Newt Gingrich, Space Keynesian

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Newt Gingrich’s case for boosting federal investments into private sector space projects awkwardly embraces a core tenet of modern liberalism: the belief that government spending can help the economy.

“By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American,” Gingrich said in Florida, explaining that it would entail “commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism and manufacturing, because it is in our interest.”

The former Speaker’s argument rests on textbook Keynesian economics: the notion that targeted government investments in industries can stimulate economic growth.It’s a viewpoint that Republicans today reject with unprecedented vigor since they went, with a few exceptions, all in against President Obama’s stimulus package in 2009.

Not surprisingly, Gingrich’s space initiative has been criticized by his 2012 primary rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Gingrich’s current run has thrust him into an odd and in some ways contradictory position. On the one hand, polls indicate that he increasingly is picking up the vote of the self-identified “tea partiers” who tend to oppose government intervention — sometimes even when it comes to the GOP sacred cow of military spending.

On the other hand, his record of advocating large government projects, partly for their stimulative impact, means he’s vulnerable to being attacked as a “big government conservative.” Meandering from the anti-spending tendencies of the base make it more difficult for him to push back on those criticisms.

Composite includes photos from lculig and broukoid / Shutterstock.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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