Jorge Marin

New Measures Will Help Ohioans Rebuild Lives, Reduce Crime

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Friday, June 29th, 2018, 9:50 AM PERMALINK

Ohio is the second state this month to pass legislation aimed at giving non-violent offenders a second chance. With the passage of Senate Bill 66, Ohioans who have committed certain low-level offenses will have more options to treat their addiction and mental health issues as a part of their sentence. This way justice is maintained while the justice system corrects the behavior that led to the crime.

Judges will also have more discretion to seal criminal records for ex-offenders who prove their commitment to reintegration by remaining crime-free. A criminal record is the modern day scarlet letter, low level offenders should not be forced to carry out a life-long punishment after they pay their debt to society.

The bill passed the House 84-2 and the Senate by unanimous approval. It is on its way to the Governor Kasich’s desk where it will await his signature. It has the support of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Earlier this month Pennsylvania passed their own bill which will seal the criminal records of certain low level offenders after a ten year period without a conviction. Americans for Tax Reform applauds these changes as more states take up smart justice reforms.

Photo Credit: Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash

Governor Haslam Touts Juvenile Justice Overhaul in State of the State Address

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Wednesday, January 31st, 2018, 1:28 PM PERMALINK

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam brought up his state’s juvenile justice initiatives during his 2018 State of the State Address, which he delivered Monday night. Gov. Haslam also used his address to announce the introduction of a bill to adopt the bipartisan recommendations of a recent task force responsible for taking stock of the state’s juvenile system. The proposed reforms in Tennessee follow a pattern of conservative states looking to overhaul their juvenile systems to improve rehabilitation results while using state resources more effectively.

The proposal includes:

  • Reserving out-of-home placement to juveniles who pose serious risks to society or who have committed violent crimes
  • Expand options for schools to deal with kids who have only violated minor technical violations. This frees up resources to deal with serious offenders
  • Assess the risks of each offender, giving them the care most likely to lead to rehabilitation

The Ad Hoc Tennessee Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice estimates that these reforms can reduce the delinquent and unruly population 36 percent by 2024, as well as save $36 million in taxpayer dollars. Gov. Haslam announced his support for adopting the task force’s proposals this year:

Tonight, I am also introducing the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018. We know that too many kids get lost in the juvenile justice system. With great leadership from the Senate and the House, a task force on juvenile justice studied our system and determined that reform is needed.

We can do better. We can be smarter. And tonight I am asking the General Assembly to adopt responsible reforms that will focus the most significant state intervention on the most serious offenses. We know from evidence that costly out-of-home placements, in many circumstances, are not good for children, communities or taxpayers. With a responsible investment now, we can positively impact the lives of children and their communities, and use our resources more effectively.

Taking low level juvenile offenders out of their homes is an extreme and costly measure. This is especially important in Tennessee, where 44 percent of juveniles placed in out-of-home detention committed non-violent misdemeanors, technical violations of probation, and unruly offenses, which are crimes that apply only to children. Research on the matter shows that juvenile incarceration can in fact increase the likelihood of long-term criminality in these kids. As it turns out, warehousing kids with violent criminals makes them better criminals.

Tennessee has an opportunity to help kids turn away from lives of crime. Governor Haslam should be applauded for the steps he’s taking to rehabilitate juvenile offenders and prevent future victims.

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Alabama Continues the Red State Trend to Both Reduce Crime and Improve Fiscal Conditions

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, January 18th, 2018, 11:20 AM PERMALINK

Typically, one cannot expect much from sweeping government initiatives, proclamations, or pronouncements. However, with Alabama's most recent effort to overhaul their juvenile justice system, lawmakers are bucking that trend. 

The Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force—made up of law enforcement leaders from across the state—unveiled a plan that reduces juvenile crime and improves rehabilitation rates, all while providing a fiscally responsible path forward. Finally, Yellowhammer lawmakers have the roadmap they need to make much-needed improvements to the state's juvenile system. 

Fortunately, Alabama will not be going into these reforms blindly. Red states have been developing and enacting these reforms for years. And the results do not disappoint.

One state that comes to mind is Georgia. After enacting criminal justice reform in 2013, the state saw a 30 percent reduction in juvenile arrests. They accomplished this by keeping fewer low-risk juveniles incarcerated.

Texas has also passed a series of laws to reduce their incarcerated youth population.  From 2007-2011 the state closed eight juvenile correctional facilities. Not only did this save taxpayers $179 million, juvenile crime is also in decline. 

The reforms passed in Utah in 2017 are also expected to reduce the number of detained juveniles by 47 percent. Juvenile detention costs the taxpayer community $127,000, supervision only costs $7,000. Getting the balance right is critical to serve troubled juveniles.

As red states demonstrate time and time again, criminal justice reform works. Now, it is Alabama's turn to set the tone. Here are some of the recommendations included in the report: 

  • Separating lesser offenders from the most dangerous individuals

Only youths with serious felonies should be taken into custody. Research shows that placing lower risk youths in out-of-home placements increases the likelihood of reoffending. Coupled with the fact that out-of-home placement is much more expensive than community supervision, this reform would net substantive savings for the juvenile system.

  • Assess the risk and needs of juvenile offenders and focus resources on the cases that need it most

The Administrative Office of Courts will institute a state-wide risk assessment tool to help determine the best treatment for youths being considered for out-of-home placement. There is currently no tool to help courts decide on the particular risk of each offender. This tool will bring much-needed sanity to the process.

  • Improve youth probation and make it more available

Establish data-driven performance standards to make sure that youth probation reduces re-offending and improves behavior, avoiding future incarceration. Serious juvenile offenders will have their particular risk and needs assessed to tailor their treatment.

Lawmakers should implement the recommendations before them. Alabama has a unique chance to act on a worthwhile report. While they will reduce the impact on the state budget, they will also help young people avoid lives of crime. More families will stay together and fewer citizens will be victimized.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Justice System Improvements Take Effect in Louisiana

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, November 9th, 2017, 3:52 PM PERMALINK


Louisiana is moving ahead with its rollout of this year’s prison modernization initiatives.

After a landmark bipartisan vote, Pelican State lawmakers passed a package of criminal justice reforms that were based on the recommendations of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Taskforce.

The task force –a non-partisan group of 14 members with diverse professional experience, including prosecutors, defense attorneys, representatives of the courts and executive branch, lawmakers and other seasoned criminal justice experts – was called together to solve a major criminal justice problem in Louisiana.

For years, Louisiana tried to simply warehouse offenders. But this dated approach resulted in runaway spending and lackluster safety gains. Indeed, Louisiana has been the prison capitol of the world yet still had some of the nation’s worst public safety statistics.

The task force did not take its job lightly. To develop its recommendations, the Task Force underwent a top to bottom analysis of Louisiana’s criminal justice system, a close examination of policies that have proven successful in other southern states, and even reviewed scientific research about changing criminal behavior and keeping the public safe.

The task force’s suggestions to this problem were well thought out and logical: penalties in Louisiana should be both tailored to fit the crime committed and designed to permanently fix criminal behavior. It is no secret that just locking someone up for years only creates a better criminal. Studies have shown that certain inmates experience a higher likelihood of reoffending after a certain sentence length. This is due to increased exposure of less dangerous individuals to hardened criminals over time.

After last year’s prison bills, low level offenders will receive sentences that more closely reflect their crime and the harm they pose to society. Certain offenders will also qualify for earlier parole, allowing them to avoid the criminogenic effects of prison while being monitored by law enforcement. Time off will depend in many cases on the inmate’s participation in means-tested recidivism reduction programs. If they want time off, they will have to earn it.

What’s more, almost all people currently incarcerated in the state will be released at some point. These reforms improve the system by ensuring that it is focused on reducing their likelihood of reoffending.

As part of the changes, 1,900 nonviolent offenders were released earlier this month after their sentences were adjusted to reflect this year’s reforms, but this should not cause any alarm. Absent any reform, these offenders would have been released in the coming months as a matter of course. Louisiana already releases roughly 1,500 inmates a month anyway, so the upcoming release accounts for a one month doubling of the average.  They’ll be home for Thanksgiving now, instead of having to wait until after the New Year.

According to Executive Director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association Pete Adams, DAs want to handle reform “in a manner that was responsible and that protected public safety,” and lauded the reform package. They echoed hopes that “with these changes, we can generate some savings, build up these services, and lower our incarceration rate safely.”

Without reform, Louisiana would have missed out on the public safety gains seen in states like Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina—states that have been using the same data-driven process to craft evidence-based improvements to great effect.

In a recent poll, 68% of Louisianans agreed that whether the system reduces crime is more important than the sentence length. These reforms are proven, smart, and popular. It would be a major error to roll back Louisiana’s commitment to public safety.

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Free Market Groups Urge Trump to End Cuba Embargo

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Posted by Jorge Marin, Lorenzo Montanari on Wednesday, June 14th, 2017, 3:47 PM PERMALINK


Today, free market groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, sent the President Trump a letter urging him to consider lifting the remaining restrictions for trade with Cuba. The groups urge the administration, and Congress, to “solidify a growing agricultural trade relationship, increase the freedom of Americans to travel to Cuba, and remove the remaining constraints on private-sector industries doing business in Cuba.”

The Castro dictatorship should certainly be judged by its political repression and the historic human rights abuses. Nonetheless, it is no longer fair to expect American individuals and companies to bear the burden of the embargo. Now is the time to ease the travel and trade embargo. This is not about giving a life line to the Cuban government, rather the costs of restricting American’s economic and travel liberties have moved to outweigh the benefits.

President Trump rightly focused on American jobs and the domestic economy in his successful presidential campaign. Conversely, studies show that reversing the recent gains on economic freedom with Cuba would deprive the American economy of $6.6 billion over 4 years and over 12,000 jobs.

The best way to spread free markets and democracy is to engage with the world. History has shown that there is no better system to generate wealth and prosperity than capitalism. For this reason, we see no reason to deprive Americans of their own economic freedom for a policy that is not keeping them safe, or advancing national interests.

We hope that leaders in Washington will take a serious look at what is best for America, and her citizens. It is time to reconsider the trade restriction policy in favor of expanding American economic opportunity.

Here is the text of the letter,

Dear President Trump,

We, the undersigned free market organizations representing millions of Americans, write in strong support of easing trade restrictions with the Republic of Cuba. Representatives Crawford, Sanford, McGovern, Emmer, and Castor have all introduced legislation that would gradually remove trade barriers between the U.S. and Cuba and have significant economic benefits for America in the long-run, while opening a new pathway to effecting change in Cuba. The proposals solidify a growing agricultural trade relationship, increase the freedom of Americans to travel to Cuba, and remove the remaining constraints on private-sector industries doing business in Cuba.

H.R. 525, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, would remove the remaining restrictions on farm exports by allowing Cuba to access credit when purchasing agricultural products from America. H.R. 351, The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, restores the ability of Americans to travel to the only nation they are currently prohibited from visiting. H.R. 442, The Cuba Trade Act, lifts the rest of the embargo.

The United States prospers by engaging with the world. Access to foreign markets unleashes domestic productivity and gives workers a greater range of employment opportunities. Likewise, Americans should be allowed to travel to other nations and serve as diplomats who can spread our soft power abroad.

Scaling back the decades-long embargo with Cuba would be a needed boost to the American economy with a nation that had historically strong ties with the United States. Estimates predict that the agricultural sector alone could see $365 million

in additional sales to Cuba and support 6,000 American jobs.  More importantly, by increasing trade with the United States, more and more Cubans and Cuban government officials will encounter the infectious spirit of the free market. 

Establishing free trade with Cuba is not an endorsement of a communist dictatorship. Rather, restrictions on trade violate the rights of American citizens without any policy benefit.

Crucially, H.R. 442 enforces a

Prohibition On Foreign Assistance And Financing Of Trade With Cuba.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the United States Government may not provide any foreign assistance to Cuba or any financial assistance, loans, loan guarantees, extension of credit, or other financing for exports to Cuba.

Violation of political rights by the Cuban government deserve strong condemnation. But today there is a glimmer of hope and an openness to new ideas.  The Cuban government has taken some steps towards supporting local entrepreneurship and attracting more U.S foreign direct investment.  Today, the sanctions are a hindrance to the opening of Cuba.  Instead of spurring change, the sanctions now provide the regime with an easy scapegoat for their own failed policies, obscuring the real source of hardship by placing blame on the United States. Gradually ending the embargo can help to dispel the fiction that America is responsible for the Cubans’ plight. 

Engagement with other communist regimes has proven that American influence grows as trade develops. Countries like Vietnam, Burma, Laos and most famously China prove that previously hostile countries can move in a better direction when encouraged to trade with free nations. National security would greatly benefit from trade and travel relations with Cuba that will improve stability in the region.

Conversely, reversing the recent improvements in America-Cuba trade and travel would put thousands of U.S. jobs at risk. Your successful presidential campaign was correct in stressing the need to boost the job market; putting up more trade barriers runs counter to that goal. Congress must act to continue economic gains.

We urge you and every member of Congress to support proposals to increase travel, ease of business, and economic ties with Cuba.


Grover G. Norquist


Americans for Tax Reform

Norm Singleton


Campaign for Liberty

Jeffrey Mazzella


Center for Individual Freedom

Katie McAuliffe

Executive Director,

Digital Liberty

Matt Kibbe


Free the People

Jason Pye

Director of public policy and legislative affairs,


Lorenzo Montanari

Executive Director,

Property Rights Alliance

David Williams


Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Austin Carson

Executive Director

Tech Freedom

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Keep Central Planning Out of Space

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, March 27th, 2017, 10:51 AM PERMALINK

Private space company Blue Origin is planning to test their own manned missions later this year while Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) gears up for the first launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V that first got Americans to the moon. Exciting things are happening in space thanks to new technologies being developed by private companies.

On March 10, the Center for a New American Security published a study by Robert Zimmerman that took a look at the history of the American space industry to compare how different approaches in space policy yielded radically different results in outcome and costs.

The study compared space systems developed with heavy government control versus private-industry centric approaches to see which path was better for taxpayers and the industry at large. It is no surprise, then that Zimmerman found the most dramatic success stories in the private sector, while centrally planned programs floundered and stalled.

In 2005 the United States committed itself to a long term program to get people to the moon, and possibly beyond. NASA was tasked with replacing the Space Shuttle program with what was dubbed the Crew Exploration Vehicle, set to explore the solar system and get to the moon in ten years. It has, of course, failed the time frame for the mission. The program was modified by the following administration to create what we now call the Orion Space Capsule and Space Launch System (SLS).

After more than 15 years and $43 billion spent, the United States has not been able to produce the much anticipated SLS and has yet to find a use for it. This is a rocket without a mission.

A healthy space ecosystem serves many purposes. Besides the obvious military implications, the global economy has reaped massive dividends from technologies birthed in space development. Without satellite GPS, lasers, and water purification it is difficult to imagine modern society; yet they were all developed thanks to the space race.

Regrettably, billions of dollars have been squandered in heavy-handed approaches that do little to advance space technology. Zimmerman found that

When we add in the cost to build Ares/SLS as well as all NASA’s carrying costs, the total outlay to build and launch these three capsules equals about $43 billion. From conception to first operational flight will take about 15 years, assuming that first manned Orion flight occurs in 2021.

Meanwhile, after spending $5.4 billion and 7 years of development, the private sector has been able to launch 42 cargo and unmanned flight capsules and 42 rockets.

In fact, while the government is still struggling to get its massive rocket without a mission airborne, SpaceX has announced that by the end of the year they will send two people on a trip to circumnavigate the moon before returning to earth on their Falcon Heavy rocket.

The SLS will likely launch for the first time in 2018, and is likely to only launch once per year. It may have a higher payload than the Falcon Heavy, or other heavy lift rockets currently in development, but the current estimates for each launch run at a low end of $500 million. For that price a costumer could launch 5 (!) Falcon heavies at $90 million per launch, and have change to spare for space ice cream.

Space is too important to leave to government central planning. In spite of decades of over-regulation, breakthrough companies are reshaping the world’s aerospace industry. Not only is it becoming cheaper for space programs to perform science in space, but more companies are entering the launch market, and new players are finding ways to innovate, making telecommunications cheaper for everyone and paving the road for affordable space travel. 

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Public Safety Success: South Carolina Reduces Crime and Reduces Spending

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, 3:45 PM PERMALINK

Nearly six years after enacting a major sentencing and corrections reform package, South Carolina’s prison population has declined 14% while violent and property crime rates have both fallen by 16%.

In 2010, lawmakers enacted S.B. 1154, the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act. The law made South Carolina a leader among the dozens of states employing research-driven criminal justice policies to produce a greater public safety return on corrections spending.

Between 2011 and 2014, the state averted over $141 million in operating costs that would have been required to house a projected inmate population of over 28,000 by 2014 and avoided the construction of a new prison space projected to cost $317 million. There have been an additional $33 million saved in operating costs through 2016.

After decades of rising prison populations, reforms in 33 states have helped cut the national incarceration rate by 13 percent since 2007. States are finding smart, new ways to get tough on crime and, in the process, changing how America views crime and punishment.

This podcast goes through the dramatic changes in South Carolina’s justice system. It features leaders in South Carolina who are implementing their innovative reforms – state Senator Gerald Malloy (D); Bryan Stirling, S.C. state corrections director; and Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts public safety performance project.

Voters and legislators are looking more intently at improving the results of incarceration. “There really is a sea change in this attitude towards crime and punishment across the country over the past ten years” said Gelb. Little wonder that two thirds of states have moved in this direction.

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Utah Scores Victory for Minors and Public Safety

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Friday, March 10th, 2017, 12:51 PM PERMALINK

Today, Utah’s legislature passed House Bill 239 to improve the state’s treatment of juvenile offenders and reduce crime among young offenders. The bill received strong votes in both chambers, sailing to Governor Herbert’s desk.

Utah has been aggressively reforming their criminal justice system, this newest piece applies the lessons from previous successes to the juvenile system. The bill scales back incarcerating juveniles over status offenses, such as truancy, to focus resources on youths who require a higher level of attention. Rather than taking a student directly to court, early interventions and diversions will give parents resources to correct their children’s behavior.

According to the Utah Juvenile Justice Working Group, HB 239 is projected to save taxpayers $58 million over 5 years. In the meantime juveniles are given better resources to turn their lives around, and public safety is enhanced. The working group was established in 2016 at the behest of Governor Herbert in order to look at the state’s juvenile justice system and formulate recommendations to improve results.

Americans for Tax reform applauds these positive steps and hopefully this is a prologue to more legislation to come.

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Oklahoma Looks at $1.9 billion in Savings Through Smarter Justice

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, February 2nd, 2017, 5:09 PM PERMALINK

Oklahoma is aiming to be one of the most aggressive prison reformers after introducing an anticipated report by the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force today.

The report comes after the bi-partisan task force, put together by Republican Governor Mary Fallin, combed through the states courts and prisons to determine how best to reduce crime with limited resources. Their recommendations are ambitious: aiming to avert $1.9 billion in prison costs over 10 years.

They would achieve this by reducing the projected prison population increase by over 9,000 beds.

Oklahoma’s prison population is estimated to increase 25% through 2016 if no actions are taken, from 28,000 prison beds to 36,000. The worst part? The Sooner State’s prisons are filled with nonviolent offenders. Only 25% of admissions into the prison system are for violent offenses. This means that scarce resources are being spent to warehouse nonviolent offenders while the state deals with an unsustainable budget deficit.

There are already reforms being implemented. Last year the state’s voters approved state questions 780 and 781 by high margins. The proposals de-felonize simple drug possession while reinvesting the subsequent savings in rehabilitation programs.

Gov. Fallin stressed the need for major reform given the state’s fiscal situation in a press release earlier today

Oklahoma is in a crisis as our current prison population greatly exceeds capacity, and we have the second-highest imprisonment rate in the country, with the highest rate for women. Without change, our prison population will increase by 25 percent, and will require three more prisons to be built or contracted.

Oklahoma is dealing with a $870 million budget hole. Actions must be taken to reign in wasteful spending: crime policies that make it more likely for an offender to commit more crimes must be changed.

The Report recommends multiple policies pioneered in other red states like Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, and Utah among others. The report proposes adjusting drug sentences to focus on violent and serious drug traffickers, expanding access to cheaper alternatives to incarceration, expanding parole supervision, and better support for victims of crimes.

ATR, along with four other center-right organizations, sent Gov. Fallin a letter expressing our support for smarter justice practices. As we stated before,

We applaud your Executive Order establishing and charging the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force to examine the research, data, and best practices in criminal justice and to recommend policies that improve public safety and hold those who have committed crime accountable while safely reducing the prison population.

We encourage leaders in the state capitol to take up the proposed reforms as soon as possible. Oklahoma can continue to be a leader on justice reform, this report proves it.

Photo Credit: Kelly

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Rocket Science as Political Sport

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016, 2:51 PM PERMALINK

Politicizing the recent failure of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket isn’t just politics as usual. It actually risks setting back America’s growing free-market space industry.

During a pre-launch test last month, the private space company lost one of its advanced Falcon 9 rockets as it prepared to deliver a $195 million Israeli communications satellite to space. Though the satellite was meant for civilian use, a group of representatives sent a letter to the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration putting into question SpaceX’s certification to be awarded military contracts.

It’s shocking that this needs to be repeated, but rocket science is not easy. This is why the Air Force and the FAA carefully vet launch providers and ensure compliance with safety regulations and vehicle reliability.

Simply put, why would SpaceX lose its certifications before the investigation is complete?

The easy answer is to make SpaceX’s competition the only game in town when it comes to military launches. Of course, limiting America’s options for launching important payload into space may hamper national security, but crony capitalism can be lucrative to established players. In fact, it would entrench reliance on the questionable RD-180 engine.

In a letter signed by Rep. Bill Flores (R-FL) and a bipartisan group of 23 other United States Congressmen, the FAA, Air Force, and NASA were asked to continue the normal process of investigation. They are reminded that “due to strong safety procedures… the mishap resulted in no loss of life, no injuries, and no damages to third party property.” In other words, the system worked.

As the letter points out, SpaceX did invite members of NASA and the Air Force to help in the internal investigation of the explosion. All of this followed the precedent of the multiple investigations to similar incidents that came before.

Conservative lawmakers should know better than to demand rash actions to events before anyone knows what really happened. To put into perspective, SpaceX is the company that is seeking to create an honest-to-goodness vehicle to take humans to Mars and back. What’s more, they are funding this by competing in the open market against established crony-capitalist companies and state-run rocket services. SpaceX deserves to be treated the same way as any other company. They should be allowed to complete their investigation without Congressional meddling.

The future looks bright for space exploration. We should let pioneering businesses have a chance to prove themselves.

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