5/20/2011

In 2002, a Congressional candidate from Alabama named Michael Williams caused a stir when he proposed a sales tax on science fiction related material to fund NASA. The idea was that a few extra cents added to any sales of merchandise like Star Trek and Star Wars would go directly towards NASA's budget. In that way, geeks everywhere would pay for space exploration.

Considering Williams was an underdog and technically not even a politician at the time (his day job was bagging groceries at a supermarket), his proposal gained a lot of attention. Lots of people weighed in on how impractical the plan was. How do you define science fiction and what to tax? Why should science fiction fans be forced to pay an extra tax other fans don't? If science fiction isn't that profitable to begin with, what would an added tax do to the industry? Could sales on action figures of Captain Picard and plastic lightsabers really pay the billions needed by NASA every year?


All fair points, and not only did Williams' proposal not get off the ground, but he didn't even win the Congressional seat. But I think a lot of critics missed the point. The idea was to take funding of NASA out of the hands of politicians, and put it in the hands of the people who actually care about space exploration.


Maybe a blanket sales tax is a bad idea, but what if it was more targeted? What if NASA teamed up with high-end toy manufacturers like Todd McFarlane to create a line of space-related merchandise with an added tax that would go towards NASA's budget?


If it worked, then the most important tool in NASA's arsenal could end up being the best-selling tax software TurboTax and an iPad.

Would you buy an incredibly detailed copy of the Lunar Lander, especially if you knew the money you spent would go directly towards a real mission to the Moon?

Via Wired
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3 comments:

April Dunno said...

Taxes stink, no matter what they're for.  He's right though, people tend to lose interest, and funding is cut so often.  The Marshall Space Flight Center is probably the most important part of Alabama (and what we're best known for, well....except for the hillbilly redneck stuff those like Jeff Foxworthy feed to people), and adults could care less.  The kids wouldn't even know about it if they didn't send people to the schools to talk about NASA and space.  I wouldn't be against a small tax.
 
However, the opposition is correct in questioning what exactly would be taxed and finding too many flaws to even consider it.  Books alone, there are so many sub-genres in the science fiction genre that it'd be impossible to see what qualified and there just aren't enough published yearly to gain any useable money from a tax.  If they taxed it 100%, I doubt it would be enough. 
 
Your idea is a better one.  And again, I wouldn't say no to a tax for that.

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