In lieu of a debate in class …

So this week we were supposed to debate the merits and demerits of pork barrel spending, or, as it has come to be known in more genteel phrasing, earmarking. We didn’t have the debate, largely because the issue, which was relevant when I began teaching government, has become much less so since the House in 2011 “banned” the use of earmarks.

Another reason why I’ve given up on this classroom activity is that the subject just doesn’t make for good debate for the simple reason that the arguments for pork are based on an insider’s view of the legislative process, and the arguments against it are largely cries of outrage at the “frivolous” things that “corrupt” politicians spend our “hard-earned tax dollars” on. (Sorry for the scare quotes, but I don’t have a better way to indicated cliches).

I thought that the issue of pork was pretty much dead, but the government dysfunction epitomized by last week’s shutdown and debt ceiling debacle has brought pork back into the spotlight. (or perhaps heat-lamp? Ok, I’ll stop).

So, for your reading pleasure are two articles that argue in favor of rolling out the pork barrel once again. The first is from 1998, so most of the cast of characters will be unfamiliar to many readers. Remember this when you read about President Clinton and his healthcare plan. The second is from yesterday, and references pork as a way to avoid future government shutdowns.

Read them and let me know what you think. Is it reasonable to expect lawmakers to bring back earmarks in this age of radical deficit cutting?


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