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Do Earmarks Matter?

Making fun of earmarked Congressional spending is easy, feel-good entertainment. In this regard Sen. John McCain‘s Twitter feed, in which he reels off outrageous examples of pork-barrel spending (we especially liked “$300,000 for Texas A&M for ‘Texas Height Modernization’“) is a laugh factory. But is the war on pork a distraction from a larger problem? In 2008, Congress earmarked $17.2 billion for special projects. That amounts to less than one half of one percent of all Federal spending last year. The figure is less than NASA’s 2008 budget ($17.3 billion) and less than half of the $35 billion the country spent on foreign aid last year (is there a “Finland Height Modernization” program?). A recent paper found almost no correlation between the amount of pork in a given year and the size of that year’s deficit. The authors conclude: “While increasing levels of pork may be symptomatic of a larger government spending problem, they are not the underlying cause.” [%comments]