Baby demonstrates derivation of political budgetary term "earmark" (inset, upper right). The Babe got his the old-fashioned way: He earned it in battle. Livestock usually get theirs at the hand of ranchers and farmers who earmark them for identification purposes. Politicians and their media watchdogs use the term metaphorically to refer to the allocation of benefits for a specific use or owner.
"An earmark can be any item in an appropriations bill that designates funds for a specific purpose. If a project circumvents established budgetary procedures it is considered pork," explains Citizens Against Government Waste. "To earmark is to 'designate (as funds) for a specific use or owner,' while pork barrel is 'a government project or appropriation yielding benefits to a political district and its political representative.' An earmark that gets funding through the established procedure is not necessarily a 'good' project, but since it does not meet the definition of pork, it does not get included in the Pig Book."
Doing our homework for when our senators' and representative's offices get back to us about those squealing budgetary items for Chelsea roadway and bridge projects own the street from where we live, we found more federal money and more related projects than identified in our initial research yesterday from that "sweeping" six-year federal highway bill passed by the House last March. Updates as of August 12, 2005 from the "Database of Earmarks in Conference Agreement to the [House] Transportation Bill State by State Comparison," from Taxpayers for Common Sense [via Rob of The Onlne Magazine formerly known as Rob's Blog via Technorati]. As compared to the single $8,000,000 item for Chelsea Street Bridge reconstruction we found yesterday, there are three Chelsea-related items as follows:
#2592 $9,000,000 Chelsea Street Bridge Reconstruction [no city] High Priority
#3538 $2,000,000 Chelsea Roadway Improvements [Chelsea] High Priority
#4265 $6,000,000 Reconstruct Chelsea Street Bridge in Boston [Boston] High Priority
All we had found yesterday, in a Boston Herald article from last March, was "Chelsea Street Bridge -- $8 million." [Note: #3538 above for "Chelsea Roadway Improvements" may be unrelated to the bridge. We'll try to find out when our leaders' offfices return our calls.]
In the larger view, statewide, there are earmark and bottom-line differences between the March House bill and the final conference agreement:
Earmarks: 90 vs. 127. Difference = 37 added on after the bill was passed
Bottom line: $223,870,000 vs. $332,486,000. Difference = $108,616,000 added on
A million here, a million there . . . What about these earmarks, Messrs. Kennedy, Kerry and Capuano? We must keep our Citizens Against Government Waste checklist handy when they call. As we noted yesterday, CAGW defines pork-barrel projects as "those that get federal funding by circumventing established budgetary procedures," resulting in a breakdown in accountability. To qualify as pork and merit inclusion in the Pig Book, a project must meet at least one of CAGW’s seven criteria, but most satisfy at least two:
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.
Last year's $1 million for Chelsea Street Bridge project funding -- appropriated under Homeland Security -- was pork under CAGW criteria because it was requested by only one chamber of Congress, the House. We hope to get some answers about this year's appropriations in the coming day or so.
Update: Early afternoon Tuesday, and it looks like not a single senator nor representative contacted by bloggers has committed to cutting significant pork projects in their district or state. If we're reading The Truth Laid Bear's "Congressional Contact Status" page correctly, it looks like some blogger(s) have already contacted our own Kennedy, Kerry and Capuano, but there are no links to the specific blogs of those who made contact. Tuck, Goomp and Susan say we're dreamin' if we think they'll return our calls. 'Guess it's up to us to wear out our dialing finger. We want that InstaLink, after all. Speaking of which, here's The Professor's latest take:
Howard Kurtz has picked up on the porkbusters effort and given it an extensive plug, though he's pretty skeptical as to whether it will make a difference.
He may be right, of course, but it seems to me that we need to try. I also think that pork-barreling thrives through lack of transparency and scrutiny, and that we can work on that. Transparency and scrutiny are what the blogosphere is best at.
We're with you and The Bear, Professor. And listen to this update just in at InstaPundit:
Mark Tapscott says the porkbusters approach is gaining momentum and notes Congressional action and media agreement.
We'll check that out and write more here later.
Technorati tag: porkbusters.