Posts Tagged ‘Sputnik Moment’


Sputnik Misfire

Friday, January 28th, 2011

So I didn’t watch the SOTU speech, but everyone has been commenting on the Sputnik reference in it. So I thought I’d so a word search on the speech and read the reference:

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t even there yet. NASA didn’t exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -– (applause) — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Already, we’re seeing the promise of renewable energy…

When Sputnik was launched, the American populace said, in 1950’s parlance, “Holy fucking shit, we need to do something!” And they launched the space program in response, culminating in a man on the moon. The president at the time, Dwight Eisenhower, thought little of the launch initially, and so it was his successor president who took action to assuage the fears of the populace.

Obama seems to take the Sputnik idea a bit too literally. Nobody is having a pant-shitting moment over the fact that China makes more windmills or solar panels or high-speed trains than we currently do. In fact, there were only two Sputnik like moments within my lifetime. The first was over 9-11, and the sense of urgency about Islamic terrorism has faded since then, to put it mildly.

The second such moment was the financial collapse that started in 2007. In particular, the fact that the facade was ripped off of our economy, wherein it was revealed that the United States economy much more closely resembles that of a South American basket case crony capitalist economy than the free-market meritocracy that we like to believe our economy has always been. That shock was doubled down upon by the massive spending programs in the stimulus and Obamacare, plus the arrival of the day of reckoning with the first of the Baby Boomers receiving Social Security and Medicare. That pant-shitting moment continues unabated, as the recession plods along and the federal government showing no interest in cutting back on its spending binge.

The fact that Obama couldn’t can’t see this, and instead thought that people were shitting their pants over solar panels and windmills indicates to me that he is almost certain to be replaced in 2012 by somebody who does see it, or at least claims to. No guarantee of course that said person will deliver us from calamity, but whoever it is, he/she will be sure to talk a good game at a minimum.