‘Green Scissors’ Would Cut $380 Billion from Environmentally Harmful Spending

Published August 25, 2011

The federal government could cut $380 billion of spending over five years to save taxpayers money and protect the environment, say a group of environmental and fiscal watchdog organizations that call themselves the Green Scissors coalition.

“These are commonsense cuts. Outside of the Beltway, these are things people agree don’t make sense,” said Ryan Alexander, president of coalition member Taxpayers for Common Sense. Other members include Friends of the Earth, consumer watchdog Public Citizen, and free-market think tank The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.

“Lawmakers across the political spectrum should be scrambling to eliminate these examples of wasteful spending and unnecessary tax breaks that are squandering our precious tax dollars while the nation is staring into a chasm of debt,” said Alexander.

Ethanol, Other Energy Subsidies

On the chopping block would be subsidies for ethanol and many other alternative energy, oil and gas industry, and nuclear energy subsidies. The coalition also recommends cuts to poorly conceived road projects, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water projects, and government support for crop insurance and flood insurance.

Heartland Institute Vice President Eli Lehrer, whose area of expertise is insurance, says crop insurance encourages the tilling of marginal lands that would be better left in their natural state. The National Flood Insurance Program is $18 billion in debt and encourages development in areas at high risk of flooding, resulting in worse damage when flooding occurs, he says. Many high-risk flood areas also are environmentally sensitive, another reason government should not subsidize development in those areas.

The Green Scissors coalition announced their recommendation at a press conference Aug. 24 in Chicago. On hand to lend support was Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who said, “The 2011 Green Scissors Report is a reminder that it’s time for Congress to have a serious, rational discussion about cutting the budget.”

‘Good Place to Start’

On the other side of the political aisle is Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), who said, “The Green Scissors report is full of recommendations that will help us be good stewards of the environment while also being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. While we won’t all agree on every proposed cut, the report’s recommendations are a good place to start as we look for ways to put our nation on a more sustainable fiscal path.”

“We can go a long way toward solving our nation’s budget problems by cutting spending that harms the environment, and this report provides the Super Committee with a road map,” said Friends of the Earth climate and energy tax analyst Ben Schreiber. The Super Committee is made up of 12 members of Congress who in November are supposed to recommend $1.2 trillion of spending cuts over 10 years.

“At a time of great polarization, Super Committee members can and should find common ground by ending wasteful polluter giveaways,” he said.