US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. The Fatal Distraction (New York Times)

Paul Krugman argues that by obsessing over deficits, Washington has been making the real problem -- mass unemployment -- much worse.

2. Labor Day blues (Washington Post)

On this Labor Day, there is little good news about unemployment or wages, says Robert J. Samuelson.

3. A Labor Day Message for President Obama (Wall Street Journal)

Henry R. Nothhaft writes that we know that job growth comes from start-up companies, not established ones. Why not make life easier for them?

4. It's all about jobs (LA Times)

This editorial shares a few thoughts of American leaders past and present on how to create jobs -- and how not to.

5. Too many are forgetting roots of our labor (San Francisco Chronicle)

E J Dionne bemoans the fact that the ordinary worker is disappearing from our media and our consciousness.

6. How closed primaries further polarize our politics (Washington Post)

Mark A. Siegel points out that close primaries are empirically skewed to the parties' base constituencies, exaggerating their role and impact.

7. It's Still the 9/11 Era (New York Times)

Ross Douthat asks whether the American people are better off than they were 10 years ago.

8. The ink generation (Boston Globe)

Tattooed by 9/11, the generation that came of age in its wake make marks of their own, says Juliette Kayyem.

9. Helping Libya help itself (LA Times)

The U.S. can help further political freedom and economic sustenance in Libya, says this editorial -- but not at the barrel of a gun.

10. Lessons on Health Care (New York Times)

This editorial discusses what voters can learn from the starkly different approaches in health care reform from Mitt Romney and Rick Perry (and President Obama).

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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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