Pork Barrel Spending

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated November 4, 2020

What is Pork Barrel Spending?

Pork barrel spending is a type of appropriated expenditure that is added into a non-related Congressional bill. 

How Does Pork Barrel Spending Work?

Pork barrel spending may also be referred to as earmarking.

The Oxford English dictionary differentiates pork barrel spending from normal appropriation spending as government funded projects "designed to please... and win votes" among congressional members.

This is done so that the congressional bill that the pork barrel spending is attached to passes through the legislation process.

The Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has seven criteria for an item to be categorized as pork. It must fall under one of the following categories:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year's funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
  • Serves only a local or special interest.

Why Does Pork Barrel Spending Matter?

While it may help some bills get passed through the legislative process, pork barrel spending is often considered a wasteful use of taxpayer funds because it benefits select constituents of Congressional members rather than the country as a whole.

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