Earmarks aren’t gone for good.
In 2011, Congress enacted a moratorium on earmarks—the carve-outs that members used to direct federal dollars to projects in their states and districts.
But it wasn’t the end of pork in the federal budget. There’s still at least $5 billion in wasteful spending across more than 120 earmarks in one large bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (2016), according to a new report by the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).
Here are a few highlights from their annual Congressional Pig Book:
- $255 million was earmarked for two additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. The program is already approximately $170 billion over budget and criticized constantly by public and private watchdogs alike.
- $549 million in earmarks for the Army Corps of Engineers survived. CAGW notes this is an increase from $363 million the year before.
- $10 million is slated for “high energy cost grants” meant to assist communities that experience higher than average energy costs. The problem? There’s more than one program intended to achieve the same objective.
- $66 million for the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit foundation that aims to “help grow and strengthen democratic institutions around the world.”
CAGW also didn’t miss the irony of their report, writing, “Unfortunately, the earmark moratorium has not only failed to eliminate earmarks, but also has rendered the process patently less transparent. For example:
- There are no names of legislators;
- No list or chart of earmarks;
- Limited information on how the money will be spent
The annual Pig Book highlights why a central pillar of the fight against the influence of money in politics is transparency. Political contributions can be used to grease the wheels for earmarks, subsidies, bill carve-outs and other sweetheart deals—all of which amount to the crony capitalism abhorred by the left and right alike. Without full, real time transparency of political giving and spending the public is left to unravel the tangled web of influence in the dark.
There’s billions more taxpayer dollars in what Citizens Against Government Waste refer to as “pork-barrel spending” – read the full report yourself.