A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Pork-barrel Spending


Q: What percentage of the national spending is pork?

A: About 1 percent.

FULL ANSWER

Pork-barrel spending is funding allocated for legislators’ pet projects, often without public hearings or a request from the president. Citizens Against Government Waste, an anti-pork watchdog group, estimated that pork projects cost $29 billion in 2006. (CAGW defines “pork” as “a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures.”) The Office of Management and Budget’s historical tables show a federal outlay of $2.66 trillion that year, so pork would represent 1.1 percent of the total spending. In 2005, CAGW identified 13,997 projects costing $27.3 billion that met its definition of pork spending; as in 2006, that was about 1.1 percent of total spending.

Most pork spending comes in the form of “earmarks,” which are items inserted in federal spending bills at the specific request of a House or Senate member. For 2005, the OMB offered a tally of 13,492 “earmarks” costing $18.9 billion out of $2.47 trillion in outlays, or about 0.77 percent of total federal spending. But earmarks aren’t the only form of pork. For example, CAGW counts as pork any spending project that isn’t requested by the administration and also isn’t awarded through competition. Hundreds of spending items meet CAGW’s definition even though they are not earmarks.

Sources

Citizens Against Government Waste. “2006 Pig Book.” Accessed 21 Dec. 2007.

Citizens Against Government Waste. “2005 Pig Book.” Accessed 21 Dec. 2007.

Office of Management and Budget. “Historical Tables.” Accessed 21 Dec. 2007.

Office of Management and Budget. “Earmarks in 2005 Appropriations Bills.” 10 July 2007.