This is why we love Mike Grunwald: A whip-smart Time piece cutting through the BS around earmarks:
The point is that most Americans think of pork as waste. That's why Republicans called the stimulus bill "Porkulus," even though it had no actual earmarks. The fact that money is earmarked does not prove it is wasted, and the fact that money is not earmarked does not prove it is not wasted. This is common sense, when you think about it. Earmarks got their name from the bygone practice of branding the ears of livestock to identify their owners, but no one would have thought a pig without an earmark was kosher. The vast majority of wasteful federal spending — sprawl roads and bridges to nowhere, corporate welfare for agribusinesses and Big Oil and King Coal, bloated health care costs, and so on — is done within the regular appropriations process. It's not as soundbite-ready as a $238,000 earmark for the Polynesian Voyaging Society, but it's a lot more expensive.