Snip, Snip: Cutting Planet-Plundering Government Programs with Green Scissors

By Motavalli, Jim; Thomas, Christopher | E Magazine, January-February 1998 | Go to article overview
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Snip, Snip: Cutting Planet-Plundering Government Programs with Green Scissors


Motavalli, Jim, Thomas, Christopher, E Magazine


When environmentalists talk about forming coalitions, they're usually thinking about working with other greens, not budget-cutting conservatives. But, as the highly effective Green Scissors Campaign demonstrates, when big-ticket government projects and subsidies are also environmentally destructive, there's considerable common ground between the two camps.

Working together to wield Green Scissors are the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG), Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS). All three operate Washington-based lobbying efforts, but the comparison ends there. FOE is a mainstream environmental group, and USPIRG a citizens' lobby, while TCS works for a balanced budget and tax cuts. They've been able to form an effective coalition because they agree on hating corporate subsidies and wasteful pork barrel spending, particularly when it impacts the Earth. Founded in 1993, Green Scissors has helped terminate 11 wasteful programs (including a boondoggle known as the Gas-Cooled Modular Helium Reactor), saving taxpayers $20 billion.

In 1997, Green Scissors targeted 57 programs whose elimination would save the taxpayer $36 billion. The group succeeded in building congressional coalitions which scheduled 20 House and Senate votes on its key issues. While it won no outright victories, it raised the profile on protected programs usually hidden deep within appropriation bills. How many taxpayers would cheerfully support below-cost timber sales, the corporate welfare-dispensing Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or Army chemical weapons incinerators?

"It is truly a win-win situation," says U.S. Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY). "Green Scissors is founded on the belief that we must pass on to our children a sound environment and a sound economy. Who can disagree with that?"

Courtney Cuff, the FOE Green Scissors campaign coordinator, says that "working with the enemy" is definitely paying off. "The better we get to know each other, the stronger the alliance becomes, because we learn how each other thinks," she says. Jill Lancelot, Green Scissors co-founder and TCS' legislative director, agrees that the joint campaign has been successful. "You get two very different and very separate constituencies coming together on an issue and finding the common ground," Lancelot says.

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