It Pays To Pimp Pork

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.

pork barrel spending examples

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!

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  1. Pork barrel spending is definitely near the top of my “tick me off big-time” list as far as politics are concerned. And sadly, most Americans are blissfully unaware of the fact that it goes on, and that it’s a huge reason for our 17 trillion dollar debt load.

    • Jim says:

      Yep Laurie, here we are trying to scrape by and they are wasting away our tax dollars on ‘bridges to nowhere” every time we turn around!

  2. Kathy says:

    We are sure on the same page with this one, Jim. And if you oppose the irresponsible spending you are labeled a hater who wants the Sandy storm victims to suffer. If you are opposed to welfare for able bodied people, then you are accused of wanting children to starve. I get so angry over this that sometimes I think my head will explode, yet the same people who complain re-elect the same people over and over. Our representatives are no elected based on how much money the government gives out as goodies to the constituents. And the fact that no one sees this as a form of slavery is outrageous.

    • Jim says:

      Couldn’t have said it any better Kathy! I guess when you control the media, you can get away with framing the conversation in such a way where it makes your political opponents look unsympathetic, even know in most cases they are not.

  3. I love the meat, but hate the political version of it. When they sneak this crap into bills, it just is unnecessary, but you are right. Those that do it the most are there the longest. It pays to know people who have money. That is what politics is all about!

    • Jim says:

      Yep the meat is good (lol) but the political use is horrible! Unfortunately, this is what is increasing our debt as such an unaffordable pace!

  4. Isn’t pork a relatively small portion of the federal budget though? I know it’s something to address, but it’s a tiny percentage (1%) of spending…not really a root cause of deficits.

    • Jim says:

      Sure done by, it may be a small percentage I agree, but it is the principal of the matter. If a country is 17 trillion in debt, should we be spending $104,000 to study the breeding patterns of woodchucks? Its kinda like a family who has a debt to income ration of 10-1, and they think it is wise to spend borrowed money on a new boat? We need to reign in spending, so where do we start? I personally think pork-barrel spending is a good start.

      • It’s tough to say. The examples you’ve cited are scientific inquiries. There is merit in those, even if there isn’t an immediate ROI. Government dollars spent on scientific inquiry is some of the best use of tax dollars…much better than where they typically go. I’d prefer we cut 1% out of military spending, Medicare, pensions, etc. Cut one percent out of each of those three behemoths, and you could triple all pork spending nationally and still have money left over.

        As for where to start, I’d much, much prefer we address the root causes of our budget spending problems (out of control military spending, healthcare costs, and pensions…which together account for about 75 cents out of every dollar spent). They’re unpopular programs to attack and it’s much easier to attack pork spending, as each example is disliked by 49 out of 50 state’s residents. But addressing the big issues is more effective.

        • Jim says:

          I agree done by, out of control military spending, healthcare costs, and pensions costs, medicare, social security, etc etc are in need of refining. The affordable care act was supposed to cure the healthcare issue, all it is going to do is raise costs and cut benefits, so that was a bad idea. There will come a time when we’ll have to do something with Social Security, and Medicare/medicaid, military spending, or else it will be the cause of our demise. Maybe we need to quit supporting the economies of places like Japan and Germany where we have military bases, but not a huge need for a military presence? They need to put you and I in control of the purse strings! Cheers!

  5. Jim,
    That’s why no government program once started ever gets shut down. Why should it because we kerp rewarding the same guys.

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