03/06/2007 10:55 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Planet Katrina? Asteroids, World Destruction, and Tax Cuts For the Wealthy

Here's a sentence a guy just hates to read over morning coffee: "NASA officials say the space agency is capable of finding almost every asteroid that might pose a devastating threat to Earth, but because it lacks the money to do it, the job will not get done."

Democrats should run with this astonishing, yet strangely unsurprising, revelation: Even the possible extinction of all life on the planet isn't enough to persuade Republicans to moderate their reckless policies - policies founded on greed and hostility toward government.

We already knew they were endangering humanity's future with their policies about global warming. Their negligent attitude toward FEMA and the levees in New Orleans told us they were willing to put cronyism as budget cuts above urgent warnings about short-term and immediate dangers. The philosophy that seeks a government "small enough to drown in a bathtub" was willing to accept the chance there might be some collateral damage, too.

What this story does, however, is encapsulate the downside of their entire approach in one anecdote. We're somehow wealthy enough to provide luxurious tax breaks to the richest 2% of Americans, but not to find funding to protect us from planetary danger.

I'm not saying they knew Katrina was going to happen when it did. We never know these things - especially not the timing. We deal in probabilities. What the levees of Katrina and the mismanagement of FEMA should have taught them - and us is the importance of managing risk.

Wise leaders determine which risks are acceptable and which are not by weighing the potential damage caused by a disaster against the likelihood that it will occur. Low risk plus low damage = not urgent. Low risk plus very high damage = urgent.

A category 5 hurricane was inevitable in the Gulf at some point, so we were reckless not to plan for it. An asteroid strike may not be inevitable, at least in the next few years, but the damage and loss of life could range from the destruction of an entire state or country to worldwide mass extinction.

It could be Katrina, or worse, and on a planetary scale.

That warrants a prudent program of observation and tracking, which is why the NASA asteroid project was approved in the first place. If the program were to identify an asteroid headed toward us, we would (hopefully) have time to figure out how to divert it. Allowing the project to languish is so negligent as to be, in a moral sense, nearly criminal.

What this story illustrates is that their lack of discipline and desire for short-term financial gain is now so strong that they're willing to endanger their own lives, as well as others. They've become like Jack Benny in the old "your money or your life" routine: When it comes to avoiding the potential loss of all life (including theirs) ... they're thinking, they're thinking.

Is it possible that they simply lack the maturity and judgement that leadership, or even simple adulthood, require? Grown-ups are supposed to put off immediate gratification to ensure their own survival, but we now have to face the possibility that life on Earth could end because they wanted to give tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans.

It could actually happen. They're not bad people, but their judgement is seriously impaired.

Still, I don't want to be Mr. Doom and Gloom. So here's some good news that's directly traceable to the same tax cuts:

The luxury pleasure boat sector continues to expand dramatically... Surging luxury boat sales have, in turn, generated massive demand for mooring facilities. Regional seafront developers have responded by building one luxury marina after another.

I can picture the alien visitors now as they orbit a dead planet, then swoop low over a barren and lifeless coastline - only to see a fleet of empty yachts bobbing lazily in the marina next to the ruins of a once-great city.

Could intelligent life - truly intelligent life - possibly understand the decisions we made in Earth's final years?

But, hey, that's enough from me. Have a nice day!

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