Saturday, September 13, 2008


One of the political issues that gets a lot of buzz these days is the issue of earmarks, which are a form of pork barrel spending. The unquestioned assumption is that pork barrel spending is a bad thing, and politicians who bring home the bacon are corrupt.

I agree with this to an extent, but the issue is somewhat complicated. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a politician trying to do something for the benefit of his constituents. After all, he was elected to represent their interests.

Of course, there are right and wrong ways to benefit your constituents, and some constituents are more deserving than others.

But it’s always funny when pundits automatically attack a politician for “pandering” to his constituents.

The problem is not so much with pork barrel spending, per se, but with an underlying problem, of which pork barrel spending is merely symptomatic. Why do we have pork barrel spending in the first place? For a couple of related reasons:

i) The Federal income tax siphons a lot of money away from state taxpayers. Pork barrel spending is just a way of getting back a fraction of what Uncle Sam took from us in the first place.

ii) The whole point of the graduated income tax is income redistribution. Take from those who have more and give to those who have less. Spread the wealth around.

The only way to eliminate pork barrel spending is to slash the Federal budget and trash the Federal income tax.

Unless and until those two things are done, pork barrel spending is the inevitable result of a systemic problem.

Unfortunately, I don’t see either happening in the foreseeable future.

This brings me to a related issue: lobbyists. We’re told that lobbyists corrupt the political system by, in effect, bribing politicians to write sympathetic legislation.

There’s some truth to that charge, but—once again—it’s merely symptomatic of an underlying problem.

If gov’t weren’t so expansive and intrusive, we wouldn’t have such a stake in what gov’t does for us, to us, or against us.

That’s why lobbyists pour money into campaigns to gain access and curry favor.

The only way to eliminate this influence is to scale back the scope of gov’t.

Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future, either.


  1. So Steve, are you suggesting the McCain campaign made a mistake by sending the message "Earmarks are Evil and Palin is the Cure"?

  2. I have my own reasons for voting for McCain/Palin. I don't have to second all of their slogans.