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Wasteful US Government Earmarks in 2008

2008 was a big year for talking about reducing wasteful government spending, especially with the mounting financial crisis and the U.S. presidential election. This infographic shows off what the federal government didn't want to show off when it comes to misuse of tax dollars.

wasted earmarks, a barrel of info

Wasteful US Government Earmarks in 2008

2008 was a big year for talking about reducing wasteful government spending, especially with the mounting financial crisis and the U.S. presidential election. Here’’s what the federal government didn’’t want to show off when it comes to the misuse of tax dollars.

In 2008, the United States government spent a lot of time talking about transparency when accounting for the use of taxes, yet managed to squeeze in 10,160 earmark projects into 12 appropriation bills.

A 14 percent increase in earmark spending from 2007’s total of $17.2 billion. Add that together with recorded earmark spending since 1991 and you’ll get a total of $290 billion, bringing 2008’s total to $19.6 billion, or about $64.50 for every person in the country.

The Defense Appropriations Act contained $6.4 billion in 142 anonymous projects, making up 6.6 percent of the projects but 57 percent of the cost. The total number of anonymous earmark projects in 2008 was 221, but because the others were names doesn’'t mean they weren’'t pork.

Earmarks in the name of labor, health and education totaled $1 billion. That doesn’'t include all the pet projects built into bills for agriculture, homeland security, financial services, interior, commerce justice and science. Earmarks were stuffed into bills in several categories, including pork projects within Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, also known as T.H.U.D. The total of these was $1.5 billion.

The most egregious expenditures (including earmarks not specifically authorized, requested by only one member of Congress, not the subject of congressional hearings, or only meant to serve a local or special interest) include the following:

  • $3.8 million to preserve and restore an old stadium in Detroit
  • $1.9 million for a water taxi in an area where it was not only not needed but where local government needed money for schools
  • $1.79 million for swine odor research to literally figure out why pigs smell (talk about pork spending!)
  • $500,000 for peanut research in Alaska
  • $1.76 million for a bee farm in Texas
  • $951,500 for energy efficient street lights in Detroit, a city with much bigger problems than energy efficiency
  • $190,000 to the New York Historical Society, a group with over $58 million in its fund already
  • $2 million to save an already thriving lake in Idaho
  • A “historic” lighthouse in Wisconsin burned through $5 million

Although certain states experienced much higher per capita earmark spending, such as Alaska with $322 per capita, or Hawaii with $302 million, or $235 per state capita. You may not have known about the $142 million spent by the state of North Dakota such as the $3 million to build satellite technology that NASA was already giving away for free.

All of this is only the tip of the iceberg of government waste. In fact, a great deal of irresponsible spending of U.S. taxes is spearheaded by the same congressmen and congresswomen— over and over. In 2009, the most offending big spenders included the following:

  • Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) racked up $500 million for various projects, including $3.6 million for “intelligent decision exploration.”
  • Thad Cochran (R-Miss) squandered millions of the Homeland Security budget on programs DHS wasn’’t aware of.
  • Harry Reid (D-Nev) spent $150,000 on an old church to be used for “family reunions and other events.”
  • Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) spent about $40 million on a training center that had already been paid for in addition to his millions in other pet spending projects.
  • Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) used $132 million for 84 programs and was quoted as saying “I am proud of those earmarks.”
  • Responsible for billions in wasteful spending is Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) who managed to get in more than $204 million in the 2009 fiscal year.

So with all the talk about saving money and the economy, what’'s up with congress and all this pork barrel spending?