Every politician needs votes and support from their community members to elect and re-elect. Their community members and voters trust that they will address their needs after being elected.
But that’s something very common and obvious. Do you know what does every politician uses to win support from their constituents? How do they make them believe that they are the right choice, and they have the ability to make things work for them?
They use the pork-barrel spending method. If you are not a politician or hearing about the term for the first time, then this is the right article for you that explains why and how this strategy works for politicians and helps them win support from constituents.
So, let’s get down to more details and clear all the confusion and questions stuck in your mind.
Pork Barrel Spending
If you are new to the term, you must be wondering what is pork-barrel spending and how does it help politicians to win support from the people?
So, let’s find out the meaning of this term first.
Pork barrel spending is usually a controversial practice which means the politicians use all the federal funds for local projects designated by a congressperson.
Allocation of funds to complete a particular project or an important issue is undoubtedly a practice that helps both constituents and politicians. It gained a savory reputation after the civil war in the US when the congressional spending bills featured a huge number of expenditures.
Despite a lot of controversies, the politicians still used the method for their benefit and tend to get more votes and support for the election.
The Earliest Example of Pork Barrel Spending
The term pork-barrel spending is quite old. Here we are going to present the earliest example of pork-barrel spending that might know by very few people today.
It was first attempted in 1817, John Calhoun who was a senator of the US proposed important legislation and asked the authorities to use the earnings bonus from the Second Bank of the United States. He proposed to use these funds for road construction. The idea was considered pork-barrel spending as it was going to benefit a particularly small group at the expense of different taxpayers in the US.
Public works bills usually comprise a big deal of pork-barrel spending. However, it’s quite rare that Congress also passes any kind of bill that doesn’t feature any pork, as the name described.
Important Characteristics of Pork Barrel Spending
Pork barrel spending offers enormous benefits to politicians who use the technique carefully and strategically. Here are a few characteristics of this infamous term:
- The method can only be requested by one chamber of congress
- It is not specially authorized
- Pork barrel spending is also not competitively awarded
- President cannot request it
- It greatly increases the previous year budget
- Serves specifically for a local or special interest
What are the Benefits of Pork Barrel Projects?
Since pork-barrel spending is a controversial method applied by politicians for votes and support, you can’t expect many benefits from the strategy.
This method of using all the government funds on different local projects that can be used to bring more money in the future seems quite lucrative for the politicians. Generally, the politician tends to give benefits to his community and constituents so they can keep getting their valuable support and maintenance.
Earmarking vs Pork Barrel Spending
Earmarking has become a common practice these days as its also a variation of pork-barrel spending.
Earmarking is generally the practice of fixing particular money aside to fulfill a specific purpose for the community. You can use the term in multiple contexts, for example, in congressional appropriations of taxpayer funds and individual practices such as mental accounting.
Earmarking is also much similar to pork-barrel spending as both terms involve the spending of direct federal funds on local projects. But the fact is, earmarking has been viewed more positively because earmarked projects offer more benefits to a wider population as compared to pork-barrel spending in which a specific group enjoys all the benefits or privileges.
For example, the improvement of bridges, roads, and highways are basically localized interests, and this improved infrastructure offers benefits to the wider community. However, pork-barrel spending is particularly for smaller areas and projects in which lesser people can enjoy the benefits.
In many cases, it has been observed that the total costs of earmarked projects simply exceed the economic benefits. One incredible example to highlight is the Bridge to Nowhere. This was a $220 million infrastructure project that was meant to connect mainland Alaska with an island of 50 people. But unluckily, that project got defeated in 2005 and hence became a prominent issue in the 2008 election.
The Purpose of Approving Pork Barrel Spending
Well, the purposes depend on the person you ask. Always remember one thing, one man’s pork barrel is another person’s spending so as a politician you need to be careful about every element.
Every politician wants to be seen as contributing a lot and doing good things around. So, spending money on local projects that can benefit a specific community is probably a good chance for them to earn the trust of the community members.
The clever thing is you can use it as a bargaining chip. For example, “if you will support my party, I’ll invest money in a small healthcare facility in your area.”
This type of strategy hooks your voters and they will always prefer to choose you as they are already seeing how dedicatedly you are investing for their development.
Many politicians and leaders in the US do not prefer to follow the pork-barrel spending technique as they believe that money spends inefficiently on these small projects that only benefit a few people.
Another problem caused by the technique is, it leads to countless amendments to a bill that ultimately creates further problems in the long run. So the technique may be a fruitful way to gain votes and support but also took a lot of money that sometimes go waste.