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Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp., and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, recently hatched a plan to send humans to Mars as a first step to colonizing the planet. While the plan may sound like a bold, fascinating idea – I suggest taking a closer look and reading the fine print: Musk’s idea will cost taxpayers billions of dollars to help fund the effort, all while risking the lives of the volunteers agreeing to participate—a risk that even Elon Musk admitted he would not personally take.

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Currently surpassing over $19 trillion, the national debt has accelerated over the past two decades at an alarming rate, and has quadrupled since the turn of the century. With no current plan in place to halt the unchecked spending, the debt will continue to put our nation’s economy, independence, and national security at risk. Fiscal responsibility must become a national priority – not tomorrow, not next Congress, but today.

Although, the big-ticket items in our nation’s debt are growing entitlements and the money it takes to service the debt, the smaller dollar items are also important. Congress needs to root out all waste in the federal government, including expenditures on efforts that are not part of the core functions of the federal government.

Over the past five years while I was working for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight, one of his projects for the subcommittee aimed to expose government waste and identify various solutions to eliminate further waste within the government.

As a self-identifying libertarian Republican, I found my boss’s initiative in exposing government waste to be one of the most important efforts undertaken by Congress. While working in the Senate, I found myself musing more often than not that the amount of resources dedicated to saving taxpayers money were not nearly enough. Instead of focusing on partisanship, Congress should be following Sen. Paul’s lead and aiming to defund all of the waste in Congress, both large and small.

Beginning in May 2015, Sen. Paul unveiled the “Waste Report,” which exposed relatively smaller examples of waste within the federal government each week. One of many examples of federally funded projects that Sen. Paul uncovered was a State Department project that gave One TV, a for-profit Afghanistan Television station, $350,000 to support a cricket tournament in Afghanistan. The grant also intended to train personnel on broadcasting and production to spread the word about the league and tournament. In a separate project, Sen. Paul exposed a $250,000 grant used to send 24 Pakistani students to a six-day Space Camp in Alabama. While these examples of small dollar waste may seem egregious, the federal government would exponentially be wasting more with billions of taxpayer dollars on Elon Musk’s plans to colonize Mars.

As Vanity Fair reported, Musk recently announced innovative plans to colonize Mars at the expense of your tax dollars and the very lives of the participants involved. The idea itself may seem interesting, however, exploring space should not be funded by taxpayer money when our nation already has a crushing debt of nearly $20 trillion. While Musk expresses the need for a public-private partnership to the tune of $10 billion in taxpayer money, in reality SpaceX has had a variety of difficulties recently with rocket launches – two have failed over the past year, yet Musk claims that that should not be a determining factor. How can it not? Not to mention the serious and life-threatening consequences for the volunteers involved; their safety is not guaranteed. I believe it would be perfectly reasonable for private funding for this effort, but asking the taxpayer for $10 billion when each U.S. citizen currently owes $60,681, according to the U.S. Debt Clock, would be reckless and irresponsible.

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The U.S. can simply no longer afford to look the other way when it comes to saving money and ending taxpayer waste. At a time when the government is saddled with massive and consequential debt, wasteful and risky investments are not viable options, especially in relation to a business venture that is not worthy in my opinion of private investment.

At this point, it might just be a good idea for the federal government to take a hard pass on SpaceX’s expensive and dangerous project, and leave it to the private sector to finance.

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