Replace it with commercial organisations instead.

  • In addition to the NASA contributions, perhaps the US Government could levy an extra 1% on sales of learning toys for educationally subnormal adults and give the money straight to President Bush?

  • by Sinistar2k ( 225578 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:32AM (#3408528)
    While I don't agree with the logic on this, if it were to happen, could we do the same thing for the military?

    Anybody who buys GI Joe's gets taxed. Anything camo. Man, they could have made a mint back in the 70s/80s off sales of "Better dead than red" shirts alone!

    Don't know what money from Spawn figures would go to. Occult organizations?
  • by mbourgon ( 186257 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @08:53AM (#3408651) Homepage
    Here's a better idea - howzabout a NASA-sponsored lottery... with the prize being a trip to space? Tickets go for $10. I think that would be a interesting (note that I didn't say fair) way to get money for NASA by people interested in NASA.
  • by darkphyber ( 175201 ) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @05:10PM (#3412258)
    To tax only sci-fi products makes no sense. Sure, the space program is expensive, and desperately needs more funding, (and less of the 'faster, better, cheaper' crap if you ask me) but why should only sci-fi fans have to shoulder the burden of the space program? Everyone from people in IT, agriculture, engineering and many other fields, (not to mention consumers) benefits from the discoveries made in space, and the technology we develop to get there. There are a virtual plethora of technologies we wouldn't have today if it weren't for the pioneering efforts of scientists working for NASA. There's a reason this shouldn't be taken seriously, and it's not because they guy works in a grocery store!

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