The Status of Pork, 2007

| Mon Apr. 7, 2008 11:53 AM EDT

While we're on the subject of congressional earmarks, I should point out that Citizens Against Government Waste came out with its 2007 Pig Book last week. It notes that due to a little anti-earmark momentum, the amount of taxpayer money that went into pork last year was the lowest in almost ten years. But there are some bad actors, of course. From CAGW's summary:

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This year's Pig Book breaks a run of seven consecutive years of record dollar amounts of pork, culminating in $29 billion in the 2006 Congressional Pig Book. This lesser barrel of pork can be attributed to the efforts of Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who prevented the enactment of nine appropriations bills in December, 2006, and the subsequent moratorium on earmarks announced and enforced by the House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairmen David Obey (D-Wis.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in H. J. Res. 20, the bill that funds the government for the remainder of fiscal 2007.

There is still enough pork to cause concern for taxpayers, as 2,658 projects were stuffed into the Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations Acts, at a cost of $13.2 billion. Pork identified in the Pig Book since 1991 totals $252 billion. Defense had 2,618 projects, or 204 less than in 2006, at a cost of $10.8 billion, or 28 percent less than the $14.9 billion in 2006. For homeland security, the totals were $2.4 billion, or 10 percent less than the $2.7 billion in 2006, and 40 projects, or five more than in 2006.

While only two bills were enacted, the states of Alaska and Hawaii, which have been the top two states in pork per capita every year but one since 2000, were served more then their fair share of bacon by Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). In the defense appropriations bill alone, Alaska received $209,900,000, a 127 percent increase over the total of $92,425,000 in 2006.

Based on historical figures, the enactment of H. J. Res. 20 eliminated more than 7,000 earmarks and saved between $12-$15 billion in pork-barrel spending. Unfortunately, in this Year of the Pig, taxpayers are not getting a pork dividend. Instead, Congress took the savings and spent it on other programs.

I should reiterate that money saved is only a small upside in eliminating earmarks because pork barrel spending is not an overly significant percentage of the federal government's annual budget. At heart, this issue is about good government and eliminating opportunities for favoritism and graft. More at AMERICAblog.