Earmarks are ugly. Even described in assiduously neutral government language they sound like nasty end runs around review and fairness:
Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds. Congress includes earmarks in appropriation bills – the annual spending bills that Congress enacts to allocate discretionary spending – and also in authorization bills.
In other words, they are pork. And they keep going and going in Congress because they’re part of the back scratching that is an integral part of Congressional functioning: “If you turn a blind eye to the pork that I hope will get me re-elected, I’ll turn a blind eye to the pork that you hope will get you re-elected.” It’s a great circular system if you’re in Congress, and it benefits those jurisdictions that have Congress people exceptionally adept at the pork process, but it’s a bad deal for everyone else.
If you’re getting fed up with this pork — and I know this applies to you regardless of your position on the political spectrum — here’s a petition that you can sign to make your voice heard in Congress.