Political Jargon Buster: Pork Barrel Spending

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45 million 18-29 year olds will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election, representing the largest potential voting bloc in the country. Learn more about the issues, register to vote and get involved with MTV’s Power of 12. Today, we’ve got another “Jargon Buster” for you.

pork barrel (noun): government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits

Pundits and candidates alike love to point out how much mula Washington’s finest spend on pork. What, with all of this meat talk, you’d think politicians were the most bacon-loving, ham-hoarding, pig-hating folks in Am’rica. As Jargon Busting has taught us, however, defining DC is never that simple…

Sometimes, a politician or political hopeful will draw up legislation that includes strange — often well-hidden — promises as to where tax-payer money will go. Tucked within financial plans, hundreds of millions of dollars of federal tax bucks may just be “earmarked” for obscure programs — $2.5 million for potato research, perhaps, or another $1 million toward restoration of a historical house most of us haven’t heard of.

There’s the infamous Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere,” popularized by former VP candidate Sarah Palin, with a proposed cost of nearly $400 million.

There’s the Big Dig in Boston, a highway reconstruction project that cost $14.6 billion.

All funded, in part, by taxpayer dollars …

Why in the world would politicians want to earmark controversial spending? Well, it sure does earn them votes from those beneficiaries, right? And whether it’s for selfish, vote-snatching purposes or from a more altruistic place, earmarking could be seen as direct link between candidate and constituent, an example of politicians listening to the needs and concerns of otherwise overlooked Americans.

Highly specific help in exchange for votes. A little mutual back-scratching, if you will.

And, if the pork dollars are disguised deeply enough within legislation, candidates stand to please their voter base without the rest of the country being much the wiser … that is, of course, until election season, when everyone’s business becomes everyone’s business.

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