There's a lot of pork in Washington -- not the kind you eat, the kind that flows out of taxpayers' pockets into lawmakers' pet projects. I'm talking about pork-barrel spending.
Pork-barrel projects, or "earmarks," are funds lawmakers set aside for their pet projects. Lawmakers will often throw them into spending bills to get their colleagues to vote "yes" and the programs they fund are often created without any hearings in Congress and without being requested by the president or another agency.
Each year, Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan federal spending watchdog, publishes its "Congressional Pig Book." It's a report highlighting earmarks within the federal budget for that fiscal year.
The report, released Wednesday, found 163 earmarks in the fiscal 2017 budget totaling $6.8 billion. That's a 32.5 percent increase from the earmarks in fiscal 2016, according to CAGW.
Earmarks have only continued to grow in recent years, even after the House voted in 2011 to place a moratorium on them.
"While the increase in cost over one year is disconcerting, the 106.1 percent increase over the $3.3 billion in FY 2012, the first year after the moratorium, is downright disturbing," the report says.
Here are five examples of earmarks CAGW found:
1. Over $1 billion for four projects funding two military planes that are set to be replaced by newer jets.
The Department of Defense has been ramping up spending on the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It's a high-tech jet that is meant to replace older fighter planes that will slowly be phased out.
But CAGW found several earmarks funneling millions of dollars to buy additional F/A-18s and E/F Hornets.
Although The Air Force declared its version of the F-35 to be combat ready, but the project is still way behind schedule and vastly over budget. Meanwhile, older planes the F-35s are meant to replace are aging, which military officials say could create a readiness gap.
Members of Congress, including Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), an Air Force veteran, have questioned whether the new F-35 will be able to outperform older, cheaper aircraft.
2. $150 million for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program
Under this program, members of the National Guard help in drug enforcement operations. Problem is, we already have an entire agency devoted to that mission: the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA alone has a budget of $2.1 billion.
"Since FY 2001, there have been 68 earmarks costing taxpayers $642.1 million for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program," CAGW reported.
3. $5.9 million for the East-West Center in Hawaii.
The East-West center is a non-profit that was established by Congress in 1960, against the State Department's wishes. It's goal is to promote better relations with Pacific and Asian nations.
The State Department has requested $0 for the center for years, but it's become a pet project for Hawaii lawmakers.
In May, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, claimed credit for securing $5.9 million for the center above the administration's budget request.
4. $10 million for high energy cost saving programs
The Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) offers grants to help communities struggling with expensive energy costs, but subsidizing repair, construction and installation of energy providing services.
Problem is the RUS has another program, the Electric Loan program, that does the exact same thing.
In his 2013 report of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings, President Obama proposed eliminating the high-energy cost program all together, noting that low-interest loans are already available through other government programs to high energy cost areas.
5. $5 million to restore mansions and museums
Congress set aside $5 million in FY 2017 for the Save America's Treasures grant program. It's part of the National Park Service and the grants are used to preserve historic locations like museums, theaters and opera houses.
The FY 2017 budget doesn't specify which historic projects will recieve that funding, but spending watchdogs say past projects could have been funded privately.
For example, Rep. Peter King (R-New York) earmarked $147,660 in FY 2008 for the de Seversky Center Mansion in Old Westbury, New York. The mansion's website touts it's "Gatsby-era opulence, modern convenience and comfort, and highly personalized service," perfect for hosting weddings or other events.
The website claims the average wedding costs "between $73,015 and $86,737 for a ceremony and reception for 150 guests," meaning just two weddings could have made up for the cost of the 2008 earmark.