There are a number of reasons to question former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's plans to colonize the moon. There's the cost, for one—some experts estimate it at hundreds of billions of dollars. There's the basic issue of priorities. Former Gov. Mitt Romney, Gingrich's foe for the nomination, has remarked that the money would be better spent creating jobs in the United States, instead of on the moon, and he has a point. And Gingrich's drive—to be first, to be better, and just generally to dominate—is a bit over-the-top. As Gingrich said during a Florida debate:
I do not want to be the country that having gotten to the moon first, turned around and said, "It doesn't really matter, let the Chinese dominate space, what do we care?" I think that is a path of national decline, and I am for America being a great country, not a country in decline.
That is arguably not the best reason to embark on an extremely expensive and risky mission at a time when there is still great need and high unemployment here on Earth. But the ultimate insult is Gingrich's suggestion that once enough people occupy the moon, those colonizers can petition for U.S. statehood.
Call it crazy, and you'd be right. But the idea is particularly galling to residents of Washington, D.C., who pay federal taxes and actually live not only on Earth, but inside the borders of the United States, and still do not have U.S. senators or a representative with full voting rights in the House. Congress, made up of people who work here but don't really live here, and who don't pay D.C. income taxes, gets to approve the District's budget, and otherwise interfere with local affairs. They forced the D.C. Metro system to spend the cash to add "Ronald Reagan" to the "National Airport" signs at public transport stations. As Metro considers yet another fare hike, that unneeded outlay seems even more irritating.
And who says U.S. citizens have the right to occupy the moon? Under pressure from the GOP-controlled House, the National Park police are pushing the Occupy Washington protesters out of their tents in downtown D.C. Would it be acceptable, in Gingrich's grand vision, for people to pitch tents on the moon for commercial purposes, but not in protest?
And if moon residents created a U.S. state, how many delegates would they get in the presidential campaign? How would their senators and U.S. representative manage the commute to and from space? Would Moonies be subject to conscription into military service? Since it might be tough for the U.S. Postal Service to place a post office on the moon, how would people communicate? It's unlikely there'll be WiFi.
To continue to deny voting rights to hundreds of thousands of tax-paying U.S. citizens in the U.S. capital is enough of an insult to the principles of democracy. Do D.C. residents have to get on a spaceship to gain full citizenship rights? Then fly me to the moon.