Buddy, Can’t Spare a Dime For The Environment?
by Sarah (Steve) Mosko
- Fullerton Observer, Mid Nov 2010, p. 20
- Santa Monica Daily Press, 4 Nov 2010
- E-Magazine’s Our Planet Weekly, as ‘The Environmental Spending Gap, 12 Oct 2010
- Surf City Voice, 8 Oct 2010
How much are you willing to pay for access to clean air and drinking water?
What’s a fair price to keep toxic chemicals out of the food supply, to insure the future of ocean and freshwater fish stocks, to keep public parks open, and to stem the melting of the polar ice caps so our coastal cities remain above sea level and polar bears won’t go extinct?
Questions of this sort prompted me to investigate how much the federal government and my home state of California (and ultimately we taxpayers) actually spend on environmental protection. Turns out neither comes close to one thin dime on the dollar.
Federal outlay for environmental protection is one percent
Federal environmental spending, like defense spending, comes under discretionary spending which in 2009 amounted to $1.2 trillion or about one-third of the total $3.5 trillion federal outlay. Mandatory spending makes up the remaining two-thirds of the federal budget (nearly $2.3 trillion) and goes to hefty programs like Medicare, Social Security and interest on the national debt.
Discretionary spending is divided into two broad categories, national defense and non-national defense, with defense spending eating up 53 percent of all discretionary dollars in 2009. The government keeps tabs on federal environmental spending in a category called natural resources and environment (NRE) which totaled $35 billion or just 2.8 percent of discretionary spending and a meager one percent of total federal spending.
What this means in dollars and cents spent on behalf of each person in the country is easy to compute using the U.S. Census Bureau estimate that the country’s population in 2009 slightly exceeded 307 million: Per capita federal spending for NRE was just $114.49, dwarfed by the $2,139.24 spent for every man, woman and child on national defense.
That’s just 31 cents per day spent on my (or your) behalf to preserve the environment versus $5.86 spent daily in one’s name for national defense.