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Lean Pork: A new way to run Congress

Almost everyone agrees that pork barrel legislation is bad for the taxpayer. Here's a way to cut back on it.

Ask your Congressman and Senator to enable these House and Senate rules on legislation:

If any 20 members of Congress or any five Senators assert that a particular line item in a spending bill is inconsistent with the main purpose of the bill, say an appropriation for a violin museum in an agriculture or military spending bill, that line item must be brought to an immediate vote for or against inclusion in the omnibus bill.

The vote to include the line item must pass by a two-thirds majority of the entire body. Otherwise it must be stricken from the bill.

It would not take long for our Congress critters to realize that they can't get away with including pork in unrelated bills. If they want to introduce the line item as specific legislation that's fine, but doing so opens them up to a lot of perhaps unfortunate public scrutiny.

Let's call this the beatback rule. Ask candidates for office whether they will vote to include this in House and Senate procedural rules.

  • Aug 3 2013: 1. Cut back the amount of money the federal government gets.
    2. Put it into the constitution that the Federal government only gets one tax and state the amount, say 10%.
    3. Everything else is handled by city and state. Museums paid for by city and state, roads paid for by city and state, etc.

    In the event of a war each state must vote to send soldiers. If a State does not send soldiers to fight they will suffer if we lose and likewise if we win they will be excluded from any benefits. However, if they see the war as unwarranted boondoggle then they could vote to stay out.

    The amount of pork and waste increases exponentially the further you get from the tax payer.
    • Aug 3 2013: That's almost exactly what was in the Articles of Confederation, and we know how well that worked.
  • Aug 3 2013: Require of your candidates a pledge to support the rules change. There is a very interesting chap in American history, one of the most important people of the 20th century that no one ever heard of. Wayne B. Wheeler was the "lobbyist" who almost single-handedly brought about the election of politicians who would vote in favor of prohibition, both at the Congress level and the state level.

    Under Wheeler's leadership, the Anti-Saloon League focused entirely on the goal of achieving Prohibition. It organized at the grass-roots level and worked extensively through churches. It supported or opposed candidates based entirely on their position regarding prohibition, completely disregarding political party affiliation or other issues. Unlike other temperance groups, the Anti-Saloon League worked with the two major parties rather than backing the smaller Prohibition Party. Wheeler developed what is now known as pressure politics, which is sometimes also called Wheelerism.

    Excellent biography: Wayne Wheeler, Dry Boss, by Justin Steuart.

    One quote from the book:

    "Wayne B. Wheeler controlled six congresses, dictated to two presidents of the United States, directed legislation in most of the States of the Union, picked the candidates for the more important elective state and federal offices, held the balance of power in both Republican and Democratic parties, distributed more patronage than any dozen other men, supervised a federal bureau from outside without official authority, and was recognized by friend and foe alike as the most masterful and powerful single individual in the United States."

    AND no one today ever heard of him! If one man can do that for prohibition, what can a movement of thousands of citizens do for changing a couple of rules in the Congress?
  • Aug 2 2013: I am for anything that cuts the pork, especially pork like the Bridge to nowhere in Alaska. How are we going to get it through the rules committee's? Never have known politicians to cut money to themselves. - 8>))
  • Aug 2 2013: Maybe Your pork is my meat and potatoes.
  • Aug 2 2013: Bart:

    I wonder if that might not be too cumbersome.

    My idea was to make it very difficult but not impossible for the House or the Senate to pass a bill with pork in it. In the House it would take 290 votes to overcome an objection to the redlining of a single line item. It would take 67 Senators.

    Difficult but not impossible. The idea is to get the pork out of the omnibus bills.

    Just have to be careful in writing the rule to make sure that a small group could not redline every provision of an omnibus bill. For example, in an Armed Services appropriation bill, a line item to provide $3 million for a new dormitory for the military would not be subject to the rule, since the very purpose of the appropriation bill is military stuff. But in the same bill a proposal to build a museum for Smurf dolls would clearly not be a military expenditure and thus would be subject to elimination.

    Ron Paul is infamous for inserting pork barrel stuff in bills and then sanctimoniously voting against the overall bill, knowing full well that it will pass without his aye vote. He gets his pork and gets to crow about how he voted against every appropriation bill that ever came up. That sort of evil has to stop. If he wants pork for his district let him be up front about it and put in a separate bill. Then everyone in both House and Senate has to go on record one way or the other to get the bill passed. And politically they are not going to do that. They want to hide behind the curtain and say, "I had to vote for the pork to get the main bill passed."

    That has to stop. And if we want it to stop bad enough we can make it stop.

    Few people realize that the 18th Amendment was basically the work of one lobbyist, who worked for years to elect people who would vote to prohibit alcohol. His secret: he found candidates throughout the country who agreed to vote for prohibition and made sure they got elected. It WORKED!
    • Aug 2 2013: Yes I agree with you totally. Let me say that the congress is the place where the unrelated pork items are originated, then the congress should be the place where the "line item" should be "vetoed." This certainly would be more logical than giving the presidential line item veto power to the executive branch.
      Another approach is that when the final version of a funding bill is ready for a final vote, a proposal by certain number of members present to have the bill to be two separate versions, one with the pork items and one without, then the members can kick out the pork right there, and approve the version without the pork.
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      Aug 3 2013: can you link some backup of what you accuse Ron Paul of doing?
      • Aug 3 2013: Ron Paul runs political ads targeting Rick Santorum, accusing him of being a "fake" fiscal conservative. He criticizes Santorum's use of congressional earmarks, but Paul himself has put in for over half a billion dollars in earmarks for his district in the past two fiscal years.

        First, the facts, via the American Independent:

        For FY 2011, Rep. Paul submitted requests for 41 earmarks worth $157,093,544. The previous year, he submitted 54 earmarks totaling a whopping $398,460,640, including $2.5 million for a redevelopment project in Baytown, Texas. Among the essential public services that the earmark would finance were "trash cans…and decorative street lighting."


        Consider Paul’s record. The libertarian Reason magazine points out that in 2009 Paul voted against a $410 billion omnibus spending bill that passed over his objections. But the magazine notes (quoting the Houston Chronicle) that “Paul played a role in obtaining 22 earmarks worth $96.1 million, which led the Houston congressional delegation, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis of more than 8,500 congressionally mandated projects inserted into the bill.”

        Thus Paul got to have it both ways: He could claim to have voted against a $410 billion taxpayer boondoggle, while simultaneously vacuuming up tens of millions in taxpayer dollars for his congressional district.

        But please, pat, consider contributing to the discussion rather that going off on a tangent.


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          Aug 3 2013: Hmm some context would be useful don't you think?

          I spent an hour or so searching, it appears rather difficult to get reports that indicate Paul's ranking on earmark spending. Do you have any?

          I did see this quote from Fact Check Org

          "◾He [Santorum] also called Rep. Ron Paul “one of the most prolific earmarkers in Congress today.” Paul does request earmarks, but he’s not close to being one of the most prolific in bringing home the bacon."

          I found this article that was interesting, listing some egregious pork spending, but Paul's name did show up on the spending:

          The Post analyzed public records on the holdings of all 535 members and compared them with earmarks members had sought for pet projects, most of them since 2008. The process uncovered appropriations for work in close proximity to commercial and residential real estate owned by the lawmakers or their family members. The review also found 16 lawmakers who sent tax dollars to companies, colleges or community programs where their spouses, children or parents work as salaried employees or serve on boards.

          Not surprisingly Harry Reid is at the top of the list in this article.

          BTW you throw out a drive by shot and then urge me not to go off on a tangent. Funny stuff.

          That being said Ron Paul is not a deity, his philosophy is aimed at the same goal as yours and mine. We are on the same page?

          I think the only real way to make progress on this subject is an education of the constituents

          I did a Venn Diagram on this a while back, the part of the diagram that overlaps is education.

          No matter what rules you put in place, like term limits or a balanced budget, they just figure out a way around the rules which takes the attention off of what it should be on.
  • Aug 1 2013: I agree with your "beatback rule". I would suggest further that there would be an overall budget deficit figure estimated by the Congressional Budget Office. And all members of the Congress will vote first on the accepable deficit figure no larger than the estimated deficit. Then the beatback rule will look at all the pork barrels together and vote on them untill the total limit is satisfied. In other word, all the unrelated porks, even previously passed, would be considered temporary or provisional, and later on voted up and down repeatedly until a consensus is reached to satisfy the overall restrictions.
    This is to "beatback" the coersion of "you pat my back and I will pat yours." among the members.