Wikipedia (right now) defines “earmark” as
a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees.
On the face of it, I don’t see that as such a bad thing. If my Congressbeing has determined that the national interest requires a particular expenditure, it seems reasonable that she might want to make sure that a budget or appropriation item really will be used for that purpose.
The problem, of course, has been that earmarks are obscure, and invariably are for local projects in which the Federal government has no legitimate role. Now, the earmarks are being disclosed, at least by House members, and our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense have compiled a list. Not of earmarks, but of URL’s where earmarks can be found.
I figured they might be bad, and they are. “My” Congressbeing, for instance, has a list of mainly municipal and nonprofit projects, at least some of which are economically justified and therefore should be funded out of the savings or other benefits which they produce. There are also a few government contractors being taken care of, and a couple of CTA projects. Because the latter is something I know a little bit about, I can say that the descriptions are quite deceptive, greatly exaggerating the result (e.g. “extension of the Yellow Line”) which will be obtained by a relatively modest ($1 million) expenditure.
And that list is hardly the worst.