|Cut Polluter Pork|
by Carolyn Chase
tax day looming, you may be wondering more than usual how your
hard-earned taxes are spent. The sad fact is that in addition
to many worthy programs, taxpayer dollars are used every day
to pollute our air and rivers, subsidize ill-planned growth and
destroy our natural resources. At the same time that you're sweating
over the new tax forms, politicians in Washington are deciding
this year's handouts and subsidies to wealthy, established, polluting
These federal programs include:
These programs, to one degree or another,
are all "polluter pork" -- examples of the private
sector benefiting unfairly from our hard-earned tax dollars,
without making fair restitution and restoration to the systems
they are benefiting from.
The timber industry claims that logging is necessary to provide jobs for the community. The reality is that logging provides less than three percent of the jobs in our national forests while tourism and recreation create 33 times more. Investing in forest restoration and sustainability makes much more economic sense than subsidizing unsustainable destruction.
According to the General Accounting Office, taxpayers lost nearly $1 billion from 1992-94 in subsidies to support the timber industry cutting the National Forests. According to the Wilderness Society, over the last nine years, the U.S. Forest Service has lost $2.8 billion on the timber program. Nationally in 1996, this wasteful program cost taxpayers over $204 million. Here in California, state timber sales cost taxpayers $21 million that same year.
At best, they are converting national forests
into national tree farms. At worst, in return for our money and
trees, the timber industry leaves acres of stumps, mud slides
and polluted streams in our once-majestic national forests.
These industries emit the majority of greenhouse
gasses which are threatening our global climate. All aspects
of oil production have other severe environmental consequences.
Burning coal is a leading source of air pollution, including
mercury, smog, and soot. These programs benefit giant oil companies
that are certainly capable of funding their own research programs.
Instead, they're on the gravy train.
While Uncle Sam is the king of pork because of his national reach, local largesse can be found in sweetheart lease deals, below-cost infrastructure fees, and other "special arrangements" where private costs are off-loaded on to the public or the environment.
At best, environmental protections are still considered negotiable. Pollution permits often go unenforced or are allowed to lapse. Variances, deviances and all manner of exceptions are allowed. Environmental regulations are manipulated, mocked and subverted. Public assets are continually put into play in service of special interests, with the public good and environmental protection taking the back seat to economic growth. In reality, they are absolutely interdependent, but politicians dance to a different reality in the short term.
Most elected officials and business people
love to tout their support for both the environment and the economy.
But most also continue to vote for special deals and spend taxpayer
money to degrade and destroy the environment. It's called lip
service to the environment and corruption of the status quo.
Carolyn Chase is editor of San Diego Earth Times and founder of the EarthFair in Balboa Park which takes place on April 19th from 10am-5pm. She can be reached at . Green Scissors campaign info is available locally from CALPIRG, a non-profit, non-partisan environmental and consumer watchdog group with 65,000 members in California.