Dean Baker dusts off the calculator in response to reports that Sarah Palin hired a lobbying firm to secure millions in congressional earmarks for Wasilla during her final four years as mayor:
As the Washington Post reports this morning, Governor Pallin managed to secure $27 million (as in 27 Woodstock museums) in earmarks for her little town of 6,700 back when she was mayor. That comes to more than $4000 per person. …
If every mayor was as successful at taking in federal largess as Governor Palin was for her little town, the tab would be $1.2 trillion, well over one-third of the federal budget. That is serious cash. (In fairness, Governor Palin collected her haul over several years, so the comparison to single year's budget is not entirely appropriate.)
One common response to McCain's anti-pork crusade is that earmarks really only constitute a tiny sliver of federal spending—about 1 to 2 percent annually, often less—and are mostly a diversion when it comes to the budget. But maybe we've been underestimating the threat! If every mayor in America mastered Palin's techniques for feeding from the trough, earmarks would amount to roughly $300 billion per year—about 11 percent of the budget.