First there were â€œinternal improvements.â€ Then there was out-and-out â€œporkâ€ â€” that is, spending by the federal government for projects of a local, not â€œfederal,â€ or national, character.
Then, says H.L. Mencken, author of that great big book, The American Language, there was â€œpork-barrel spending.â€ Same thing as pork, really. But perhaps the amount of it had grown so much that Americans needed a metaphorical barrel to handle it all.
And then there were earmarks. These were pork spending initiatives not exactly inserted into legislation properly, but somewhat surreptitiously into legislative addenda.
And now thereâ€™s something even harder to find, harder to keep track of: â€œsoft earmarks.â€
It seems all congressfolk need do is ask, politely, that something be funded. No mention of who really gets the money; no mention, even of the amount. But hey, if asked-for nicely enough, the executive branch has proved more than willing to fund.
Fund what? Oh, a Christian shortwave radio in Madagscar. Pest-fighting efforts in Maryland. Saving hawks in Haiti.
According to the New York Times, these have all been funded without anyone ever really writing out what the cost would be, or even saying â€œfund this.â€ Itâ€™s all very polite.
And insidious. We work hard for the money; we donâ€™t want it spent so easily that soft words are all thatâ€™s needed. I want it voted on. Openly. Honestly.
And preferably defeated.
This is Common Sense. Iâ€™m Paul Jacob.