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It’s no secret that Congress makes promises, then does the opposite behind closed doors. But the taxpayer cost of the congressional “earmark ban” is enough to make your head spin.
Congress approved more than $5 billion in earmarks for fiscal year 2016, despite its self-imposed ban, according to a new report released by Citizens Against Government Waste. “Pork-barrel spending is alive and well in Washington, D.C., despite claims to the contrary,” the nonprofit organization said. This year marks the 24th consecutive year Citizens Against Government Waste has exposed wasteful spending via earmarks in its “Pig Book,” and the fourth year since Congress banned the practice in 2010.
The amount of pork-barrel spending is up over 17 percent from last year, when the group identified earmarks totaling $4.2 billion, including pet projects for “fish passage,” “embryo adoption awareness,” and abstinence education. Pet projects that snuck their way through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 include $10 million for an energy program that completed its mission in 1981; $25 million for a Pentagon STEM program for kids; and $163.9 million for the “Fund for the Improvement of Education,” which President Obama did not request funding for in 2011 or 2012.
In all, the report identified 123 earmarks totaling $5.1 billion, a nearly 90 percent increase since fiscal year 2014, which Citizens Against Government Waste called “disturbing.”
Only Congress could ban earmarks and then actually increase their earmark spending by 17%. Earmarks are nothing more than kickbacks for members of Congress to vote on legislation they never would have voted to pass otherwise. Thanks to the Citizens Against Government Waste, taxpayers are aware of this waste, fraud, and abuse in the system. But the question is, what are voters going to do about it?