Americans are hearing the talking point that earmarks don't cost the taxpayers any money. This simply is not true. Citizens Against Government Waste, a Congressional watchdog group, has put out a report on wasteful projects from Fiscal Year 2010. They identify $16.5 billion in pork.
The Congressional Pig Book is CAGW's annual compilation of the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. The 2010 Pig Book identified 9,129 projects at a cost of $16.5 billion in the 12 Appropriations Acts for fiscal 2010. A "pork" project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by CAGW and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition.
A look at some of these projects shows that earmarking does lead to waste. To say that $16.5 billion is not significant enough to address is not a valid talking point. Just take a look at some of the projects identified by CAGW.
CAGW gives out Oinker awards for the most egregious pork projects and they gave the "The Dunder-head Mifflin Award" to Senators Specter and Kanjorski for a project in PA:
Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Representative Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) for $200,000 for design and construction of a small business incubator and multipurpose center in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Maybe proponents of earmarking will argue that $200,000 is a drop in the bucket, but it is easy to identify waste that was pushed by Members of Congress. Where in the Constitution does it say that your tax dollars can be forcibly taken away from you then given to a "small business incubator" in Pennsylvania? Conservatives know that the government is incapable of creating long term private sector jobs, so why are any members of Congress wasting your money on this special interest project.
CAGW gave the Hal Bent of Earmarking Award to Hal Rogers of Kentucky:
Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-Ky.) for $10 million for the National Institute for Hometown Security.
It is even harder to argue that $10 million is a drop in the bucket. The federal government has funded the Department of Homeland Security and states have taken it upon themselves to create homeland security departments and entities. Why are federal dollars being funnelled to Kentucky in the name of homeland security?
CAGW gave the An Earmark Grows in Brooklyn Award to Representative Clarke of New York:
Representative Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) for $400,000 for construction and renovation for safety improvements at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
This one does not even pass the laugh test. "Safety improvements" at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden seems outside the scope of the core functions of the federal government. If conservatives are going to push for a limited federal government that only appropriates money for functions specifically authorized by the U.S. Constitution, where is the authorization in the Constitution for this project?
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) previewed the upcoming fight, within the Senate Republican Conference on a resolution to ban earmarks for this Congress below. Coburn tells Red State:
We’ll never be trusted to be the party of less spending while we’re rationalizing more spending through earmarks. Earmarks do nothing to hold the executive branch accountable. In fact, earmarks are the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington. Major spending bills often pass because they contain earmarks. Congress can hold the president accountable by conducting aggressive oversight and passing bills that spend less money.
Senators Coburn and Jim DeMint (R-SC) are expected to force the Senate Republican Conference to vote on this matter next week -- we shall see if the Republicans in Washington are listening to the Tea Party and other Americans who expressed an interest in cutting spending last week on Election Day.
Our own Erick Erickson has an excellent post published a few hours ago titled "No More Earmarxist" where he more specifically mapped out the state of play in the Senate on this issue.