Thursday, October 13, 2005

Mandatory Shared Porkbusting

The Porkbusters pursue an admirable goal: persuading federal legislators to make "cuts in wasteful spending to support Katrina relief" by transferring money from the former category to the latter. Their goal remains distant, however. Indeed, they face considerable disinterest and even opposition from lawmakers. Just scroll down this list of politicians' replies to see how many won't cough up the pork they've won for their constituents.

That's no surprise. Politicians' incentives, even with the Porkbusters' nagging included in the balance, naturally favor policies that stand to buy them re-election votes. Moreover, even a less calculating politician might object, "Why should I make my constituents pay more for Karina's costs than, say, Senator Barbara Boxer?"

A collective action problem looms. The cure: Mandate shared porkbusting. Lawamkers might, for instance, pass legislation redirecting a specified percent of each special projects earmarked in the 2005 Highway bill to Katrina relief. Redirecting 50% of those expenditures would generate about $12 billion in aid for Katrina.

I hesitated to advocate this sort of "shared porkbusting" strategy only because I was sure that somebody else would have already done the same. Yet I've found no call for similar legislation in any of the obvious places. At any rate, even if not an original idea, I daringly call it a good one.


Caliban said...

The only problem I could see is that the negative effect of "porkbusting" is still local. If congress passed a law that said "10% of pork goes to Katrina relief" then Congressman X's special interest groups will still lose that 10%, and would hold it against him if he voted for the cut.

The justification that "everyone else is paying too" wouldn't mollify them.

Tom W. Bell said...

Agreed, Caliban. That is why the legislation would hardly sail through. I offer it as an improvement on the Porkbusters' current strategy, though--not as an easy fix to the overall problem.

Michael Gordon said...

We have thought a lot about how to eliminate pork. One strategy that may work, perhaps, is if legislators said, "Here are the things I won for your district" while also including a list of the projects the members' constituents will also pay for, but will not have the advantage of using (since they are in many other districts, including out-of-the-way states).