Republican Sen. John McCain says he hates them and would veto any bill with them. Congress keeps putting them in. They're earmarks, the way Congress pays for its pet projects — and rural America is getting its fair share.">
These are the ten states that have received the most earmark money per person. The chart also breaks down how those earmarks were distributed between rural and urban communities.
Congress divvies up the pork in federal budget earmarks, sending billions to pay for special projects around the country. Sen. John McCain has railed against earmarks in his presidential campaign and Congress has promised reform. But what the Daily Yonder wants to know is whether rural America getting its fair share of the bacon?
The answer is, yes indeed.
The process members of Congress use to allocate billions of dollars for thousands of pet projects may appear haphazard, but a Daily Yonder analysis of earmarks in the 2008 budget finds that rural communities get just as much per person from these federal handouts as their urban neighbors do.
Not all of the $18.3 billion in Congressional earmarks could be tracked to particular communities. For those earmarks that could be traced, however, rural communities received $34 for every resident. The cities picked up $31 in earmarks for every person.
Earmarks are special appropriations members of Congress have tucked away within larger bills. One earmark this year set aside $2 million for a study of animal hibernation, for example. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who was found guilty this week of lying on financial disclosure forms about gifts he received, was the champion in the yearly earmark stampede. In the 2008 budget Stevens inserted 39 earmarks totalling $238.5 million.
The chart above shows the top ten states in earmarks per capita.
The chart below shows how the ten states with the largest percentage of rural population fared in the earmark derby.
Earmarks totaled $18.3 billion in 2008. Half of that amount went to Defense Department projects. (In 2006, earmarks amounted to $29 billion, again with half of this amount going for to the Defense Department.) Total earmarks amounted to only $2.6 billion in 1992.
This chart below shows how earmarks were divided among the appropriations bills in 2008. After defense spending, most earmarks monies were spent on water and energy projects.
Finally, if you want to see how your state fared in the earmark casino, look below. This chart shows the total earmarks per state and the amounts given to urban communities and to a combination of rural and exurban communities. People who lived in rural Delaware, for example, received the least in earmarks, only $6 per person.