PORK BARRELING: How Government Rips Off the American Taxpayer by William Ashworth

PORK BARRELING: How Government Rips Off the American Taxpayer

Email this review


Pork barreling--perhaps derived from the barrel of salt pork ""protein-starved plantation slaves fought over"" on holidays--has long suggested elected officials making policy based on political advantage rather than on need; and no fresh insights are offered here. It's hardly news that the system encourages Congressional favoritism toward special interests and promotes interstate rivalries; that it not only fosters waste, but misplaced priorities. In the case of some of Ashworth's charges--oil-rich states, not oil companies, are to blame for the energy crisis; the Alaska Pipeline was routed through Alaska, despite the advantages of a Canadian route, because of Senator Ted Stevens--there was more involved than he indicates: when he zeroes in on the Corps of Engineers or the Bureau of Reclamation, he's on firmer, but also very familiar, ground. Today's pork, we're apprised, has several varieties: logrolling (legislators voting for each other's pet projects); ""Iron Triangles"" (Congressmen, government agencies, and local user groups sharing a ""mutually felt need for the pork-barrel project""); lobbyists' influence; and crossover employment (public officials moving into private industry). The pork-barrel reformer must ""show our congressmen that they have developed enough,"" and that constituents want them ""to nail the lid on the barrel and roll it back."" As ways to cut waste, Ashworth urges campaign-financing reform--curbing special-interest group contributions--and, in addition, constitutional amendments either giving the president veto power over individual budget items or (""if the Nixon specter still haunts you"") putting more public-works projects to a public vote via the initiative process. The suggestions are informed and considered--as a Sierra Club activist, Ashworth has lobbied in Washington himself--but the book as a whole is a wordy exposÉ of the long-obvious.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1980
Publisher: Hawthorn/Dutton