This piece originally appeared on The American Conservative.
In past years, Congress has become notorious for adding dubious items we call “pork” to spending bills. That way, senators and House members can advertise themselves to their constituents as bringing home the bacon, while picking up a few campaign contributions from thankful contractors along the way.
This practice was particularly notorious in defense bills, especially, and only became worse during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After they were exposed spending billions of taxpayer dollars for earmarked projects like museums, artificial lungs, and VIP air transports for senior generals, bureaucrats, and lawmakers, Congress supposedly reformed the practice of earmarking—first in 2007 by the Democrats in the majority, and again in 2011 by the Republicans in the majority, who claimed to have banned them altogether.
In truth, both parties in Congress have simply swapped the pork system for a scheme that is even more venal and underhanded. They’ve circumvented their own rules and are putting even more pork in defense bills than before. They hypocritically proclaim that their bills are earmark-free, while simultaneously boasting about the pork to constituents. They deceptively pay for the hidden earmarks by raiding essential accounts for soldiers’ pay and military readiness, and they readily accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions from the very contractors who received huge chunks of the billions of dollars that Congress added.