August 15, 2007

No Cold Turkey On Alaskan Pork

The Hill reports that Alaskans have begun to push back against their pork kings, Senator Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both Republicans. Young ironically holds an annual pig roast every summer as a fundraiser, and this year porkbusting picketers turned out in large numbers to protest their abuse of the earmarking process and resulting corruption allegations. That may still not convince enough Alaskans to toss them from office, though, as Stevens and Young have spread the addiction to sufficient numbers of constituents:

About 75 protesters, crying “Oink! Oink!” and “FBI! FBI!” gave Young, Alaska’s two senators and their supporters a shockingly poor reception at last week’s fundraiser. When Young held a public picnic on Monday, the protesters were back, wearing swine masks and waving angry signs.

More than 3,600 miles from the Capitol, one thing is clear: Young and Sen. Ted Stevens (R) are in political as well as legal jeopardy. Whether Alaska’s tide of corruption allegations is enough to sweep its two federal breadwinners out of office is far less certain. ...

“A significant amount of the population is waiting and frankly hoping that it blows over,” Cleary said, adding: “A lot of folks who do get government money are very reticent about criticizing them, because of political stuff but also perceived financial repercussions for their nonprofits. They don’t want to be bitten by Don Young.”

Extensive media coverage of the network of contributors, business partners and former aides who have benefited from Stevens’s and Young’s earmarks may be as much a blessing as a curse.

And this is the problem with pork-barrel politics. It creates an addiction to federal funding that goes much deeper than the politicians who use it to protect their incumbencies. Corporations and non-profits who get those benefits act to keep the addiction sated by defending and promoting the dealers, er, elected representatives who provide it.

Even the coverage of the pork can be more harmful than enlightening. When Alaskans see how much federal money Stevens and Young bring to Alaska, they ask themselves what will happen after they've gotten the boot. Instead of considering the fact that a government that spends less could also collect less right off the bat and save the entire nation some money, the recipients of pork consider the unavoidable short-term loss of federal largesse -- and opt to keep the spigot going.

Few people want to go cold turkey on pork, even at a pig roast where the taxpayer is the one on the rotisserie.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (9)

Posted by Angry Dumbo | August 15, 2007 4:47 PM

Retire by Labor Day, Senator Stevens.

Posted by John Jay | August 15, 2007 5:15 PM

Good comments, although I wonder how may of the oink-oinkers were in-state constituents or what % of voters share their views.

Two observations

1. Even when pork does arrive, it does not always get evenly spread, so the majority of voters may indeed resent the final outcome (white elephant stadiums, construction disruption, eminent domain abuse, etc.)

2. I think President Reagan's philosophy that subsidizing the true cost of Government (by encouraging a policy of tax rates far below expenditures) has had horrible long-term consequences. Decoupling tax cuts from spending cuts is a sure way to grow public demand for government.

Why conservatives feel that people will want LESS government if it were subsidized is a puzzle to me. A study of human nature will suggest that a balanced budget is a necessary component of a realistic plan to control federal spending. Compare the Clinton record with Bush2 to demonstrate this point of the corrosive effect of tax cuts and deficit spending:
(USA Today 4/3/2006): The federal government is currently spending 20.8 cents of every $1 the economy generates, up from 18.5 cents in 2001, White House budget documents show.

Posted by Ray | August 15, 2007 5:23 PM

It's rather ironic that the King of Pork would hold a pig roast to raise funds.

Posted by Graham Storey | August 15, 2007 7:10 PM

As I live in Alaska, I actually heard the lady who is challenging Young speak on local radio yesterday. On the specific question of pork she not only refused to condemn it, but she criticized Young for not being more effective in attracting money to the state.

At one time she was the Green party candidate, and still holds with many of those positions, she wants immediate withdrawal from Iraq (her son was severely wounded in the war; but lest one think I am callus to her concerns I enlisted in the Alaska National Guard after 9/11 and my brother-in-law died in theater while serving in the Navy), and she is a bit of a Luddite with regard to economic expansion in Alaska.

So, Young may not be the ideal representative, but he is so much better than the opposition.

Posted by olddeadmeat | August 15, 2007 8:19 PM


I would hope the Republican Party has enough internal discipline to find better representatives than Young and Stevens.

What would be really disappointing is if the Green candidate next time around actually looks good by comparison to the Republican one.

Posted by Kelly | August 15, 2007 8:26 PM

Not to defend the guy, but in the interest of accuracy, it was a salmon bake, not a pig roast. It is Alaska you know.

Posted by Ed Brown | August 16, 2007 12:11 AM

Alaskans would not need pork if we were allowed to develop all of our resources. Oil,Gas in Prudhoe,mining,timber,fishing gold etc.
Democrats are bigger oinkers than Republicans anyway. AK statehood was only 50 years ago. Other states have had a few hundred already. Alaska contributed 15-20% of this nations oil for the last 30 years. Remember the oil shortages of the 70's.

Posted by Cybrludite [TypeKey Profile Page] | August 16, 2007 1:30 AM

Maybe if Stevens and Young get re-elected, I won't have to keep hearing about how we re-elected Nagin & Jefferson... ;-)

Posted by Scott Malensek | August 16, 2007 6:39 AM

The Democrats' Congress must be trying to buy its way to an approval rating at least as high as President Bush's.

Gonna take a lotta loot to do that.

Post a comment