Political pork is spending that is intended to benefit those who support a politician. For example, a senator might lard up a bill on veteran’s benefits with funds for building an unnecessary airport in his district. When Obama got elected, he promised to deal with this sort of pork, but so far his attempts have not been entirely sucessful.
One reason why pork survives is that the folks who are the best at getting pork tend to have considerable political clout. This, of course, is a two way swine trail: the more clout you have, the more snout you can get. The more snout you pull in, the more political resources and clout you get. So, the pork masters are the folks who are the most difficult to deal with if one is trying to trim out the pork.
A second reason pork survives is that it is considered by many a legitimate part of politics-these many being folks who have a place at the table where the pork is served. As such, while people will squeal out against pork, the will to do something about it tends to be lacking.
A third reason is that pork is hanging in there is that pork is often a matter of perception. When a person is elected to Congress, their job is to represent their constituents and look out for them. From the standpoint of a politician’s consituents their senators might just be bringing home the bacon. From the standpoint of others, they are packing in the pork.
This factor also partially explain why congress as a whole can have such a dismal approval rating while the same folks tend to be elected over and over. In total, all that pork is generally bad for the country and people are outraged about bridges to nowhere and airports for nobody. Outraged, that is, when the bridge and airport do not benefit them. When they are at the table feasting on pork, it is a wonderful thing and they tend to send their man (or woman) back to DC to bring home more of that tasty money.
While people do love their own pork, it can be seen as a bad thing. To use an analogy, imagine if your body worked on this pork system: rather than nutrients going where they were needed most, they went to whichever body part had the most influence. So, if your ass had the clout, then you would have massive junk in the trunk while the rest of your body was atrophied from lack of resources. That would obviously be rather unhealthy-likewise for the pork system in politics.
So, what can be done? The easy and obvious answer is that spending should be assessed in terms of how much it impacts the general good of the country rather than how much it fattens up a particular part of the country.
Naturally, people can have honest and conscientious disputes over what is for the general good and what is not. However, there is clearly a lot of fat that could be trimmed away.
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