Limbaugh falsely suggested federal spending on environment equal to spending on defense, homeland security

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

In conflating expenditures by the federal government with all public and private spending, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh falsely suggested that the federal government spends as much annually on environmental protection as on defense and homeland security. In fact, the federal government spends at least 14 times as much on defense and homeland security as it does on the environment, according to the White House budget office.

On the April 22 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh read aloud from an Investors Business Daily article that cited Paul Taylor, a skeptic of environmentalism. "Paul Taylor has written that the U.S. spends as much on environmental protection -- roughly 5 percent of GDP -- as on national defense and homeland security," the article reported. Limbaugh then falsely suggested that Taylor's assertion about spending on environmental protection related exclusively to federal spending:

LIMBAUGH: We're spending as much on environmental protection as we are on defense and homeland security. And, yet when there's a crisis of deficits, do you ever hear anybody say, "We need to reduce our expenditures on the environment"? No, they always focus on the military.

But contrary to Limbaugh's suggestion, Taylor's analysis purports to compare federal spending on defense and homeland security to total spending on the environment, including state and local governments as well as the private sector. In an April 22 op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Taylor argued: "All sectors of the United States spend as much on environmental protection as the federal government spends on national defense and homeland security combined -- perhaps a prudent balance of priorities." Taylor is the author of Green Gone Wrong: Ecopolitics Exposed (Writers Club Press, 2001), a book that "explores the concepts of ecopolitics and fear mongering that have infected environmentalism and its government bureaucratic legacy," according to a description on Amazon.com.

While estimates of the federal spending on "environmental protection" depend on which programs one includes under that label, Limbaugh's claim is clearly far from the mark. For example, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the $403.6 billion dedicated to the departments of Defense and Homeland Security in the fiscal 2004 federal budget is more than 20 times the $19.1 billion allocated to the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. Another indicator, based on the OMB's classification (Excel document) of federal spending by function (rather than by department or agency), placed 2004 spending on "national defense" at $455.9 billion -- more than 14 times the $30.7 billion listed for "natural resources and environment."

This is not the first instance of Limbaugh attempting to downplay U.S. military spending by grossly overstating federal spending in other areas. Limbaugh also falsely claimed that "we spend over two times on education already, what we spend on defense."

Posted In
Economy, Budget
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