Green Scissors Project Finds Obvious Spending Cuts
Summer Dieting Needed to Cut Budget Deficit
We need members of Congress who will vote to stop anti-American giveaways and corporate welfare handouts.
In Washington, the arrival of summer marks the beginning of the appropriations season. And like most of us, Congress routinely pledges to slim down for the season by cutting the fat from its pork diet. This year, facing a $300 billion deficit, the pressure is on for Congress to make serious attempts to tighten its fiscal belt.
But as we all know, even the most dedicated dieter faces cravings too difficult to overcome. To date, Congress has proven willing to cut a few costly programs from its bloated budgetary menu, but continues to binge on others, many of which take a heavy toll on our environment. So far the weigh-in shows plenty of extra pork:
Tongass Road-Building Subsidies
In an ongoing fight to stop the Forest Service from throwing tens of millions of dollars down the drain to support BigTimber's clear-cutting of Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the House voted to put an end to road-building subsidies. These subsidies force taxpayers to build logging roads so timber companies can haul away valuable trees from public lands at rock bottom prices.
Since 1982, the Forest Service has lost an annual average of $40 million dollars on this wasteful program that plows expensive roads through the pristine expanse of America's last intact rainforest. Leading the charge were Representative's Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), whose dedicated efforts as co-chairs of the Green Scissors Caucus helped return a dose of fiscal and environmental sanity to Congress.
Oil Royalty Rip-Off
On the Interior and Environment appropriations bill, Congress voted to put Big Oil on a government subsidies diet. By accepting an amendment offered by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), the House of Representatives voted to force oil and gas companies to either begin paying the $20 billion in royalties that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates they owe, or be prevented from obtaining more oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
One sure-fire way Congress could shed the pounds would have been to embrace Representative Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) and Earl Blumenauer's (D-Wash.) modest proposal to reduce the sugar industry's dependence on government handouts. Unfortunately, Congress failed to lay off the sweets and opted to keep the subsidies flowing.
Sugar subsidies cost taxpayers over $1 billion dollars annually, encourage agricultural production in marginal, environmentally sensitive areas, and provide no return to taxpayers. The GAO estimates that 42 percent of all sugar subsidies go to only one percent of recipients - a group composed mainly of large and corporate farms.
Market Access Program
Since its creation in 1985, MAP has wasted more than $2 billion subsidizing corporate advertising campaigns overseas. The list of beneficiaries includes Welch's, Sunkist Growers, Inc, the Popcorn Board, and the Wine Institute. Little wonder the GAO has released at least six reports criticizing the program, and in 2004 highlighted it for reduction or elimination. Despite this track record, the House once again rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Stave Chabot (R-Ohio) to this year's Department of Agriculture appropriations bill that would have put this program out to pasture.
Global Nuclear Energy Program
During the Energy and Water appropriations bill debate, the House of Representatives cut their radioactive pork intake by more than half. During the subcommittee and full committee debate, $130 million was cut from the president's $250 million request. On the House floor, Rep. Markey (D-Mass) offered an amendment to cut the program by an additional $40 million. Unfortunately, the amendment failed.
Sweets for Sugarland
With the retirement of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), one of the easiest ways for Congress to trim the budget fat would be to cut the $1.5 billion Deepwater and Unconventional Drilling Research and Development program sited in his district and approved as part of last year's energy bill. Unfortunately, members of Congress still have a sweet tooth for oil and gas subsidies. Rep. Markey (D-Mass.) offered an amendment to the Energy and Water bill that would have cut the program, but unfortunately this amendment failed.
As all would-be dieters know, it takes more than skipping a few tasty tidbits to take off those extra pounds. If Congress is ever going to shoehorn itself into a balanced budget it's going to have to exercise far more fiscal restraint than it has to date.
Government Fails to Collect Public Revenue
The Bush Economy: Fat, Drunk and Broke
Federal Subsidies to Private Luxury Landowners
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What are your views about the federal budget deficit? Share your opinions with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?