In grade school during the Nixon Reign in what could not have been as great a frequency as it seemed, all us little tykes clustered repeatedly onto the grubby carpet in a single classroom, craning our necks way upward to see the TV at the tippy top of a rickety metal cart. We watched “rockets” take off and splash down into the ocean, and deposit ghostly humans on the moon itself. We chanted the count down together and once I mortally embarrassed myself by intoning “DECENT” throughout a hushed and attentive, dim classroom: I couldn’t contain my awe, evidently, to the never-ending mirth of the rest (primarily, noted for those of the LGBT-era who may have difficulty conceiving of such a different social milieu, this was because it was a girl and not a boy thus-moved).

Nowadays many have a 1:1 viewing screen of these events and we view the jubilation of adults in far more isolation. The astonishing prowess of human endeavor remains but we are less shocked and awed perhaps? Now as then emerge these near-miraculous achievements amidst a sea of priorities that cast a faint pall.

There was objection during the Space Race of yore that our money might better be invested directly in social programs rather then indirectly in the promise of an economic trickle-down from boosting the scientific industrial complex. And these suspicions remain.

I believe as history unfolds, the arms race or at least its surrogate, the space race, may have been justifiable retrospectively. But it is also true that misattributed spinoff percs like Velcro, Tang and Teflon aside, the same laundry list of social debt and abdicated responsibility remains then as now. In tandem the missions accomplished are ever more complicated while the social dysfunction here on earth grows ever more complicated and entrenched, too.

So now we are faced with “if we can put a man on the moon…” v. 2.0: “If we can put a robotic probe on a comet, why can’t we…”. Why can’t we deal with these chronic pools of human misery? The answer is simply: We Won’t. From that same sputnik era I recall hearing conservative John F Buckley Jr or one of his guests intoning: “We can’t just throw money at the problem…“, the problem in that instance being I believe, Education.

And yet here’s the rub, we can just throw money at these problems; we can, and to great effect. Homelessness is solved by … creating a home. Overcrowded classrooms are solved by … lowering the number of kids per classroom, staffed properly (i.e., hiring more teachers and staff, — why should purchasing more computers substitute for this step?). And mostly, by learning the difference between orders of magnitude of monies, and aligning our priorities with our spending.

We spend several million dollars every single day, inexorably, killing people around the world. While there are allied, economic benefits from supporting the military, scientific – heck, even educational – industrial complexes, mindless spending without thoughtful prioritizing will never result in fixing the problems we want to address.

I am as excited today as 35 years ago to see smart people doing astonishing things, with surprising, derivative merit. But we’re no better today as then at planning for how to distribute money to reflect humanitarian needs. Greed is a transcendental vice that we ought to be paying more attention to controlling. We must prioritize political spending to align with true need.