Earmarks. They're those expensive pet projects that members of Congress often slip into spending bills.
Both parties say they want to get rid of them. But a new report by the non-partisan group Citizens Against Government Waste says earmarks -- also known as "pork barrel" projects -- are still all the rage on Capitol Hill.
The group's annual "pig book" shows that Congress has set aside $17.2 billion in earmarks for 2008. That's a 30 percent increase from last year -- and the second highest total ever.
"Unfortunately for taxpayers, as they approach the deadline for paying their taxes on April 15, they probably shouldn't be reading this at the same time they're filling out their tax returns," said Tom Schatz for Citizens Agasint Government Waste.
Some of the more colorful examples of where your taxpayer dollars are going:
- $7.5 million for grape and wine testing
- $3 million for shrimp research
- $188,000 for the lobster institute in Maine
- and over $700,000 for fruit fly research ... in France.
"Either you pay more taxes for everything that's in that book, or you borrow the money for everything that's in that book," Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif. said. "So the question for people out there is are you willing to pay more taxes, to see your taxes go up for this stuff?"
Earmarks are truly a bi-partisan problem. The group named Republicans Thad Cochran, Ted Stevens and Richard Shelby as the three most notorious oinkers.
But Democrat John Murtha won the coveted "porker of the year" award. Then there's Democrat Charles Rangel, who requested $1.9 million for a monument named after himself.
And what about the presidential candidates?
Senator Clinton requested almost $300 million in earmarks.
Senator Obama, $97 million.
Senator McCain who's long crusaded against earmarks, has never requested one.