Is greed good? The comeback of pork spending in Congress may revive compromise and non-partisanship
Some savvy political activists in the 19th century have adopted the practice of funding government programs whose costs are widely distributed among taxpayers, but whose service or economic benefit is concentrated in a specific geographic area, as “pork” (or occasionally less appealing) renamed “spending on pork kegs”), and the term has been with us ever since. Oh sure, its popularity is dwindling and flowing with time. I vaguely remember hearing shaky red-faced men in ill-fitting suits screaming over pork on the 19-inch tube TV (with built-in VCR) I had in my dorm. However, we haven’t heard much about Congress pork in a while.
It looks like that’s about to change. In the early 2000s, Republicans in Congress were keen on pork, leading to a complete ban on ear tags in 2011, with the Tea Party rising as a new force in American politics. An “ear tag” is a legal provision that sets out certain spending priorities of Congress, spending priorities that apply to a very limited number of people, and while “ear tag” is technically not exactly the same as “pork,” the terms are more or less less synonymous for our purposes (and we must all recognize that “pork” is simply a more pleasant word than “ear tag”). The Tea Party had a few fair points, often embodied in the eventually abandoned “Bridge to Nowhere,” a $ 400 million pork project that was supposed to connect an 8,000-person town in southwest Alaska that was already served by a reasonably good ferry system has been. to the 50-person island, which was the closest airport (this project was put on the federal transport budget by the House Senior Republican on the Transport Committee and the Senate Republican on the Budget Committee, so it could be argued that the figurehead for pork spending was more an internal one Problem within the Republican Party than anything else).
In any case, the pork in Congress (in the form of ear tags) has been gone since 2011, but now it could make a comeback. A majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted in favor of reviving the ear tags last week as long as certain new prudential requirements were met, including drafting a written justification for a particular project, checking that the legislature proposing a project did not benefit financially from it has, and the appointment of a federal guard to check some of the ear tags regularly. Democrats previously announced similar reforms to get the practice going again.
Some Republicans remain extremely skeptical, returning to their roles as sham deficit hawks, forgetting that their beloved President Trump led the third largest increase in the annual federal deficit relative to the size of the economy in all of American history (rounding) the three largest Deficit-spending presidents include George W. Bush, another modern day Republican, and Abraham Lincoln, who, as you know, had a civil war to win. However, other Republicans are far more practical. And why not?
With the party out of a majority, Republicans will not enforce any of their top priorities in legislation. What they have to do now is hate Democrats the most and stupid cultural issues like Mr. Potato Head and the false rejection of Dr. Seuss. I don’t think anyone thinks this is healthy for our Democratic Republic or, if they’re really honest, even for the Republican Party.
But what if we went back to the days when a Republican lawmaker could go home and say, “I just couldn’t get there by banning abortion and ordering guns in church, but I got this new bridge for ours District that we really needed and couldn’t afford ”? That used to be kind of work! Notwithstanding the “bridge to nowhere,” smaller communities often rightly need external federal spending to fund local work on high-speed internet, airports, major highways, and other critical infrastructures (which is definitely mild socialism, but I won’t tell them if you can do not want).
Bringing pork back from Congress will not solve all of our political problems. But at least it might get the conversation going again. Right now, Republican lawmakers have no incentive to speak to Democrats, and Democrats have no reason to listen – and they can’t win anything either. Republicans are not going to get into a watered-down piece of progressive legislation because “I made this bill that you hate something you may hate a little less” is a very difficult argument for voters. “I signed this bill because it was going to happen anyway, and in doing so, I got this great, local, tangible benefit that really helped you stand in front of me.” We can talk about that.
Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigation attorney and author of Your debt free JD (Affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a variety of publications, and made it both his business and pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are likely pure gold, yet only his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the loan anyway. He can be reached at email@example.com.