Pork, AKA pork barrel spending is a commodity in D.C. which many would consider the means of trade or heck even the implied currency of those who call inside the D.C. Beltway, home. You guessed it, our friends in Washington barter with each other like fraternity brothers bartering over the last shot of courvoisier, only they do it with your money! They are using ‘pork barrel’ spending as a means of getting legislators to vote in favor of certain bills, and I got news for you, this is a very, very common practice. The term ‘pork barrel’ spending gained notoriety at the turn of the 20th century when slaves were given a barrel of salt pork as a reward. These slaves were forced to compete among themselves to get their share of the handout. The modern definition argues that pork barrel spending involves funding for government programs whose economic or service benefits are concentrated in a particular area, but whose costs are spread among all taxpayers.
What, how’s that again?
To really get your blood boiling, here is an example which epitomizes the practice. The Sandy Aid Bill, which was meant to help those in need when Hurricane Sandy hit the coastline of the Northeast, particularly New Jersey and New York. Well this bill, according to the New York Post, was literally filled with holiday goodies unrelated to storm damage. Instead, the bill was so laden with unrelated and politically inspired handouts that the House of Representatives refused to pass it. Many of the handouts were directed to federal assets: case in point, the bill allotted $2 million to repair the roof of the Smithsonian and $336 million for the -can’t survive without the repeated infusion of taxpayer money- Amtrak. There was even $41 million for military bases including, the water-boarding capital of the world, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Wait a cotton-picken minute wasn’t that closed already, back in 2009?
This is how our debt continually increases faster than the rate at which we can print George Washington Notes. Politicians promise new roads, bridges, dams, jobs, and really just about anything they can promise, in order to attract votes. Problem is, every time politicians deliver on these promises, the deficit increases. Their is an opportunity cost associated with such frivolous spending. I mean, every time we spend $1.2 Million to study the breeding habits of a woodchuck, or $107,000 to study the sex life of quail (both are examples of actual spending by the way) then something, perhaps more useful must be cut out to afford it.
Its no wonder that:
The politicians who bring home the most political bacon, tend to be longest tenured and the hardest to unseat. In fact, a 2010 study by Professor Thomas Stratmann of George Mason University found that securing ‘pork’ leads to higher vote shares for politicians, and that the effect is increased when pork is directed to a politician’s home state. Voters, it seems, like it when the pork flows their way. So, it’s apparent, the benefit to the politician far outweighs any potential negative PR they may receive by attaching their name to a frivolous spending bill. In order for politicians to maintain their position, they are forced to play ball and become “pimps of pork barrel spending“.
So, it appears pork barrel spending has a great deal of legitimacy among the D.C. blue bloods, so expect it to unabashedly continue for the forceable future. Unfortunately, as this slope continues it’s slippery assent, so too will the rise of our nations debt obligations. At some point, I hope we get to the point when enough is enough, and throw the
spenders bums out!