When you’re in the business of tracking career politicians, like I am, one of the things you notice is how often the careerists lard their legislation with pork. Pork is payola. It’s spending on specific local projects at national taxpayer expense. It may be a statue or a football stadium or a military base that the military no longer needs. Anything that funds a narrow local interest without regard to the common good.
Politicians push pork not to promote the general welfare but to get reelected. There’s concrete evidence that it helps them do just that. One study classified first-term representatives according to how much federal largesse flowed into their districts. It showed that, yes indeed, those who forked over the most pork won re-election by the most comfortable margins. Those with the least pork increased their share of votes by an average 4.6 percentage points over what their first election. And those who hauled the most pork projects home added almost 9 percent to their vote.
So pork works, in a way. Some voters respond positively to it. And some special interest groups respond very positively by helping line a candidate’s campaign coffers. But it doesn’t really help most folks. The cities and states that get the most pork remain the poorest. And pork certainly doesn’t help politicians fulfill their genuine civic obligations as servants of the common good. It only helps them achieve one pork-larded term in office after another. And who wants that?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.