When then-presidential candidate Barack Obama came to the heart of the nation's space program, Brevard County, he promised that he'd protect space-industry jobs in the face of NASA budget cuts under President Bush. Obama namechecked one-time astronaut and current Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson as an ally in Congress to ensure it all got done.
Take a look around today, and you'll see the results didn't match Obama's rhetoric.
"Fifty years of liftoffs are becoming eight months of layoffs. Have a look around Brevard County. It's shrinking. Lots of people are moving away, taking businesses down with them," 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley intoned last night in a segment called "Hard Landing."
"The 7,000 layoffs at the space center triggered 7,000 more in the community. Unemployment has been close to 11 percent."
That's a sign this was a bipartisan deal. And it also goes to show that, despite the Republican talking point that government spending doesn't create jobs, it does. And its absence costs them.
The show features out-of-work space program casualties taking Obama to task. Politically speaking, Brevard County isn't a high priority for Democrats (the county backed McCain while Florida backed Obama). But Sen. Nelson has always counted on Brevard in his elections, and the job picture there could complicate that for him this election year -- regardless of how hard he fought for the space program.
Some excerpts from Obama's space speech in August 2008:
"When I was growing up, NASA inspired the world with achievements that we're still proud of...
"Today we have an administration that sets ambitious goals for NASA without giving NASA the support it needs to reach them. As a result, NASA's had to cut back on research, trim their program, which means that after the space shuttle shuts down in 2010, we're going to have to rely on Russian space craft to keep us into orbit.
"So let me be clear: we canot cede our leadership in space. That's why I'm going to close the gap, ensure that our space program doesn't suffer when the shuttle goes out of service. We may extend an additional shuttle launch. We're going to work with Bill Nelson to add at least one flight after 2010 by continuing to support NASA funding, by speeding the development of the shuttle's successor, by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the shuttle is retired because we cant afford to lose their expertise. But more broadly, we need a real vision for the next stage of space exploration...."