NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 4, 2008

Last month, Congress passed a 3,500-page omnibus spending bill after less than 24 hours for review.  The bill, which mostly renewed funding for existing programs, contained more than 9000 "earmarks" -- worth at least $7.4 billion -- for legislators' pet projects, including:

  • Olive fruit fly research in France: $213,000.
  • Center for Grape Genetics in Geneva, N.Y.: $1.9 million.
  • Fish-waste research in Alaska: $2.5 million.
  • Awning renovations in Roanoke, Va.: $250,000.
  • Cormorant control in Vermont, Michigan, Mississippi and New York: $1.2 million.

Of course, one legislator's pork is another's priority.  For example, it is critical to study olive fruit flies, says Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), the earmark's sponsor, since they're the biggest threat to the U.S. olive crop.

The real problem with earmarks, says Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), is that "they circumvent the normal process," since they typically are placed in bills without discussion.  Thus, lawmakers never get to debate them and find out if they're genuinely necessary -- or just more pork.

Source: Lyric Wallwork Winik and Daryl Chen, "Congress' Pork Overload,", January 27, 2008.

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