Skilled space program employees out of work and out of hope

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," August 3, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Broken promises. The president pledged the world while out on the campaign trail, but fantasy quickly turned into reality, and almost four years later, the fallout is hard to ignore.

Now, tonight in a "Hannity" special investigation, we look at the impact that candidate Obama's undelivered campaign rhetoric has had on average Americans, their communities and on a larger scale, the impact that it has already made on our nation's legacy.

Now, throughout this hour, you are going to hear from those directly affected by the president's policies as well as elected officials, business experts, political commentators.

And tonight, we begin with a group of people that the president has turned his back on and that is the hard working Americans who helped the United States reach the final frontier. Now today, in order to put an American astronaut in space, we have to pay the Russians millions of dollars for one seat on one of their shuttles.

But candidate Obama, he promised a, well, different future.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: On behalf of the greatest team in the world, good luck to you and your crew on the final flight of this true American icon.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The shuttle is always going to be a reflection of what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through. Let's light the fire one more time, Mike, and witness this great nation at its best. Atlantis is ready for launch.

HANNITY (voice-over): It was the end of an era. July 21st, 2011 space shuttle Atlantis returned to the Kennedy Space Center from its last mission, and with that touchdown the space shuttle program officially ended.

But what happened to the thousands of workers who after spending decades making sure that Americans could explore space and beyond lost their jobs? Many were hanging on a promise.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We got to be clear. We cannot cede our leadership in space. That's why I'm going to gap, ensure that our space program doesn't suffer when the shuttle goes out of service.

HANNITY: But it was one he wouldn't keep.

OBAMA: By continuing to support NASA funding, by speeding the development of the shuttle successor, by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the shuttle is retired, because we can't afford to lose their expertise.

Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world once again and make America stronger and is going to help grow the economy right here in Brevard County and right in Florida. That is what we are going to do.


HANNITY: The towns in Brevard County primarily make up what is known as Florida's space coast. Home to the Kennedy Space Center, now this area was impacted the most when the space shuttle program ended, sending unemployment soaring and it is only now starting to stabilize.

MELISSA BYRON, COCOA BEACH REGIONAL COC: There was an impact, and there's no doubt. And everyone would, you know, would be not be remiss to say it differently. But the resiliency is amazing. We are at single digit unemployment, about nine percent right now. And it did rise above into double digits but it has been slowly coming down.

HANNITY: But for some the economic hardship was almost too much to handle. Thousands of workers were laid off. Highly skilled Americans left with no hope. Tony Dees, Terry White, Kevin Harrington and Jody Tobin work for the private contractor United Space Alliance at the Space Center until the shuttle program ended.

TONY DEES, FORMER SPACE PROGRAM EMPLOYEE: I'm currently not working. Looking, but not working.

TERRY WHITE, FORMER SPACE PROGRAM EMPLOYEE: I got laid off 11 months ago and I tell you right now, nobody wants the old guy.

JODY TOBIN, FORMER SPACE PROGRAM EMPLOYEE: For me, I knew it was coming, so I poised myself into building a couple of companies and surviving. Now, I do some arrow space aerospace consulting.

WHITE: If you go looking and it's not just in the space industry, all across the country, you know, there is not a lot of jobs out there. There's a lot of experience but people don't want the experience or they don't want the old person. And, you know, I understand part of it but still it is tough out there especially in this area.

DEES: There are jobs out there. But there are a lot of jobs that are out-of-state and not all of us can pick up and go. For instance, myself, I take care of my parents whenever -- every weekend. Go over there and mow the yard and do the odds and ends around it. If I go out of state, there is nobody that is going to come around to do that.

HANNITY: But it is not just those who worked at the Space Center that are feeling the economic sting. Small businesses in the area also are suffering. Jerry and Brenda Mulberry own Space Shirts, it's a small business that among other things sells t-shirts and collectibles for space enthusiasts of all ages. Now, Gerry was a part of the space shuttle program for three decades until the shuttle retired and he got laid off.

GERRY MULBERRY, FORMER SPACE PROGRAM EMPLOYEE: Knowing that we were going to be not having space shuttles any more, we have been trying to do a little more diversification on our business. There has been a lot of people that are really working diligently to try and find other work and it has been very difficult.

BRENDA MULBERRY, WWW. SPACESHIRTS.COM: I think that the biggest issue for us now is insurance. I mean, we went from having another whole income to no income plus pay $1,200 a month insurance for our family. You know that we weren't paying. And, you know, all the people like Gerry, you know, he is 53 years old. You can't -- he is too young to quit working. He is too young to stop but he is too old to go start another career.

HANNITY: For those who built their careers helping put Americans in space, the fact that there is no longer a program hurts just as much as the economic impact.

KEVIN HARRINGTON, FORMER SPACE PROGRAM EMPLOYEE: It is hard not to feel stung by it, it ultimately, you know, what people don't understand really is the investment in space is always paid back.

BRENDA MULBERRY: Does anyone have any idea the money that it made us? It made us money in America. It made hundreds of businesses. Thousands of businesses. Hundreds of thousands of workers and we gave it all away.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: From this vantage point, we can see a great thing that has been accomplished. Farewell, make us proud.

DEES: We can't afford not to fund a space program. Period. I mean we as a nation are explorers, always have been.

TOBIN: I just wish that the promise was not broken and we would still be flying today and we would still be number one in the space race today.

OBAMA: Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world once again and make America stronger and is going to help grow the economy right here in Brevard County and right here in Florida. That is what we are going to do.


HANNITY: It's a broken promise that won't be forgotten any time soon.


HANNITY: And joining me now are two of the former United Space Alliance employees that you just saw on that piece, Terry White and Tony Dees.

Guys, gentlemen, welcome to the program. Thank you for being with us.

WHITE: Thank you.

HANNITY: You just heard what the president said at the end of that piece, but he also talked about that, you know, that's what we are going to do. We're going to grow the economy, we're going to, you know, protect jobs, we're going to continue supporting NASA, we're going to continue funding the success of the shuttle program. Did he do that?

WHITE: No, he did not. We knew the shuttle was ending but Constellation was supposed to come online shortly thereafter to fill the gap, and one of the things he did was to go cancel the Constellation program.

HANNITY: Yes. And you are not working currently as a result.

WHITE: No, I'm not working.

HANNITY: And you are, but I asked if you would give your friend a job and you said you would like to.

DEES: I'd love to.

HANNITY: But there is not enough work?

DEES: No, sir.

HANNITY: All right. Explain the situation.

DEES: I've actually had to uproot myself and move to Virginia for employment.

HANNITY: To do other work?

DEES: Yes, sir. Leaving my parents.

HANNITY: All right. I go through a list or a litany of statements that he's made. He said, he would cut the deficit in half, he didn't do that. He said, he would go line by line and eliminate ear marks, that didn't happen. He said America is going to come together under his watch, not red America, blue America, the United States of America. Now, that this affects you directly, what do you think of the veracity and truthfulness of him?

DEES: Campaign promises that he made, he just continued to break.

HANNITY: Do you think he had any intention?

DEES: No sir, I don't.

HANNITY: You just think this was -- he went out there, he said what he needed to say to get elected and get people to vote for him.

DEES: Exactly.


WHITE: And as well as, you know, the Russians launching our astronauts now, the commercialization on space now I'm seeing where he is recommending that we go overseas with some of that to do it cheaper.

HANNITY: What does it mean to you when we are hiring the Russians to send astronauts up in space?

WHITE: To me, it's really -- we were leaders in space and the whole world looked at us.

HANNITY: What is the overall impact on the economy? You two have been impacted. How many other people are we talking about?

DEES: Oh, tens of thousands.


HANNITY: In spite of the promise that we are going to continue to grow the economy, that is what we are going to do, we're going to protect jobs. He didn't protect any jobs.

DEES: No, sir.

WHITE: Not in our area.

HANNITY: Yes. All right. And what about these future projects and the successor of the space shuttle, does that have any chance of getting off the ground?

WHITE: Well, if you look at what is coming out all the time from the administration, it is moving further and further out. And it was going to be 2020, now it is going to be 2030.

HANNITY: So, you don't believe that either?

WHITE: No. We still don't have the hardware -- we're the hardware guys. The hardware, we put it together and make it work.

DEES: No clear direction from this administration.

HANNITY: All right, guys. Good to see you. Words. Just words.

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