While some observers have pondered the billionaire wonder flying through space, the sub-orbital actions of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have prompted US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) to tax such flights.
“Space Exploration Isn’t a Tax-Free Vacation for the Rich” Blumenauer, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement Tuesday.
Just as ordinary Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who go into space to produce anything of scientific value must do the same, and more.
Blumenauer’s statement came before Bezos and three other passengers participated in the first manned space mission from billionaire rocket company Blue Origin. The team landed in West Texas after floating briefly in space. Nine days ago, fellow billionaire Richard Branson made a similar sub-orbital flight from the spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic.
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The tax proposed by the Oregon politician, and advocated in a bill called the Protection of Carbon Emissions Protection Act (SPACE) tax, appears to fit a typical Democratic strategy of exploiting class tensions. Bezos, who ranks as the world’s richest person, and Branson have previously been criticized for using their fortunes to fly into space, rather than investing in a way that helps people. The Amazon founder angered critics even more when he thanked employees and customers, upon his return to earth, saying: “I paid for it all.”
But Blumenauer’s plan could also be a major source of government revenue if space tourism becomes important, as Branson, Bezos and fellow billionaire rocket entrepreneur Elon Musk predict.
The congressman clearly thought about it. He noted that while transatlantic flights have a similar carbon footprint to suborbital travel, space launches generate 60 times more emissions per passenger. And with Virgin Galactic aiming to send a batch of tourists into space every 32 hours, the numbers could be piling up.
Blumenauer said the new tax should apply to every passenger and vary based on altitude. Flights more than 80 miles above the Earth’s surface, such as the sub-orbital one that Bezos enjoyed on Tuesday, will be more taxing.
NASA scientific research flights will be tax-exempt. In cases where some passengers work on behalf of NASA, the tax will only be collected for passengers who come just to ride.
“Things which are made solely for tourism or entertainment and which have no scientific purpose should in turn support the common good,” This is Blumenauer.
You just announced SPACE. Space travel is not a tax-free vacation for the wealthy. Billionaires who travel in space – producing no scientific value – should do the same, and more! # space tax🚀
– Earl Blumenauer (repblumenauer) 20 July 2021
Members of Congress have also begun to consider regulating space tourism for reasons of public safety and air traffic, but a ban on such regulation has been imposed until 2023 to encourage innovation.
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