That’s Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, speaking in defense of “earmarks.” An earmark is Washington lingo for what most people outside the Capital Beltway refer to as pork barrel spending -- when a politician inserts into a bill a set amount of money for a specific project in his or her home district.
Earmarks allow politicians to brag that they’re “bringing home the bacon,” and members of Congress tout them to voters in the hopes of buying … er, winning support.
And what, you may ask, are they interested in using our tax dollars for?
Well, in one appropriations bill being debated recently in the House of Representatives, Rep. Jerry Lewis had included an earmark for $500,000 for a swimming pool in Banning, Calif. That’s pretty steep for one pool. Especially when you consider, as The Heritage Foundation’s Tim Chapman notes in his Townhall.com blog, that Lewis secured money for the same pool before -- $250,000 in FY 2006 and $250,000 in FY 2005.
“When this bill passes, Lewis will have secured a total of $1 million for one pool,” Chapman writes. “This thing could be gold-plated!”
An exception, you say? If only. Another example from the same bill (one that, fortunately, wound up getting stripped out): $300,000 for the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center to build a multi-purpose center. And as The Wall Street Journal notes in a June 15 editorial, “members are pushing through another 1,500 special spending projects.”
Past spending bills, according to Heritage budget expert Ronald Utt, have included such, ahem, national priorities as:
• A tattoo-removal program in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. ($50,000)
• The Fort Union Trading Post Bike Trail in North Dakota ($500,000)
• The Center on Obesity at West Virginia University ($2 million)
• An effort to combat "goth culture" in Blue Springs, Mo. ($270,000)