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InsiderOnline Blog: October 2004

Does Pork Win Elections?

Mike Franc, VP of Government Relations at The Heritage Foundation, says NO.

Congress ended the 2004 fiscal year having completed work on only four of the 13 annual appropriations bills. Once again, it passed a "continuing resolution" to give lawmakers additional time to agree upon the final funding levels for the fiscal year which started October 1. Lawmakers also punted the stalled reauthorization of federal highway programs into next year by extending current law for eight more months.

This means members of Congress will face voters without the presumed political benefit of being able to boast of having delivered numerous special projects "earmarked" to their districts that normally grace appropriations bills and other pieces of legislation.

Yet the political calculations that cause otherwise rational members to pursue these projects appear to be misplaced. Two years ago, when a previous round of pork-barrel goodies was similarly delayed, not one incumbent suffered. In fact, the incumbent retention rate in 2002 was one of the highest ever. A post-election poll commissioned by the United Seniors Association found that, by a margin of 52% to 42%, voters said a candidate's positions on major national issues was more important in deciding for whom to vote than his "ability to do things that help people in the congressional district."

Would that politicians would hear that message. We can always hope, but the 108th Congress, despite the message from voters in 2002, was predictably bad in the pork area. Franc on the 108th Congress:

[The 108th Congress] suggests that limiting the federal government's growth will again pose the greatest challenge for conservatives on and off Capitol Hill in the 109th Congress. On 11 House floor votes where members were asked to add billions to already bloated areas of federal spending--e.g., education, childcare, highways, health research, veterans programs and prescription-drug coverage for seniors--a mere 47 House members and only 26 senators consistently embrace the small-government alternative. The big-government forces enjoyed the steady support of absolute majorities of "sinners" in both the House (224) and the Senate (51).

Yuck. Read the whole thing. Franc has a 108th evaluation on free-enterprise and a lot more facts for pork-loving politicians. 

Posted on 10/26/04 02:40 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

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