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To the editor: Over the last few weeks, you have published letters admonishing billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos for spending oodles of money on high-priced, high-profile rocket rides instead of fighting problems like climate change, homelessness and inequality.
What the writers of such missives don't seem to grasp is that flinging humans into space is fundamentally an engineering problem, and how quickly one solves an engineering problem tends to be a function of how much money you throw at it.
In contrast, climate change, homelessness and inequality are fundamentally political problems. And as we have learned from bitter experience, you can throw billions — even trillions — of dollars at a political problem (like poverty) and advance little.
Example: We recently solved a massively challenging engineering problem, producing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, by investing billions in the effort. But much of the population now refuses to take advantage of it because of their political leanings or willful ignorance.
And no amount of money — from Branson, Bezos or Elon Musk — is likely to change this.
Allen Ury, Lake Forest
To the editor: Bezos' nightmare for privatizing and colonizing space is Elysium writ large, a dystopic universe of unimaginable tyranny ruled by white male billionaires like him who have contributed so much to the destruction of this planet and now plan to litter and pollute the heavens.
Bezos' lack of self awareness is so great that he did not even comprehend the irony when he thanked his Amazon employees for launching him into space for 10 minutes.
Worker complaints about Amazon's health and safety violations are legion. Bezos builds his massive warehouses near communities of color that have little political clout to fight the pollution caused by his company's operations. The National Labor Relations Board found that Amazon violated the law by firing employees who had criticized it.
As someone who avoids paying taxes, Bezos also forgot to thank us taxpayers for effectively subsidizing his vanity space project, which will bring the woes of runaway capitalism, environmental destruction and class warfare to the stars. Imagine this: Amazon warehouses circulating the earth, polluting the skies and dropping their debris on our planet.
Patricia Barry, Los Angeles
To the editor: I'd like to respond to letters criticizing Bezos for not spending his money on society's glaring problems.
After the moon landing in 1969, I remember hearing people complain that the large amount of money spent on space exploration would have been better used to alleviate hunger and poverty. But after NASA's budget was severely cut, were these problems solved?
I very much agree that the superheroes of our time are medical staff, but as a retiree who occasionally gets caught in the nightmare of rush-hour traffic, it seems to me that today's heroes are the people who keep going to work with little assurance that some medical problem will not bankrupt them. Why not criticize our lawmakers?
Daina Krigens, Encinitas
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.