US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. Obama's tax plan is common sense, not class warfare (Washington Post)

Eugene Robinson argues that Obama's proposal to boost taxes for the wealthy by $1.5 trillion over the next decade is a good first step toward reform.

2. Politics takes priority in Obama's deficit plan (USA Today)

With Republicans rejecting any large-scale compromise, says this editorial, the point now seems to be political positioning for the 2012 elections.

3. Obama, Boehner ultimatums get us nowhere (Chicago Tribune)

The two most visible figures in the U.S. debt crisis are busy playing 2012 politics, says this editorial.

4. Obama Rejects Obamaism (New York Times)

The president cannot transcend himself. It's back to politics as usual, says David Brooks.

5. Obama's tax plan reflects reality: rich are getting richer (Boston Globe)

This editorial calls for a debate about an economy that allows some to amass unimaginable wealth, while tens of millions of others struggle to earn a middle-class living.

6. The 'Buffett rule,' and more (Los Angeles Times)

The GOP should look to the lesson of the 1990s, when Washington's efforts to trim the deficit contributed to a booming economy, says this editorial.

7. Our Hidden Government Benefits (New York Times)

The threat to democracy today is not the size of government but rather the hidden form that so much of its growth has taken, says Suzanna Mettler.

8. Doctors' salaries - America's medical markup (Star Tribune)

This editorial points out that health care costs more in the US because, well, doctors charge more.

9. Why we don't just 'let them die' (USA Today)

Lewis Simons says that events at last week's GOP debate spark the question: what kind of country is this?

10. A Romney-Perry foreign policy debate? (Washington Post)

Romney, Perry should debate national security, says Marc A. Thiessen.

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Stephen Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising space makes him almost as bad as Trump

The physicist's inistence on mankind's expansion risks making him a handmaiden of inequality.

“Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves,” Stephen Hawking has warned. And he’s not just talking about surviving the UK's recent run of record breaking heat. If humanity doesn’t start sending people to Mars soon, then in a few hundred years he says we can all expect to be kaput; there just isn’t enough space for us all.

The theoretical physicist gave his address to the glittering Starmus Festival of science and arts in Norway. According to the BBC, he argued that climate change and the depletion of natural resources help make space travel essential. With this in mind, he would like to see a mission to Mars by 2025 and a new lunar base within 30 years.

He even took a swipe at Donald Trump: “I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen.”

Yet there are striking similarities between Hawking's statement and the President's bombast. For one thing there was the context in which it was made - an address to a festival dripping with conspicuous consumption, where 18 carat gold OMEGA watches were dished out as prizes.

More importantly there's the inescapable reality that space colonisation is an inherently elitist affair: under Trump you may be able to pay your way out of earthly catastrophe, while for Elon Musk, brawn could be a deciding advantage, given he wants his early settlers on Mars to be able to dredge up buried ice.

Whichever way you divide it up, it is unlikely that everyone will be able to RightMove their way to a less crowded galaxy. Hell, most people can’t even make it to Starmus itself (€800  for a full price ticket), where the line-up of speakers is overwhelmingly white and male.

So while this obsession with space travel has a certain nobility, it also risks elevating earthly inequalities to an interplanetary scale.

And although Hawking is right to call out Trump on climate change, the concern that space travel diverts money from saving earth's ecosystems still stands. 

In a context where the American government is upping NASA’s budget for manned space flights at the same time as it cuts funds for critical work observing the changes on earth, it is imperative that the wider science community stands up against this worrying trend.

Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising the solar system risks playing into the hands of the those who share the President destructive views on the climate, at the expense of the planet underneath us.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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