Pork or Bacon

There is a topic here that is sort of amusing, but yet still needs to be addressed.  And it does have to do with our politics here in the US and how we elect those that serve us in Congress.  Since 2006, there has been a big push to end pork spending.  Pork spending is generally considered to be the personal pet projects that Representatives and Senators score money for from the federal government.  We all remember the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska that came to symbolize the apex of pork spending.  Cutting pork spending is actually what catapulted the Democrats to victory in the 2006 mid-term elections and gave them control over both houses of Congress.  But there is a problem with this line of thought.  We might want them to cut out the pork, but we still elect them (or at least, reelect them) to bring home the bacon.  And truth be told, whether you consider it pork or bacon, it still comes from the same pig.

So let’s play this line of thought out for a second.   You elect someone to serve in the House of Representatives for your district on their plan to cut pork spending because it is out of control.  In two years, you have the decision to make as to whether you will vote for this person again.  You may look to see whether your representative actually does cut pork spending, but you are also going to see if he brought your district any of the bacon… meaning, did your district get any funding for projects that are going on right there in your own back yard.  We don’t like the spending unless it somehow benefits us and our district.

Technically, pork spending should mean wasteful government spending.  But what constitutes wasteful spending?  Let’s go back to the “Bridge to Nowhere” example.  It was deemed wasteful because it would only connect two small islands and would benefit only a small group of people.  Except here’s the catch.  The people elected their congressman to do exactly that… to get federal funding for a bridge that they wanted.  It actually connected them to their airport which was on the other island, so it was something they saw that they needed… even if we on the outside didn’t see it that way. (And for the record, I was not a fan of the “Bridge to Nowhere” either.)  To them, it was bacon; to the rest of us, it was pork.

Now let me go to a newer example that’s more recent.  Here in St. Louis, they are building the new I-70 bridge.  This new bridge, located on the north side of the city, will take I-70 off the Poplar Street Bridge… which it shares with I-64 and I-55.  It was a decade in the making and should open in 2013.  It will connect the east and west side of the Mississippi River and all the points that I-70 crosses well beyond.  It secured federal funding through transportation bills and even through the stimulus package from 2009.  Congressmen on both sides of the river (in Illinois and Missouri) fought long and hard to get federal funding for the new bridge… as those of us in this area wanted them to do.  So in our view, they have brought us the bacon.  But why is it still that this isn’t considered pork spending?  Is it because it relates to an interstate that connects the nation and that more people will use this bridge?  Afterall, it’s not like I-70 doesn’t already have a bridge to cross the river; albeit, a little crowded at times and getting more so as time goes.

Our representatives in Congress can’t go around the country inspecting each person’s district to see if the money they are requesting for projects is a good use of the tax payer’s money.  That’s why they are supposed to the trust each other.  The sad thing is, that most of them try to sneak in little pet projects that shouldn’t be getting federal dollars.  And this takes away funds from projects that should be getting money.

The problem comes down to the American voter and how we go to the polls.  We judge our elected officials by what they can get the government to do for our own communities.  Sure, there are people out there that say the government shouldn’t be doing anything in our districts and they should stay out.  And those people would vote for any candidate that actually said they would stop the pork  and bring federal funds to a halt.  However, if the candidate won and was successful at doing such a thing, the voter would be in for a huge shock.  And because there would be no money rolling in and no projects going on and things would be falling into disrepair, it is unlikely that the voter would not elect the same person back into office because all of the bacon went away, too.

So again this brings me back to my original question.  Is there a difference between the way we see pork and bacon in federal spending?  Where do we draw the line between pork spending and bringing home the bacon?  Is there even a line at that?  In the overall grand scheme of things, what really needs to happen is that the average American voter needs to start really looking at how they are voting and why they are voting for certain candidates.  You can’t just vote for someone (or not vote for someone) because of them wanting to cut pork spending or because they are bringing in federal dollars to your community for projects.  Whether pork or bacon, it’s all in the eye of beholder.  What most of us would consider pork, there are going to be those that consider in bacon (and vice versa).  Remember, even when it comes to spending, there is still two sides to the dollar.  I think it’s important for us to realize what is wasteful government spending and what could truly be needed by the people of a certain district that we might not realize without clarity of mind.  It’s high time as voters that we raise the standards of why we are voting for candidates.  Otherwise, they are going to keep doing the same thing… promising to cut the pork spending while still bringing home the bacon.  And the only difference, one directly affects us while the other affects someone else.

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One Response to Pork or Bacon

  1. hotshot bald cop says:

    Great views on that!

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