Pork barreling is the habit of politicians earmarking their pet projects into the legislation of totally unrelated bills. They do this to fund side-door projects in their district that they know are going to be popular. And they often do it as political favors at the expense of others.
Does this help their district? Well.. usually, it does, yes. That’s why they do it. They want those ‘kudo points’ from the voters in their district that benefit from it, to get re-elected. Often, there is donor-money involved.
But does it help the United States at large? ..No. Not in the way that they do it, at any rate. The job of a U.S. Representative is to deliberate, make laws, and spend federal money in a way that benefits the whole of the country. Not spend money that we don’t have, or pull money from other more important purposes, in order to make ‘favors’ for their locals.
Here’s the thing – pork-barreling is basically a way to make dubious political deals with the other members of Congress. It’s a trade-off. A sort of ‘quid pro quo.’ You agree to endorse some heinous piece of legislation, in exchange for them adding-in some deal that showers your district with federal money.
This is the reason why Social Security is going bankrupt. It’s also the reason why the 911 Emergency Services funds get re-directed to other projects instead – and become severely under-funded as a result, when otherwise these great programs would fund themselves indefinitely if left on their own. So what do you have to lose when that happens? Well, who doesn’t like the idea of a built-in retirement fund to support you in your old age, or a nation-wide emergency service to call upon when you’re in a dire situation, and your life depends on it?
Seriously – read about how badly under-funded the 911 Emergency Service is. The answer might scare you. The EMS system itself is paid for with a small tax – every time you get a paycheck you pay for a tiny bit of it. But thanks to pork-barreling, some of those funds could very well be re-directed to building a bypass in Medford Oregon, because their 2nd district U.S. Representative reluctantly agreed to vote for a bill that financed Fairbanks Alaska (and thus favored the Alaska Rep, whose vote was needed for the Oregon Rep’s pet project to pass) to scientifically study the mating habits of arctic pengiuns in exchange for the extra job wages promised by the bypass.
For the record, there is no such thing as arctic penguins, penguins are aquatic, and Fairbanks is land-locked in the center of the State. That was meant as a joke – used as an analogy to represent the ridiculousness of the system that’s responsible for needlessly putting us $20 Trillion in debt. But you get my point.
My aim is to end pork-barreling. I intend to introduce a bill that would forbid Congress from even voting to pass any legislation that either co-opts funds from another previously established source, OR has parts of it that have zero relevance to the functional intent of the bill itself.
I’m not against the idea of funding public projects to go to helping communities or fostering research, but there is a logical and an ethical limit to how it’s done. If a bill is intended to go towards a public project – great – that bill should be able to pass Congress all on it’s own, based on whether it’s a worthwhile thing to do. If spending has to be reduced elsewhere to be able to pay for it, then that needs to be resolved beforehand so that the Federal deficit can be properly reigned in.
The long and short of it is this: if a member of Congress wants to pass a bill that requires funding – then they need to do it on the bill’s own merit – NOT what political favors it might gain them, from having add-ons which suit the desires of other politicians. And if a politician on a federal level wants to get re-elected, then they should need to earn the public’s trust cleanly – without the use of gleaning federal money that we all have to pay for, but benefits only a handful of people.