What we have is a lack of focus on long term production. These shovel ready projects (bridges and roads) that were the core of the Stimulus Package are very short term jobs and limited in scope and scale. What we need is a larger full scale project, or projects, that employ hundreds of thousands...if not millions. A Moon Base sounds like a good project to spur innovation and get our kids excited, and add to it a nice asteroid mission to mine resources and a serious project to help private industry develop Space Based Solar Power concepts. These are things that will take 20+ years to accomplish...LONG TERM!
Like Kennedy did in the 60's, but for reasons of challenging Russia, the current or next Administration should once again use space as a rallying point. This time, as a means for creating jobs, not just engineers and scientists either, but a whole host of jobs that would be directly and indirectly related to the endeavor. For every 1 person directly related to the project(s) making an average of $80,000 a year, you'll end up also creating another 1 or 2 jobs based on the fact that that person now has the kind of income to buy a house, car, clothes, eat out...basically spend money. Hello retail sector.
And more than 50% of this should be handled by private industry, not NASA and the government. NASA has a role, but to create long term jobs you must have the private sector carry the lion share of the work, use the grants and loans for technological development, and grow the Commercial Space Industry so that it becomes a self sustaining force for space travel and space based development. The government could even make money on this like they did when they worked with the railroad industry to build the Intercontinental Railroad.
This would also spur technological growth in a whole host of sectors, because as all space advocates know, developing space technologies ends up also developing technologies in unrelated sectors. Who knows what crazy advancements would be made in the medical, transportation and even clothing sectors. History has proven this, so why not embrace it?
This is a common sense, no-brainer solution to one hell of a problem...series of problems! Bring in other nations to join us in the grand project, thereby fortifying our peaceful cooperation relationships. Kids seeing real movement in the space industry beyond 2 or 3 launches a year will get them excited to get into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), especially if they genuinely feel they can go into space themselves to do work.
Mr. President, the time is now. The solution is obvious. Let's go!