“Roll Out the Barrel: The Case Against the Case Against Pork” By Jonathan Cohn
Pork Barreling -Pork: public work programs of dubious merit, specific to one congressional district, designed to curry favor with its voters. Historic Pork Barreling: “pork barrel” is a pre-Civil War term, derived from what was then a readily understandable (but, to modern ears, rather objectionable) analogy between congressman gobbling up appropriations and slaves grabbing and salt pork distributed from giant barrels.
Examples of Pork Barreling Projects -Building Efficient Surface Transportation and Equity Act (BESTEA) -Clinton’s Crime Bill (1994) -Line-Item Veto (1995)
“Pork Busters” “Pork busters” are anti-pork legislators who are usually members of the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) nonprofit organization which decreased pork about 9% in 1998.
Nonsense of CAGW -Cohn diffuses the arguments of the “pork busters” by poking fun at the “ridiculous activities” of the scheduled press conference, such as “cornball humor”. -He also slaughters their arguments by pointing out that CAGW is an organization whose partisan allegiances belie its nonprofit, nonpartisan status and by asserting that pork-barrel projects serve a legitimate federal interest.
Federal Interests of Pork-Barrel Projects • All of the following programs serve a credible purpose… • Research of a space-based laser: national security experts believe that laser is a necessary defense against rogue nations that might get their hands on nuclear weapons • Transportation improvements in Utah: preparation for the Olympic traffic in Salt Lake City • Military construction in Montana: a mass amount of soldiers across the vast state need buildings in which to live, eat, and work
James Madison & Pork In The Federalist Number 51, James Madison wrote, “if men were angels, no government would be necessary,” and “the private interest of every individual may be sentinel over the public rights.’ Cohn believes Madison would certainly enforce defending pork because even if every single pork-barrel project really were a complete waste of federal money, pork still represents a very cheap way to keep our sputtering legislative process from grinding to a halt. Programs in which pork-barrel legislation is supported: -NAFTA -BESTEA