The 13 Most Absurd Pork Barrel Spending Projects of 2010
In 2009, millions in tax-payer dollars went to tattoo removal programs, peanut research and water taxi services on Pleasure Beach.
So who got millions in 2010?
Early in his presidency, President Obama publicly urged Congress to cut wasteful spending. But by March 2009, Congress had presented him with a $410 billion stimulus bill that included $7.7 billion in pork -- and he signed it.
So what qualifies as pork spending? Also called earmarks, this type of spending is inserted into generally non-related bills as either an award or incentive for political support from constituents and cohorts. The Oxford English Dictionary distinguishes pork barrel spending from normal appropriation spending as "projects designed to please... and win votes." The term predates the Civil War, when barrels of salt pork were given as rewards for good behavior. The Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has seven criteria for an item to be categorized as pork. The project must fall into one of these categories:
Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
Not specifically authorized;
Not competitively awarded;
Not requested by the President;
Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
Serves only a local or special interest.
There is some good news for 2010. According to CAGW, pork barrel spending is down. There was a -10% drop in total earmarks and a -15% decrease in total dollars spent on pork compared to the prior year. Despite the drop, CAGW still identified over 9,000 pork projects costing $16.5 billion.
Without further ado, here are the 13 most absurd earmarks to receive a chunk of the $16.5 billion.
Please note that these are not necessarily the most expensive pieces of pork barrel spending. Anonymous projects represent more than 50% of the cost of earmarks -- $6 billion was allocated to 35 anonymous projects in the Defense Appropriations Act alone.
Anonymous, in pork jargon, means that no one claimed sponsorship or authorship. This way, personal responsibility may be eluded. That's $6 billion allotted to reward constituents, but no one to publicly announce a gracious, "Thank you for your support. Please enjoy this cash."
Understand you may always contact your representative to tell them how you feel about the way they spend your tax dollars. You can find out who represents you here.
To learn more about Citizens Against Government Waste, visit their website here.
If you're still in the mood for government largess, click here to check out one of our most popular articles, The Five Wealthiest Members of Congress.
13) $1,000,000 for the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, D.C.
This historical venue is currently used for social events and is the headquarters of the National Women's Party. It was proposed by Senator Mary Landrieu.
12) $250,000 for a wireless network for the city of Hartselle, Alabama.
11) $225,000 for the St. Louis Art Museum Foundation.
Proposed by Missouri Senator Kit Bond and Representative William Lacy Clay. The museum's admission is free and has a "...per-capita attendance that is consistently among the highest of our nation's art museums," according to the museum website. It also had a fund balance of $148,434,857 as of December 31, 2007.
10) $2.5 million for potato research.
9) $500,000 for brown tree snake control and interdiction in Guam.
8) $4.8 million for wood utilization research.
7) $693,000 for beef improvement research in Missouri and Texas.
Proposed by Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Texas Representative Ciro Rodriguez. A little digging reveals much of the money went to the Beef Improvement Federation, whose efforts have helped cattle reproduce more frequently and grow faster and more efficiently than their ancestors.
6) $7.2 million to the Harkin Grant Program.
5) $7 million to the Robert C. Byrd Institute
The funds for the Institute of Flexible Manufacturing Systems were proposed by the late Senator Robert C. Byrd. Apparently heading the Appropriations Committee allows for carte blanche power to, well, yourself. (CAGW gave both Harkin and late West Virginia Senator Byrd the "Narcissist Award" in their "Most Wasteful" race).
4) $17 million for the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).
According to information on IFI's website, the program was established in 1986 to promote economic and social advance between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland. Interestingly enough, in 2009 former Irish Ambassador to the United States Sean Donlon called the current political and security situation in Northern Ireland "stable."
3) $26,360,000 for Memberships to a Fitness Facility at Mayport Naval Station
Proposed by House Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee member Ander Crenshaw. Membership at the Jacksonville Snap Fitness Center (located 10.5 miles away from the naval station) runs about $44.95 a month. That adds up to more than 48,800 year-long memberships to Snap Fitness -- almost enough to cover each of the 60,400 active-duty personnel, family members, retirees and civilian employees that reside on base.
2) $44,400,000 for 27 Projects in Mississippi
Some of the projects this money is funding are the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology at the University of Mississippi ($5,000,000), remote infrastructure monitoring of natural hazards at the University of Mississippi and the University of Hawaii ($2,000,000), and cannabis eradication at the University of Southern Mississippi ($500,000).
1) $2,500,000,000 for 10 additional C-17 Aircraft
This earmark is one of the most perplexing of all. Not only were the additional planes not requested by the Department of Defense, but a DoD analysis shows that the 205 C-17s currently in its possession are "sufficient to meet the Department’s future airlift needs -- even under the most stressing situations." No wonder this pork was anonymous.