Opinion: Today’s new budget hides nearly 9,000 earmarks

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And you thought it was hard to make sense of your own little checkbook with each month’s statement.

The omnibus budget bill passed by the House today funds most of the federal government for this entire fiscal year, which actually began more than two months ago. The bill costs $516 billion, plus more money yet to be added for Iraq. It is more than 3,000 pages long, an unwieldy package that would normally be contained in 11 separate bills. (The Pentagon budget was passed separately.)


Now, the Roll Call newspaper reveals on its subscription-only website that this mammoth spending bill also includes nearly 9,000 earmarks, special provisions originated by individual legislators to benefit someone or something back home and buried inside a larger bill for a legislative ride relatively free of public scrutiny.

Earmarks for $136,000 here, $250,000 there, $1 million over there and a lot more sprinkled throughout. Just listing them took 700 spreadsheets. Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates that the 8,983 special earmarks will cost taxpayers more than $7.4 billion, though additional costs will become apparent in coming months.

Democrats boasted the earmark number was smaller than last year, but it still works out to 20 special spending provisions for each House member. Do you think these earmarks might get mentioned by incumbents campaigning for reelection next year?

‘It’s totally fiscally irresponsible to lump everything together in one spending bill and put it to a vote less than 24 hours later,” said David Williams, vice president of policy for Citizens Against Government Waste. “It doesn’t have to be this way. They had all year to do this.’

It must be the fault of that long vacation the Iraqi parliament took last summer that got similarly vacationing American legislators so hot and bothered.

Anyway, it’s a darned good thing we had all that talk and all those promises by new Congressional leaders about earmark reform earlier this year. Otherwise, this earmark business could have become costly and stayed out of control.

-- Andrew Malcolm