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Earmarks, Pork Barrel and Federal Budgets

In budgeting class we talk about two kinds of “earmarks”: (1) special revenues that are earmarked for specific purposes, for example, federal gas tax earmarked for transportation improvements; (2) items of appropriations that are targeted toward special projects. The topic here is about the second “earmark” which is heavily criticized in federal budgets.

According to the OMB Watch, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization overseeing the OMB: “Earmarks, often referred to as ‘pork,’ have been an integral part of the appropriations process for decades. Individual legislators seeking re-election will often develop and promote lists of special projects or district-specific funding they were able to secure to convince voters of their ability, influence, and value.”

Earmarks have accounted for scandals such as the bridges to nowhere in Alaska, and the appropriation of $500,000 to the Teapot Museum in Sparta, North Carolina. As such funds are allocated in respond to lobbying of special interest groups rather than demands of public priorities, earmarks are often equal to a waste of money. For a more complete “pork” list, see the “Pig Book” compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste.

Blow are a series of NPR audio chips on the earmark issue:

        ❑        Obama Vows No Earmarks In Stimulus Package” 1/6/09
        ❑        Eliminating Federal Earmarks No Easy Task” 9/10/08
        ❑        Congress Cracking Down on Earmarks” 3/12/08
        ❑        Senate Earmarks Especially Contentious This Year” 7/23/07
        
❑        Slate's Explainer: Federal Budget 'Earmarks' ” 4/7/06
        
❑        Oklahoma Senator Tugs at Beloved 'Earmarks' “ 5/4/06
        
❑        Have Earmarks Really Earned Their Bad Rep? ” 1/27/06

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