One man’s pork is another man’s juicy steak. Anyway, it’s all part of the political process.
Pork, steak, corned beef hash whatever you want to call it, it’s inevitable. So inevitable that reporter David Baumann, in a recent issue of National Journal, tells us that “if members didn’t push for projects in their own districts, one could seriously question whether they were doing their jobs.”
According to Baumann, district-specific federal spending seems more reasonable up close than it does from a distance. Close up, it looks more like nutritious steak than fatty and wasteful pork.
Consider Congressman John Myers, who for many years was not persuaded of the merits of a $182 million “railroad relocation project” in Lafayette, Indiana even though the railroad was blocking traffic. But in 1981, because of re-districting, Myers suddenly found himself representing Lafayette. And guess what? Using federal tax dollars to move the railroad suddenly made more sense. Well, it was blocking traffic, after all.
But is pork-barreling just inevitable? Well, maybe if you’re a career politician more worried about getting ahead than doing the right thing.
But not every congressman is an opportunistic careerist. During his brief tenure in the Congress, South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, who limited his congressional stay to three terms, was criticized for supporting spending cuts that affected his own district. He tells the story in his book, The Trust Committed to Me. Was Sanford “failing to do his job”? Or was he doing the right thing instead of the easy thing?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.