A fight is raging in Congress over proposals to restore the practice of spending “earmarks,” small provisions slipped into spending bills quietly authorizing millions for local projects and special interests. But a new report reminds us that despite a “ban” on earmarks being implemented in 2011, the practice never fully went away.
Published by the advocacy group Citizens Against Government Waste, the 2021 Congressional Pig Book exposes 285 earmarks from fiscal year 2020, totaling $16.8 billion. Here are 7 wild examples of corrupt earmarks the new report exposes.
7 Eyebrow-Raising Earmarks
- $663,000 to eliminate the brown tree snake, a pest found in Guam.
- $65 million for the ‘Salmon Recovery Fund,’ a program intended to “reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead, supporting conservation efforts in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.”
- $41 million for the ‘Starbase Youth Program,’ an initiative that “teaches science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to at-risk youth in multiple locations at or near military bases around the country.”
- $1.7 billion for ‘17 unrequested F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft,’ a type of plane which the report warns “has been plagued with cost overruns, delays, and poor performance.”
- $41 million to combat underwater pests, with $25 million allocated to controlling aquatic plants.
- $5 million for ‘National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs,’ an earmark for elite DC entertainment institutions such as the Kennedy Center.
- $20 million for the ‘Asia Foundation,’ which is “committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia.”
The Problem With Earmarks
Some argue that earmarks are merely the money that greases the wheels of Congress so things can get done, or, alternatively, dismiss the amount of money as relatively trivial. But billions of dollars in waste is no laughing matter for a country drowning in debt. Meanwhile, the very nature of earmarks makes them prone to corruption and dysfunction.