Ah pork, the other white meat. Of course this article has nothing to do with the pig product, but rather the issue commonly known as pork barrel spending or “pork”. It is spending designed by a legislator for the benefit of his or her constituents. Now I would assume that as conservatives, we would be against such a practice as it most often amounts to little more than government-sanctioned theft. After all, 9 times out of 10, these spending projects exceed the constitutional authority of the government, give a small benefit to a few at the expense of the many, and should have been considered by a state or local government, or better yet, the private sector. If we were truly capitalists and constitutionalists, I would have a hard time believing the necessity of these special projects.
The “bridge to nowhere” is perhaps the best-known recent pork barrel project. It was the child of Republican Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska and was designed to replace a ferry, which transported some vehicles to and from the Ketchikan Airport. The estimated cost was $398 million. Now I don’t know if you have traveled on a ferry before (I’ve traveled on both the Staten Island ferry in New York and the ferry used to get from Williamsburg to Wakefield, I don’t recall its name.) I confess that I dislike ferries. They are slow and you often have to wait some time until they are full. And yet I would never recommend that the United States Government take money out of my, or any other citizen’s pocket to pay for a replacement bridge. After all, over 99% of citizens will never use the bridge, and if the demand were sufficient, why wouldn’t the state or tolls pay for its construction. I seriously doubt I will ever set foot in Alaska, much less use the “bridge to nowhere” (if they ever end up building the thing), so why should I foot the bill?
How about an example closer to home? Recently, Virginia’s 5th district congressman Republican Virgil Goode earmarked $98,000 for a walking tour of the town of Boydton. The first thing you might be thinking is “where in the heck is Boydton?” Apparently it is about 10 miles, or so, from the North Carolina border in between Emporia and South Boston. Now it is very likely a lovely place, but does the federal government/your tax dollars need to pay for a walking tour? According to the 2000 Census, only 454 people live there! Was that project really necessary?
What about the case of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina? As I worked for a number of months in the state, I found that many South Carolinians, especially Republicans, disliked Graham’s stance on immigration calling him “Grahamnesty”. In one GOP meeting in Colleton County, one person stood up and vocally supported Graham, not by defending his position statements, but instead reminding voters of the considerable amounts of pork barrel legislation Graham brought back to the locality. For shame! Now, I don’t care who you are, if you support a candidate based on how much money he can siphon from the federal government, you are not a fiscal conservative, and likely not a conservative at all. Being proud of stealing from others to benefit yourself shows selfishness and a lack of respect for your fellow citizens. I hope, dear reader, that you are better than this person? Is stealing constitutional? Is stealing an American ethic? Have we fallen so far?
But wait, what about Democrats? They waste money with pork too! Sure, many of them do, but as a Republican, I believe we must hold our party accountable. Wealth distribution and massive government programs and spending are not conservative values, of that I am certain…and if they have become a Republican value, I guess that I’m in the wrong party. Although it is tempting to support pork when you are the beneficiary, I say it is high time for us to hold our legislators accountable. “More pork for you?” they ask. “No thanks, I’m going kosher!”