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Fiscal 2010 spending bills contain 9,499 earmarks worth $15.9 billion according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Many earmarks are inserted into legislation by a single lawmaker to benefit his or her local district, without a single cosponsor.

House Republicans agreed unilaterally in March 2010 to give up earmarks for one year. Senate Democratic leadership announced a ban on budget earmarks to for-profit entities, which would have eliminated about 11% of this year's earmarks, but perhaps not ""shadow nonprofits" that exist to funnel money to private contractors". (Wall Street Journal, "Earmarks in Reverse", March 17, 2010)

Earmarks are a small percentage of total federal spending, but cause much greater amounts of wasteful spending. The more earmarks in a bill, the more votes it will get. Without earmarks, a bill will stall and die.
"Numerous ... members of Congress have been investigated for taking campaign contributions in return for earmarks." (Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) "Earmarks: Corrupting and Wasteful, Letters, Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2010)

Earmarks perpetuate incumbents.

"The day after Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and ten other House members compromised on their pro-life position to deliver the necessary yes-votes to pass health care reform, the “Stupak 11″ asked for more than $4.7 billion in earmarks – an average of $429 million worth of taxpayer money for each lawmaker." (blog.heritage.org, March 29, 2010)

"Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has offered legislation to provide a presidential line-item veto to torpedo items deemed wasteful." (Washington Post, February 18, 2020)

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It seems a total ban might be the best idea.
My understanding is that earmarks are monies that the Appropriations Committee has appropriated for a specific use - and money is left over - or extra. This money is than available for congress to utilize in their states for the specific purpose stated by the Appropriations Committee. Any money that is not "earmarked" for use - is then available for the Executive Brance ie: President Obama - to decide where it gets spent. The Appropriations Committee gets to decide how much money gets spent where - EXCEPT for entitlements! Entitlement amounts are regulated by the Special Standing Committees who have the authurity to change the regulations for the entitlements, The members of these special standing Committees, however, have a political interest in INCREASING the size and cost of the entitlements NOT reducing them. These entitlement costs are over 50% of the budget! Interest on the debt is over 15% leaving only about 25% of the budget to be controlled by Appropriations Committee and Congress. Earmarks are a small percent of that 25% but it makes for great headlines and political campaign fodder to get the voters to ignore what is really going on behind closed doors.

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