House Dem: Let's soak wealthy space tourists with a new tax

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Hot Air 20 July, 2021 - 07:01pm 7 views

Who was on Bezos space flight?

By Christian Davenport9:12 a.m. The New Shepard rocket, carrying Jeff and Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen has lifted off from Blue Origin's launch site in West Texas. The flight is expected to reach a high point of more than 62 miles before it falls back to Earth. The Washington PostJeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen reach space, return safely on Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who is spearheading the effort, said rich space dilettantes should have to pay taxes for those flights, and noted special concern about the environmental impact of sending people into space on trips with no “scientific value.”

“Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy. Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some,” Blumenauer said.

The details: The Oregon Democrat has not released text of his legislation yet, but he said it will include a per-passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight to space, similar to an airline ticket.

He’s also calling for a two-tiered excise tax, the first of which would apply to suborbital flights between 50 and 80 miles above the earth’s surface, and the second tier, a “significantly higher” tax, for flights more than 80 miles in the air.

Let’s start with Blumenauer’s allegation that these flights had “no scientific value.” In reality, the private space platforms have filled a scientific-research gap that NASA had pretty much conceded even before the end of the space-shuttle program. Their bureaucracy failed to produce a follow-on space vehicle, and then failed to even build new rockets to send its own astronauts into space. NASA had to outsource that task to the Russians for years until Elon Musk’s SpaceX finally built a launch platform for manned space flight — and unlike NASA’s efforts, made it a fully reusable platform as well.

The first flights of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin might not have had a specific and separate scientific mission, but those were both essentially test flights for proof of concept for human travel into space on their own reusable platforms. Neither may have achieved orbit, but neither did NASA on its first two manned space flights, either. The process will eventually produce flights that can achieve orbit, service scientific platforms such as the International Space Station, and potentially be part of larger NASA-run exploration missions of the moon, Mars, and beyond.

That kind of competitive, innovative private market is precisely what NASA needs to extend its own usefulness. In order to sustain it, however, the private companies need to make their massive investment pay off. That means space tourism as well as quicker transport for terrestrial travel, both innovations that will eventually benefit more than just billionaires. Less than a century ago, air travel was an innovation for the wealthy, where first adopters proved the market concept and created the demand that eventually lowered prices to allow access to working-class Americans.

When the industry starts offering regular commercial service, then perhaps taxes will make some sense to compensate for whatever governmental oversight is required. Right now, however, these billionaires aren’t going on “tax free holidays,” but basically saving NASA from the consequences of a generation of stagnation and neglect. If they can fund that innovation by selling a few tickets to wealthy investors while refining and extending the usefulness of these platforms, Congress should cheer that rather than ankle-bite from the sidelines with cheap talk about the entrepreneurs who will reopen space to American exploration.

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Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos and three passengers react to the historic launch aboard the New Shepard. 

As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos launched into space on Tuesday aboard a Blue Origin rocket, and back on Earth, a Democratic lawmaker announced a measure to tax commercial spaceflight.

Oregon Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Tuesday introduced what he is calling the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, which would create excise taxes on commercial space flights carrying human passengers for purposes other than scientific research.

"Space travel isn’t a tax free holiday for the wealthy," Blumenauer wrote on Twitter. "We pay taxes on plane tickets. Billionaires flying into space—producing no scientific value—should do the same, and then some."

The measure would include a per-passenger tax on the price of a commercial flight to space and a two-tiered excise tax for each launch into space. The first tier would apply to flights between 50 miles and 80 miles above Earth’s surface, while the second "significantly higher" rate would apply to flights more than 80 miles above Earth’s surface.

Blumenauer noted that space flights account for 60-times more carbon emissions than transatlantic flights on a per-passenger basis.

As previously reported by FOX Business, Bezos took off to space on Tuesday in what ended up being about a 10-minute flight.

Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson launched into space a little more than one week ago.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, another billionaire in the space industry, wished Bezos luck ahead of his launch.

Progressive Democrats have criticized billionaires for concentrating on space exploration when people in the U.S. do not have access to necessary resources. 

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Oregon congressman proposes a 'space tourism' tax

KGW.com 22 July, 2021 - 12:00am

PORTLAND, Ore. — Billionaires are launching themselves into space.

First, it was Virgin Galatic and Richard Branson flying into the outer edges of space, some 50 miles above the earth's surface. Then, Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin crew launched into space 52 years to the day after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon.

"It's amazing, there are no words. It was a perfect mission," Bezos told an NBC reporter after landing safely on the ground.

Billionaires Bezos, Branson and soon Elon Musk are launching themselves into the space tourism industry. Musk's SpaceX company has already taken two government-funded missions to space, but those were with NASA-trained astronauts aboard and traveled to the International Space Station. 

Analysts predict that within a decade, space tourism will be a $3 billion dollar industry.

"It's clear that we are watching an explosion of interest in space tourism," said Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. "These are trips up to the edge of space that have no scientific purpose. It's just space tourism."

Representative Blumenauer is proposing the SPACE (Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions) Tax Act for space tourism-related flights.

"There are indications that there are problems to the ozone layer, that the amount of emissions are about 60 times greater than a transatlantic flight on a per person basis. That's enough to drive a car around the earth," Blumenauer said.

Blumenauer's SPACE Tax would impose a 10% tax on the value of each flight, similar to the excise tax imposed when purchasing a commercial airline ticket.

"When people take a plane ride, they end up paying 9-10% tax for the privilege. It seems if people are spending hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for a couple minutes of space tourism" Blumenauer said. "Seems only appropriate that there is a small amount of money that is collected for the government to deal with these and other items with our infrastructure."

He said space tourism wouldn't be possible without money that's already been paid by the taxpayers. 

"We would be nowhere if the federal government hadn't paid for it and now there are people that want to monetize space, get up there and make a private profit out of something that was only possible because of massive federal investment."

The SPACE Tax would be a two-tiered tax. Travelers would be taxed at different rates depending on how far into space they traveled.

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