This Year, Slice the Pork

One of the traditionally tempting ways to make bills more palatable to senators and congressmen is to load them with "pork" - projects that favor an individual member's district or state. Adding on pork helps get votes for bills, though it squanders public money and distorts legislative priorities.

Controlling pork-barrel spending may be particularly hard for the 107th Congress. A 50-50 split in the Senate, and a very close margin in the House automatically means it'll be tougher getting legislation passed.

Let's hope the centrist New Democrats and Mainstreet Republicans - who are likely to hold the swing votes on many measures - are wise enough not to stoop to this method of bribery to broaden the common ground.

In 2000, there was a 52 percent increase in pork-barrel spending over 1999, according to Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a non-partisan watchdog organization. Pork-barrel projects in 2001 will likely be even larger and more troubling.

According to CAGW, projects before Congress must meet one or more of seven criteria to be considered pork. They usually have no national significance, and often do not go through authorizing committees.

The Republicans, who control Capitol Hill and the White House, must be cautious about spending programs. They're likely to be blamed if the federal budget spins out of control. And don't forget Sen. John McCain. Along with campaign funding, controlling pork has been one of his passions. There's rarely been a better time for him to renew the offensive on both issues.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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